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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Another question....I'm seeing a variety of materials about human/canine relationships and about puppy training, including one Cesar Milan book I borrowed from library where I work.

Should I be thinking of pack leadership and "dominance," or about teaching and guiding my puppy? I understand that the person needs to be the "boss," for obvious reasons. But starting out relationship with our puppy believing I should be in constant control, and "earn his respect," sets up an adversarial dynamic and makes me feel underconfident and edgy. I'm not a clear "alpha dog" personality as you'd normally think of it.

Just read a discussion of our culturally accepted -- but misguided and now disproven? -- notions of wolf-pack behavior, and how we apply these assumptions to human and canine personalities and relationships. It seems that behavior and roles are more complex, fluid, and situational than old observations indicated.

I want to have fun with my pup while guiding and teaching him...and learning from him...and not be uptight that I must dominate and impose my will...and feel like a failure if I don't (does this sound like corporate America, or what o:)). I'd like to approach this by watching, listening, learning new skills, and not only by imposing my will.
 

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Pack leader and dominance theory has been debunked for a long time. Dogs are not wolves, and the information isn't even accurate about wolves. It's like basing your theories of human interaction on your observations of captive chimps (chimps who aren't part of the same family group and don't know each other).

You're right that it's necessary to set boundaries for your dog, and be consistent, but there's no need to be adversarial. IMO, any time you are starting to feel like you're in conflict with your dog, it's time to take a step back and rethink. There is probably a better way to approach whatever is causing the conflict. Think about people in your life who you often conflict with - do you have a good relationship? Do you want to be around them? Probably not. Dogs don't want to be around us if we're always yelling at them or pushing them around either.

Dogs do what works, plain and simple. Without training they will choose to do what they want to do - for some dogs this isn't a big deal, but for others it will involve barking, stealing garbage, chewing your things, etc. They are just dogs, doing what dogs do. Teach him what you want, reward what you want, and prevent him from doing what you don't want. For puppies and new dogs especially, managing their environment is so important. If a puppy never has an opportunity to destroy your things while unsupervised, it's likely that he won't destroy your things as an adult dog either. If you take your puppy out often enough that he never has an accident inside, it's unlikely he will ever pee in your house once he's able to control his bladder.
 

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First: Return that book and never read another material from Cesar Milan. He's not a trainer and his methods are extremely out dated and invalid.

Second: Check out this channel. She uses positive methods and is easy to follow. https://www.youtube.com/user/kikopup

You can't have fun, and your puppy won't have fun if you use any of those 'dominance' methods. They are centered around posing fear in your dog and it will ruin any type of relationship you might have. Research clicker training as well.
 

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You want to develop a friendship with your dog... not necessarily a level of authority over them. They need to respect you, yes, but not because they *have* to.
Play with your dog and incorporate training. Bond with your dog. Talk to your dog. Cuddle with your dog. Dogs are considered "Mans best friend" for a reason - make that dog your best friend and once you've developed that friendship, the dog will have a higher "respect" for you and will be eager to please you because s/he wants to, and not because they're forced to.
 

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You want to develop a friendship with your dog... not necessarily a level of authority over them. They need to respect you, yes, but not because they *have* to.
Play with your dog and incorporate training. Bond with your dog. Talk to your dog. Cuddle with your dog. Dogs are considered "Mans best friend" for a reason - make that dog your best friend and once you've developed that friendship, the dog will have a higher "respect" for you and will be eager to please you because s/he wants to, and not because they're forced to.
This rings very true to me. The closer I become to Jewel, the more she wants to please me and the happier I am and it's a cycle of positivity.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
El, Syd, Cookie, Boston, d_Ray: Thanks for perspective and advice....much appreciated. As a complete novice, it's easy to get misdirected. Great to meet knowledgeable folks and loving pet owners. I want to be my puppy's best friend. Kikopup, Paul Owens' stuff looks good and will also check out Sophia Yin. Just fed Desi lunch from my hand, and it was a great bonding moment!

Having trouble sending my cute photo of Desi from my iPhone4 to my Google email so I can post here. Want to figure it out so you can meet my "cuteness."
 

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You don't have to be the "boss." Your dog is neither your employee nor your subordinate. You're really a guardian- protecting and caring for a living person with feelings and needs and wants who doesn't have the mental capacity to make informed decisions about his or her own care. That seems a wordy, roundabout way of saying it, but the distinction is important. Parents don't insist their children bathe because they're the "boss", they insist on bathing because hygiene is important to health and social well being. I don't insist that my dog sit at doorways and wait for my okay because "alpha wolves do it!"*, I do it because my dog is safer that way and keeping him safe is what I do.

When you start looking at training as a means of bonding and keeping your dog safe and healthy, both physically and socially, it really changes how you do things and what you do.

