Do You Really Have to Be a "Pack Leader" to Have a Good Dog?
The answer is NO. Your dog is not a wolf and your
family is not a pack. Dogs have had 15,000 years of domestication
history to undergo changes in both their appearance and
their behavior as compared to their wolf ancestors.
How much does a Pekinese resemble a wolf? Not much. Just
as we’ve morphed and modified the physical appearance
of our dog breeds, 15,000 years of living with people has
also changed their behaviors. In addition, for more than
50 years most segments – especially the most popular
ones – of the dog training field have gotten it wrong.
What’s out there in the popular literature on dogs
about “dominance” has very little connection
to information in the scientific literature about social
dominance in social species of animals such as wolves,
deer, horses, birds and others.
Dogs are predisposed to be subordinate to people and
mostly all you need to do is to be consistent and clear
to your dog about your expectations for his behavior. Dogs,
like your children need feedback from to learn what’s
acceptable and what isn’t. Too often, problems are
caused because we don’t give our dogs enough feedback
for GOOD behavior and too much and the wrong kind of feedback
for unwanted behavior.
Social dominance is about competition, not about control.
Your dog can be ill behaved and you may have very little
control over his behavior, but still be in a socially dominant
role in your relationship with him.
Behavior problems are usually not caused by “dominance” problems.
Home alone problems, excessive barking, housesoiling, most
aggression problems, not obeying, eating feces, not coming
when called, etc. have nothing to do with social dominance.
Whether your dog runs out the door in front of you, walks
ahead of you on leash, prefers to lie in doorways, leans
against you, eats before you do, sleeps on the bed with
you, or plays tug of war with you has little bearing on
whether 1. you are in the dominant role in your relationship
and 2. whether he will ultimately use aggression during
a competitive or non-competitive interaction with you.
You do not need to deprive your dog of attention, snuggling
on the couch or bed with you, responding to his requests
to play – all the things you like to do with your
dog – just to have a good relationship with him.
We strongly recommend against using “scruff shakes” and “alpha
rolls” to discipline your dog. These procedures do
NOT mimic dog or wolf behavior, and can be dangerous.
Want to learn more? Watch for our DVD on “How To
Be a Good Pet Parent” and our audio CD “The
Dangers of Dominance” which will be out soon.