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Over the time I've been interested in dog training/behaviour, one of the most controversial topics I've come accross is the dominance theory (or whatever the official name is). The notion that if allowed to a dog will try and take over a houlsehold, or that if no good leadership is in place, problems will ensue. While I do believe that there is some truth to this, I know that there are people that think that any and all dog problems are about dominance or lack of leadership, which I think is a stretch.

Most often it is "possitive" trainers and behaviourist who we see rebutting this sort of notion, so my question here is what are the parts of dominance theory/pack theory that are real and which are figments of old school trainer's imagination?
 

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That's a tough one. I personally feel that each dog needs a different approach - cookie cutter training, no matter what, won't work for each dog. With Kapu he only responds to praise and treats, if he's treated firmly it frigthens him and he does exactly the opposite of what is intended. However, he is a very submissive dog. Lakota on the other hand is an extremely dominant dog - sometimes dominant aggressive and praise and treats don't work for him at all! When he was a puppy he bolted out the front door and so I ran after him, miraculously caught him and pinned him to the ground, biting his neck. I know that sounds crazy - but he hasn't bolted since -it's not fear either, it's a respect for me. When Kapu ran off for the first time, I had to lay on the ground and call him with sweet, fluffy sounds, lol, which worked and he came running. I always have to show dominance with Lakota, he won't give me the time or day other wise.
The concept of treating dogs like a wolf can only go so far. There were studies done that compared 15 wolf like behaviour that they express in their daily lives and tested different dog breeds to see how many of those traits they expressed. The Siberian Husky (which is what I have) got 15/15 of the traits - the King Charles got 2/15 of those traits. So perhaps a dog with less "wolf" behavior would respond less to the dominance theory and a dog with more of the "wolf" behavior would understand and respond.
 

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Sun, if you have the studies handy I would like the links! We have two dogs and the new one is so wolf-like in behavior that it's scary.

I think the pack/alpha/whatever is just a theory for most breeds. There are a few breeds that I do believe it is a more prevalent part of their psyche. For the most part, it appears to me that the majority of domesticated dogs raised in the US neither work nor have wolf-like instincts anymore. Therefore the whole training thing based on pack behavior, etc may not work for them.

In my household I don't care how my dogs view me as long as they mind. I let them work out their dog issues amongst themselves, unless there's blood involved.
 

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Sun, if you have the studies handy I would like the links! We have two dogs and the new one is so wolf-like in behavior that it's scary.

I think the pack/alpha/whatever is just a theory for most breeds. There are a few breeds that I do believe it is a more prevalent part of their psyche. For the most part, it appears to me that the majority of domesticated dogs raised in the US neither work nor have wolf-like instincts anymore. Therefore the whole training thing based on pack behavior, etc may not work for them.

In my household I don't care how my dogs view me as long as they mind. I let them work out their dog issues amongst themselves, unless there's blood involved.
It was a study innitiated by Raymond Coppinger and Lorna Coppinger. Some of my books and DVDs have made reference to their studies, I have just ordered some of their books too, so that shall be a very interesting read.
That's an interesting point you have made, and the research also discussed that. They said that many breeds are making a shift from "wolfish" to "puppyish" due to selective breeding. Breeds like the Pyrenean Mountain Dog or the Bernese Mountain Dog used to be very "wolfish" in behavior, but due to the fact that few of these dogs are used for working and most are bred for pets - they've become much more "puppyish." Scientists are seeing a trend as dogs move from the work place to pet hood, like wise they are moving from wolfish behavior to puppyish behavior. Puppyish behavior meaning - no aggression, obedient, tail wags, and rolling over. Breeders are breeding their dogs to be eternal puppies - in other words, their behavior development seems to stop before it reaches more wolf like behavior.
 

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There are times where I see the "dominance" or "alpha" theory come to play in my household, then there are other times, where it's clear the dominance theory had nothing to do with that behaviour.

I pick and choose what I feel is right for my dogs, like Sun said.

Often enough, when someone has a problem with their dog, they blame, DOMINANCE! Right off the hop, in my mind, being dominant and controlling the resources is completely different. Dominant, (to me) means I'm physically bullying you to be on top of you, while I like to think I control the resources. So if you don't please me, you don't get treats, you don't get a bed, you don't get love etc.

