Dominance in The Dog Training Industry 

The term dominance gets thrown around a lot in the dog training industry. For generations people and trainers alike have attributed many dog behaviors to a dominance structure. Either the dog is dominating or submissive, which has been thought to cause them to act certain ways. However, as we grow in knowledge and experience, professionals have learned that this is not the case. That’s why dominance is not a term you will hear at Doggie Residence.

The Old Thinking of Dominance Structures

  • Aggressive Dogs are Asserting Dominance
  • It Defines Relationships
  • Training your dog with aversion is a way to successfully dominate and control your dog

The University of Bristol Department of Clinical Veterinary Sciences conducted a six month study on behavior. During the study, researchers observed canines interacting freely in a Dogs Trust rehoming center. After analyzing the data, they concluded that the relationships that were formed were based on experience and not motivated by the desire to dominate.

Dominance is a naturally occurring component of canine relationships, but it is not the defining factor of domestic canine relationships. According to a journal published by Dr. John Bradford at the University of Bristol, “Although dominance is correctly a property of relationships, it has been erroneously used to describe a supposed trait of individual dogs, even though there is little evidence that such a trait exists. When used correctly to describe a relationship between 2 individuals, it tends to be misapplied as a motivation for social interactions, rather than simply a quality of that relationship. Hence, it is commonly suggested that a desire ‘to be dominant’ actually drives behavior, especially aggression, in the domestic dog” (source).

Why It’s Not In Doggie Residence's Vocabulary:

Although some well-known “trainers” may preach this type of pack pecking order, it is not a true motivator in behavior. More so, it is also not a true way to modify your dog’s behavior.

It was best put in an article by Science Daily; where Senior Lecturer in Companion Animal Behavior and Welfare at Bristol University Dr. Rachel Casey stated “The blanket assumption that every dog is motivated by some innate desire to control people and other dogs is frankly ridiculous. It hugely underestimates the complex communicative and learning abilities of dogs. It also leads to the use of coercive training techniques, which compromise welfare, and actually cause problem behaviors” (source).

These studies, plus our own education and experiences in training is why we don’t use the term “dominance” in our programs. This is also why you shouldn’t use dominance techniques you’ve heard on TV or online either. In fact, these techniques are not only wrong, they are harmful. They usually end up in causing your dog to be more anxious or aggressive.

Dominance has nothing to do with aversion, pain, or intimidation

The thought that to dominate your dog you must use aversion tactics or illicit pain is in no way true. Dominance is simply through controlling your dogs access to food, shelter, experience, even sex. None of these are aversive. As we’ve discussed before aversive training can cause fallout and should not be used in behavior modification.

Want to know more? Watch this incredibly informative video, Dominance Decoded from Arizona State University’s Clive D. L. Wynne, Ph.D.

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