I recently put a post on Facebook about my Beagle who crawls up on me to say good morning. I could have several “old fashioned” dog trainers aghast at what they would consider an inevitable war pitting dog against man (or woman as this case goes). The first two responses from my Facebook friends, learned dog trainers and colleagues of mine, were “oh my dog does that” and “it looks like true love to me”. I am grateful to be involved in a profession that is changing the way humans treat pets. With many scientific findings and studies behind us, and many years of trainers being compassionate with their canines, the truth is coming out and we are changing. I know, it will always be hard for me to consider that my 16 pound Beagle, standing on my chest, is doing anything but jumping up to say “Good Morning! It’s a new day, BTW when’s breakfast?”
One of the many myths, which are now being scientifically and logically challenged is the dominance theory. Apart from a few (two I think) television shows and some old fashioned trainers, the word is spreading that most of the explanations we were taught about our dogs attempting dominance over their humans is inaccurate. It’s not that surprising if you think about it. As a species we promote and strive for dominance of each other. It’s important to be the richest, the fastest, the boss and to have the most home runs. As long as we’re “the most”, we are successful. It’s not surprising that we projected this trait on our closest and most loyal best friends, who by the way, are in it for survival. They don’t care how many home runs they hit.
Many of the theories about wolf pack behavior are no longer accurate for domesticated dogs. One reason is that wolves are not dogs, they are wolves, even though they are a similar species, they are still very different. Another reason, is we began to theorize about becoming one with wolves and carried out some of the wolf behavior with our domestic dogs i.e growling, alpha rolls etc. When we started acting like wolves, I bet we confused the hell out of them and if I may anthropomorphize for one moment, I bet they were thinking “OMG they are acting like idiots, treating me badly and I don’t understand any of it.”
These are just a sample of information that is no longer supported by most “modern force-free dog training.”
- Don’t let your dog walk in front of you
- Don’t let your dog up on the furniture
- Don’t let your dog sleep with you or on the bed
- Don’t let your dog eat before you
- Don’t play tug with your dog
- Don’t let your dog stand on you while you are laying down
- Don’t let your dog go first through the door
It’s interesting how all the rules for keeping your dog from being dominant contain the word “don’t.” With positive, peaceful dog training we strongly believe in ignoring what we don’t want them to do and concentrate on teaching him what TO DO. Teach him a behavior on cue which then becomes a skill. The more skills your dogs know, the less time they have for acting out. When my dog is barking at the window instead of telling her, “No” or the ever violent “Shut up,” I ask her to get in her crate. As my actions and reinforcement remain consistent, soon she is running into her crate when a dog goes by, and skips the barking all together. Another myth is the “Don’t let the dogs go before you out the door” or “Walk in front of you.” With two humans and three dogs in this family, no one is happier than that Beagle running out first into the day and sharing her beagle howl with our entire neighborhood. It no more makes her dominant than my enjoying her ecstasy makes me passive.
Some dogs are definitely more assertive or energetic than others .Your dog may need more limits, training or management than other dogs. This only means we need to set clearer limits and be more creative in our training and handling. Each dog has a distinctive personality and can grow and thrive beautifully with respectful and peaceful care.