I had just read a few articles and it's being discussed on another board, and what I've been seeing a lot, is dogs aren't comparable to wolves, but if you must compare them, they are like wolf pups. Never moving onto the more complicated way of wolve's lives. Always hanging around the puppy pass stage of wolves.

There are a lot of things in my house, that we do, because of Roxy, that I feel could be labelled a reaction to the dominance theory, but in reality it's little things we have to do constantly, to keep her check and make sure her head doesn't get too big! LOL :D
 

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I do believe that the more we remove our dogs from their original breed work the more they lose the breed traits and become "puppified." Perhaps that is why they lose the pack mentality. And also, breeders are choosing for temperment sometimes. We know that when you choose for temperment you are also going to get other traits changing, depending on which gene those traits are located on. Way back in the 1940's or 50's there was a study done in Russia with foxes. People who were hunting them for their fur wanted foxes with less aggression bred into the packs. So the researchers pulled hundreds of foxes out, bred for temperment choosing the friendlier animals, and within a few generations they began to see changes in coat color, tail size, etc. as well as temperment because the loci controlling the traits are located closely to each.

Thanks Sun, I am familiar with the Coppinger's work, I've just never seen a scale like you described. I'll have to do my research on that.
 

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my question here is what are the parts of dominance theory/pack theory that are real and which are figments of old school trainer's imagination?
Dr. Frank Beach's study on dog (beagle) behavior illustrated this...

The male pack hierarchy was 99% linear. The order of the males rarely changed, if ever.

The female pack hierarchy was 70% linear. The order between the females tended to change more often.

When the males and females were intermingled, Dr. Ian Dunbar says, the females made ammendments to the male pack hierarchy. In other words the females broke up the linear male dog hierarchy.

The wolf dominance theory suggests that there's only a linear pack hierarchy. When actualy Dr. Frank Beach's study says it's way more complicated then that.

So linear pack hiearchy is "old" school thinking.

As far as the theories, I would say all of these are bogus...
1) Eating before your dog.
2) Keeping dogs off furniture.
3) Not letting your dog lay at the top of stairs.
4) Not letting your dog kay in a doorway.
5) Never step over your dog.
6) Never let your dog through a doorway first.
7) Dogs that pull are "dominant".
8) Never let your dog begin or end a game.
9) Never let your dog begin or end attention.
10) Never let your dog win games of tug.
11) Stand in your dog's bed.
12) Forcibly down your dog.

There's probably more, but all of these are silly to me.
 

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I think some of the "theories" you listed Curb, could help someone having trouble with a "dominant" dog, pushy, aggressive... whatever you want to call it.

A lot of those ideas ring into resource control, well not a lot but some. LOL

Keeping a dog of the furniture for instance. Roxy had some issues with this. Growling when asked to get off, or to move. Unacceptable behaviour, despite everything else we did to keep her in line. Obviously, to Roxy, the couch was a valuable resource, and she need to be shown, that I was in control of that resource. We did that, took a few days of tethering and no furniture time, and now, yes she's fine.

Not to say that you CAN NEVER do any of those things, but I think if your having trouble with it, that "theory" may help fix it, if that makes any sense.

Same with toys, or games. As long as your dog knows your in control of that game, (not neccessarily a resource, but something something that is important to a dog) than it would be okay to let a dog win a game of tug.

But for a dog that refuses to STOP tugging when asked until they have said toy, that's an issue, that could be dealt with by using that theory.
 

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No doubt about resource controlling, however, when I talk dominance theory, I'm thinking of those who would resort to force or the use of aversives to correct a problem, first. IMO, the use of force or aversives in many cases is exactly the issue causing the problem in the first place. Instead, the handler should be thinking of how to teach "off" or sit and wait before the dog jumps on the couch. If the dog doesn't learn that sitting and waiting of "off" is more beneficial to him/her than jumping on the couch, this points to lack of training, not dominance, as wolf theorists would like to believe. IMO, there is no training of theory, there's just training.