*Actually, alpha wolves often follow younger, subordinate wolves during travel and hunting. Alpha wolves are parents, the rest of the pack is their children. Wolf parents no more insist upon their children following three steps behind than humans do. It's a remarkably silly thing, dominance theory.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Amaryllis: What you're saying makes complete sense to me. There are good reasons -- relationship, safety, health -- to use certain practices with dogs, aren't there?

It's funny, being a new puppy owner, how it's already made me think about my childhood and how my parents regarded and treated me and other children. My mother tended to communicate, "Take the trash out....because I told you to," not because it would get smelly if we didn't. I was raised by adults who were suspicious of children and saw them as bad, manipulative, intentionally naughty, and defiant....not as needing formation and guidance. It's amazing how we can project these attitudes onto animals without realizing it.

I had no idea the personal exploration and new learning being a puppy mom would bring!
 

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I agree with everyone else that training can be a great way of bonding and the pack leadership/dominance theory of training is unnecessary and outdated. My dogs sleep on our bed, they are allowed on furniture, they eat before me, they go through door ways before me (not really a good habit, but I don't care), and I don't make them heel on walks. They don't run my house and have never tried to be "the boss".
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Syd: What is "OP?" Me? Is this an oft-asked-about topic here?

Luckily, I have had puppy Desi for only a week and have already been warned off Cesar Millan methods/dominance theories. But I can already see how easy it is for complete novices to hear this wildly popular man's name; see his books on the shelf of a public library and his shows on cable; and take everything he says to be gospel. Simply because -- even as a generally educated person -- you don't know any better. You have to "dig" (pardon the pun) at times to get to the facts behind the marketing, hype, drama, and sheer availability of inaccurate or outdated information.

And our culture? Not to get psychoanalytical, but what do many of us resort to at work, while parenting children, etc.....if we have little understanding and no skills, we....dominate. Take control. These notions and images are POWERFUL on so many levels.

Thanks for the good insight and encouragement.
 

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Syd: What is "OP?" Me? Is this an oft-asked-about topic here?
Yep, OP = original poster.

It does tend to be a popular topic, but usually it's when a diehard dominance theory fan comes in, posts about it, and then won't listen to any suggestions or advice. It can get very frustrating! Of course, your post was nothing like that. Cheers to you to actually wanting to learn.

I used to watch Ceasar's show while I was dog-less (I went to college and the dogs stayed home) and I thought that must be the normal thing (though I admit a lot of his stuff didn't make a lot of sense to me). Thank goodness I did more research before actually getting a dog! It's so easy to just follow along with a popular tv celebrity, and many dogs are easy going enough to put up with that kind of stuff, but it's not the relationship that I want with my dog. Knowing the dog I ended up with, none of that stuff would have worked anyway - he's not a dog you can force to do anything he doesn't want to do. You could "dominate" him all day long and he'd laugh at you and do what he wanted to do in the first place. Haha
 

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Syd: What is "OP?" Me? Is this an oft-asked-about topic here?

Luckily, I have had puppy Desi for only a week and have already been warned off Cesar Millan methods/dominance theories. But I can already see how easy it is for complete novices to hear this wildly popular man's name; see his books on the shelf of a public library and his shows on cable; and take everything he says to be gospel. Simply because -- even as a generally educated person -- you don't know any better. You have to "dig" (pardon the pun) at times to get to the facts behind the marketing, hype, drama, and sheer availability of inaccurate or outdated information.

And our culture? Not to get psychoanalytical, but what do many of us resort to at work, while parenting children, etc.....if we have little understanding and no skills, we....dominate. Take control. These notions and images are POWERFUL on so many levels.

Thanks for the good insight and encouragement.
OP stands for "Original Poster" I believe... or something along those lines... so you in this case ;)

It's definitely a topic that comes up here often and sometimes it turns into a heated debate. I'd heard so many mixed things about dominance and being the alpha that I know I was very confused when I first joined the forum. Most google searches about training and working on specific behaviors are at least sprinkled with dominance theory terminology. It's really unfortunate because it definitely spreads a lot of misinformation. I'd say more than half of my dog owner friends believe in dominance theory because it's just so prevalent that they haven't heard anything stating otherwise.

I agree with all the other comments and it sounds like you're on the right track :)
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
Pinksand: Thanks to you. Being a new puppy owner is both fun and stressful, for the reasons you stated.

I'm finding that we have dominance theorist types in family and neighborhood....Well-intentioned, generally educated folks who know little about dog motivation and training, and who tend to default to a stern voice or ordinary physical correction to induce compliance. It's interesting to see how many people (especially guys) will initially interact with a (male) puppy by baiting him, and then blame/correct the dog without awareness or skill.

I also feel self-conscious about asking for family members' and neighbors' cooperation in Desi's training, believing they will feel or speak defensively: "That's dumb. I'm not doing anything wrong with your puppy or the way I've handled my own dog. This is sissy."

This is lots of learning about dynamics, isn't it? Thanks again.
 
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