Dog Coach Francis and Cleofas Dog Training Center strongly advocates force free training and believes that dominance theory is an obsolete and aversive method of interacting with animals that has at its foundation incorrect and misinterpreted data from captive wolves. It has been argued that such techniques can harm the human-animal relationship and cause behavioral problems in dogs.

Dog Coach Francis and Cleofas Dog Training Center, being a member of the Pet Professionals Guild (International Association of Force Free Pet Professionals) strictly advocates effective animal training procedures focused on the use of behaviorism- the natural science of behavior which emphasizes natural science assumptions and avoids speculation and theoretical constructs for explaining behavior.

Definition of Dominance

In the Position Statement of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, they defined

dominance as a relationship between individual animals that is established by force/aggression and submission, to determine who has priority access to  multiple resources such as food, preferred resting spots, and mates (Bernstein 1981; Drews 1993). Most undesirable behaviors in our pets are not related to priority access to resources; rather, they are due to accidental rewarding of the undesirable behavior.

Foundations of Dominance Theory

The idea that humans should exert physical control over animals was first widely-popularized in the 1970s in the book “How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend” by the Monks of New Skete, which recommended the “alpha roll” to deal with undesired behaviors. Almost everyone who started as a dog trainer over 15-20 years ago started out using traditional dog training techniques same as the techniques used in most military k9 training academy in the Philippines. This is how most dogs were trained back then and are still being used to train now.

Traditional training techniques are based on the idea that we must become the dominant leader and rule our pets the way a wolf would rule a pack. That is, they assume most misbehavior in dogs is due to the dog trying to be dominant and then they employ techniques that they think a wolf (since dogs are seen as having a social structure similar to wolves) would perform in a wolf pack.

Flaws and Misinterpretations of Dominance Theory

Dog Coach Francis has studied from the works of Dr. Ian Dunbar, wherein he outlines three major flaws of the studies of wolf packs in the 1930s and 1940s.

First, they were short-term and focused on the most obvious facet of wolf life, namely hunting. As a result, the studies gathered unrepresentative data and drew rather sweeping conclusions about wolf behavior (and later, dog behavior) based on about 1% of wolf life.

Second, the researchers observed what are now known to be ritualistic displays and misinterpreted them. The bulk of dominance mythology comes from these misinterpretations.

The use of alpha rolls was thought to have been used by wolves to forcibly roll a subordinate in submission and assert dominance. Recent studies have shown that alpha rolls are part of a ritual offered voluntarily by a subordinate world and not force into the lower ranking wolf.

The third flaw is that the researchers made some wild extrapolations from their data. Their first leap of logic was applying their conclusions to dogs. Their second was applying them to human-canine interactions.

In an article written by Stanley Coren, Ph.D. he cites the works of David L. Mech. In his 1970 book, where he was influenced by earlier ideas of dominance, including those of Lorenz, and referred to the pack leader as the “alpha wolf.” Looking back 40 years later he has come to doubt the usefulness of this concept. He now maintains that the label is wrong because it implies that the wolves fought to determine dominance.

In actuality, when they mature, wolves leave their original pack to mate and produce offspring which then become the rest of their new pack. Dominance arises simply in the same way that parents naturally control the behavior of their offspring in humans, at least while they are living with the family. As in human families, the parents loosely set the rules, and the kids sort things out among themselves. Because of this state of affairs, rather than using the label “alpha” Mech prefers to refer to the “breeding” male or female in the pack or simply the mother or father wolf. The idea of the alpha only seems to be valid in artificial packs, where unrelated individuals are put together, as in captivity, or where may be multiple breeding pairs. In such “unnatural” social groupings, animals will contest for leadership and an alpha wolf will emerge.

Conclusion

It is the position Dog Coach Francis and Cleofas Dog Training Center that all training be conducted in a manner which motivates dogs and emphasizes that the use of scientifically sound learning principles, and that we encourage and use functional analysis to identify and resolve problem behaviors.

References:

http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/PPGGuidingPrinciples

http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/images/stories/Position_Statements/dominance%20statement.pdf

http://drsophiayin.com/philosophy/dominance/

http://www.fun4fido.co.uk/blog/debunking-the-dominance-myth.html

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201007/canine-dominance-is-the-concept-the-alpha-dog-valid