Until the dog owner understands that dog are innocently selfish (this is a survival tactic) they will assume rank or dominance is the issue. When actually the dog is doing nothing more than being a dog.
 

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I feel that it does depend alot on the breed and personality of the dog. I was tought the old school way and am now using all positive training. I feel if the dog feels good and he/she is doing something that it wants it is a plus. I do have one dog that is around 120lbs, the best dog I think I have ever had, then there is Peekaboo who has ADHD and one eye. She is a nightmare and I have had no choice but to let her know I am in charge and she is only 78lbs or she will try to run the house. I have had numerous Bully type dogs in here for years to train and to find homes for and she has got to be the worst but I still love her and if I stay on top of her we don't have problems.

That's a tough one. I personally feel that each dog needs a different approach - cookie cutter training, no matter what, won't work for each dog. With Kapu he only responds to praise and treats, if he's treated firmly it frigthens him and he does exactly the opposite of what is intended. However, he is a very submissive dog. Lakota on the other hand is an extremely dominant dog - sometimes dominant aggressive and praise and treats don't work for him at all! When he was a puppy he bolted out the front door and so I ran after him, miraculously caught him and pinned him to the ground, biting his neck. I know that sounds crazy - but he hasn't bolted since -it's not fear either, it's a respect for me. When Kapu ran off for the first time, I had to lay on the ground and call him with sweet, fluffy sounds, lol, which worked and he came running. I always have to show dominance with Lakota, he won't give me the time or day other wise.
The concept of treating dogs like a wolf can only go so far. There were studies done that compared 15 wolf like behaviour that they express in their daily lives and tested different dog breeds to see how many of those traits they expressed. The Siberian Husky (which is what I have) got 15/15 of the traits - the King Charles got 2/15 of those traits. So perhaps a dog with less "wolf" behavior would respond less to the dominance theory and a dog with more of the "wolf" behavior would understand and respond.
I just responded down below and then read what you had to say and I have to say it sounds lke my house! Some dogs are just a trip don't you think?

One more quick thing to say, I was walking two AB,s down the road and Peekaboo had grabed a cat in her mouth. She would not let go of the cat so I took her down the cat ran off and I held her there. Well I had a women in her car stop to yell at me for what I was doing ,took one look at both dogs and took off fast. I am happy for her because I was ready to go off and offer her to get out and hold Peek.
 

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As far as the theories, I would say all of these are bogus...
1) Eating before your dog.
2) Keeping dogs off furniture.
3) Not letting your dog lay at the top of stairs.
4) Not letting your dog kay in a doorway.
5) Never step over your dog.
6) Never let your dog through a doorway first.
7) Dogs that pull are "dominant".
8) Never let your dog begin or end a game.
9) Never let your dog begin or end attention.
10) Never let your dog win games of tug.
11) Stand in your dog's bed.
12) Forcibly down your dog.

There's probably more, but all of these are silly to me.
Yeah, for the most part I have to agree with these too, lol. A pulling dog is an excited dog...or a dog that was bred for that specific reason! lol
Never let your dog begin or end a game? Haha, that sounds silly. If my dog wants attention and I'm not busy, then I give it to him - if I am busy, then no pets for you! :p Stand in your own dogs bed, haha, the dog would just think you're crazy, lol. My dogs sleep with me and I like it that way! They know their place in this world and they have respect for me, that's what matters most.
When we do play with toys, I make sure they know that if I say "give it" they do (which I have to do often at the dog park when Lakota steals another dog's squeaky toy, lol), but most of the time I let them run off with the toy if they want.
Eating before your dog should be more like - don't feed them scraps at the table or you'll get perminant beggers. >.<
Not letting your dog lay in the door way just sounds completely silly! Goodness, what's the theory behind that one? My dogs do it all the time because they like to look out the screen and see what's going on outside. If I need to go out, they know to move - simply because they don't want to be stepped on. Not letting your dog lay at the top of the stairs is perhaps the most rediculous!
Forcibly down your dog - can work if used in the right situations. Like I said before, when Lakota first bolted, that's what I did and it worked. But don't just do it for the heck of it.
 
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