Beware the Dominant Dog Trainer: by Sally Gutteridge

Though the Dog Whisperers of the world tell us to dominate our pets, and be the Alpha wolf, we must rethink this communication tactic and here is why.

Over the last twenty years we have learned a great deal about the domestic dog and his behavior. We have learned that dogs are individuals and each dog is a product of his genes, his experiences and his environment.

To assume that every single dog shares one personality trait, an innate need to get into a position of leadership, is naïve and simplistic. Some dogs are genetically bolder, stronger or have traits of natural leaders whilst others are more laid back and happy to follow.

If we were to assume that, every time a dog behaved in a certain way, he was trying to establish leadership we naturally overlook many other possible reasons for a behavior. We dismiss fear, anxiety, worry, social inadequacy amid many other reasons for behavior. By assuming that the family dog strives for a place in the pack, and sees his human guardian as that pack, we take away the responsibility of the dog guardian for the behavior of the canine in the home.

Could this be why the pack leadership dog training theory is still so popular? Maybe as a species we actually welcome the idea that a dog misbehaving is the responsibility of the dog himself and his natural behavior. The theory disregards our own failure to guide a dog and teach him properly and it even disregards our own success in teaching our dog’s unhelpful behavior, which is admittedly often where the said behavior is learned.

The fact remains that dogs although closely related to wolves via DNA have been so far genetically removed from their common ancestor that they in no way live as a wolf pack does in captivity or even in the wild.

Therefore despite their obvious similarities we must, in order to succeed as canine behavior specialists and understanding dog guardians, relate to and study domestic dog behavior as that of an individual species and not a wolf in dog’s clothing.


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