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Dominance in Dogs: Fact or Fiction?

Related Searches. For anyone who wants to know more about aggression or dog behavior. Does not just Does not just discuss aggression. It describes in great detail protocols to use for behavior modification. Starting with prevention, the reader learns about common mistakes owners make to View Product. Behavior Problems in Dogs, 3rd Edition. All veterinarians and most dog owners should have this one!

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Here is the book veterinarians Here is the book veterinarians refer to when solving challenging behavior problems. Correcting problem behavior begins with understanding what caused the problem in the first place. Problem solving includes understanding These studies were to shape the world of dog training for several generations. Yet within just a few decades, they had been proven to be utterly wrong in their conclusions. This is probably not surprising as the wolves that were studied were mostly captive, rather than wild, and the captive groups included unrelated animals.

Our previous understanding of how wolves behave was seriously flawed. We now know that wolves live in family groups. Often led by the parents. This natural aggression towards strange wolves is what caused the odd results seen in those original studies of captive unrelated wolves. Not forced upon him by another wolf. Many dogs have inherited this appeasement behavior and will roll on their back if they feel at all threatened.

Surely in a group of dogs there will be a hierarchy? Well, no. It appears we were wrong again. A hierarchy implies that the higher ranking individuals have special privileges based on their rank. There is simply no evidence that groups of dogs, either domestic or feral, arrange themselves in any kind of hierarchy of this nature. Modern studies of feral and village dogs living semi wild on the fringes of human society suggest that dogs place even less value on dominance or leadership than wolves do. Alpha dog meaning highest ranking dog, is simply no longer a valid concept.

The behavior we see in dogs that form social groups or gatherings is not pack behavior in the way that we once thought it was. And one that has done a great deal of harm in the dog training world. Dogs will certainly fight to protect resources if they are scarce or highly valued, but most appear to have no interest in leadership or dominance.

This may seem like quite a subtle difference, as growling is not acceptable, but understanding what causes the growling makes the world of difference to how we can successfully treat problems like resource guarding. We now know that treating resource guarding by bullying and intimidating the dog is counter productive. In fact, it simply makes the dog feel more threatened and is likely to end up in a bite. There are still dog trainers that believe many or even most dogs will attempt to engage in a dominance struggle with their families.

And that the only way to have the control over the dog is to ensure that you dominate him at all times.

Dominance: Reality or Myth

This is because they make the dog feel so threatened that he may even fear for his life and be forced to defend himself. Many dogs will submit, become calm and very still when rolled over or intimidated. This behavior is alien to dogs and very threatening. A dog in fear of his life from another dog may try to avert the threat by keeping extremely still. He will do the same when terrified of a human being.

The dog is simply trying to stay alive. If you lay on the floor, some dogs will climb on you or even lay on you. This is not dog dominance. Dogs like body contact and often sleep together in a heap. They see no reason to exclude you from this social event. Some young dogs will also try to hump anyone that sits on the floor. This is often play, or may be a hormonal response to your position. If it happens, stand up, and make a mental note not to fool around with big dogs on the floor! See how to play safely with a large dog. And what about dogs that sit on your feet? No sooner have you plonked yourself in a chair than the dog is firmly positioned on top of your foot.

All this does not mean that no dogs are aggressive.

Dominance in dogs; bad habit or useful construct? - Dog Science Explained

Modern trainers are not in denial about the potential for harm by large aggressive dogs. But our new knowledge has changed the way we handle these problems. Some breeds of dog and some individual dogs are more prone to guarding and fear aggression than others. These are topics for another day, but if you have concerns over your own dogs behavior then seek help from your veterinary surgeon or qualified behaviorist. It is true that dogs are descended from wolves. It was disputed for a while, and dogs were classified as a separate species — Canis Familiaris. DNA tests have now put an end to the debate.

Dogs and wolves are in fact a single species — Canis Lupus. And dogs have been reclassified to reflect that discovery. They are now Canis Lupus Familiaris. But while some were right about dogs being essentially wolves, our observations of wolf behavior were deeply flawed. And the dog training methodology based on these observations was flawed too. For some years now, the evidence has been building up. Conclusions about dogs based on these observations underpinned much of our traditional dog training practices. The tide of opinion changed slowly at first but has now gathered speed.

Virtually all animal behaviourists, and the entire veterinary profession have now abandoned dominance as having any relevance to the vast majority of interactions between dogs and human beings, or any place in the training of our dogs.


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The truth is, most Labradors would probably be as bored by the idea of dominance, as scientists are of hearing about it from die hard traditional dog trainers. Your dog may covet your armchair, but he does not want to pay the bills, tell you where to sit, or make you wait in turn. And if the article or book you just read tells you to be alpha to your dog, or pack leader, it tells you more about the author and how out of date they are, than it tells you about your dog.

You can relax. Dog dominance is dead. Your Labrador is not the alpha dog. Doglistener uses cookies to give you the best online experiences. By using our website you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Does Dominant Behaviour Exist? Following his studies on chickens. The simple premise was that chicken A can peck all the other chickens, but chicken Y can only peck X. Therefore until an in-depth study is carried out, and the word Dominance is accurately defined, it will remain as just conjecture and theory.

Which leads me neatly onto recent books and the latest theoretical ideas. As trainers and behaviourists, we have a habit of latching onto the latest buzz theorems. The latest ideas and study, and then to postulate that these theories are actual scientific facts. Theory means just that, and all that can be said is that it is speculative. The latest bandwagon that trainers and behaviourists have jumped on is dominance does not exist. The term conspecific they can only pack up with their own kind. I totally agree that they are conspecific. Where in that explanation does it say that animals cannot view other animals in a dominant or bullying way?

It is a bald statement, not open to conjecture. In reality, it means,"belonging to the same species". Don't get me wrong I do not believe that dogs imagine we are dogs and that we can be the Alpha of our own little pack. This is from www. The opposite of dominance is submissiveness. If we accept the antonym of dominance is submission, and that many dogs demonstrate clear submissive behaviour to humans as well as other dogs. In other words, two separate notations stand for the same sound. For example, the enharmonic word for F-sharp is G-flat.

Both are exactly the same note but are named differently. I believe that is what is happening with the word dominance. How we can dismiss the fact that both dogs and ourselves are derived from animals that live in a controlled and carefully organised social system, and that within that system there are leaders and there are followers. Rank and Position: Status is important to dogs, in fact, position and rank are vital to most mammals that live in a social system or packs.

They lost that requirement when they filled an ecological niche and predated off the detritus of mankind. Becoming domesticated in the process. That is not to say they do not enjoy the social meeting and greeting with others of their own kind, and in that social coming together, there are clear indications of status and rank. I have five dogs at present, they have distinct personalities and a clear pecking order within their own little pack.