What’s In a Name

There are many different terms used to describe dog behavior and training methods and so much confusion as to what they actually mean.   I posted a few already this week on my Facebook page and asked for your comments.   The feedback was really interesting and showed how these terms can be interpreted in such a broad way.   I also asked what you would like to discuss in future posts and received some great ideas for topics so these will definitely be covered in the weeks ahead.   For now though, what does the term, ‘dominance,’ mean to you in terms of describing canine behavior and how does it impact the way we teach them?  Does dominance exist in the canine world and does a human really have to establish dominance over a dog in order to get him/her to behave as old school theory would have us believe?  I pick these terms knowing that they are highly controversial and spark vigorous debate but I think it is important to correctly define them.   If you join the discussion please keep it civil.



31 Comments

  1. ReflectAwear

    January 19th, 2012 at 8:25 am

    From a Biblical point of view. Gen 1:28 And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have DOMINION over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
    Human being are Blessed by The Lord to dominate (with integrity) everything The Lord created, (with the exception of dominating another human being). Whatever you will not take dominion over, will take dominion over you. How's that for food for thought???

  2. Paula Ludwick

    January 19th, 2012 at 8:28 am

    The word Dominance to me means showing who is higher in the pack. I have a Rottweiler, and two mixed dogs. I have not seen any of my dogs try to dominate each other in quit a while.

  3. Mary

    January 19th, 2012 at 8:30 am

    I think dominance is more about the 4 legs being in control rather than the 2 legs. We absolutely DO NOT need to establish dominance over a dog in order to get a desired behavior. Some of the most dominant dogs I've met have weighed less than 10 lbs. ;-)

  4. Nicole

    January 19th, 2012 at 8:30 am

    So funny you would bring this up, because I just got into an argument with my boyfriend about this yesterday!

    See, I have a Siberian Husky who loves to play with small dogs, but she likes to play hard and rough. So, when Jim (my boyfriend) talks to people about my husky, he says she's 'dominant' with smaller dogs. It drives me nuts when he says this, because she isn't dominant at all. She's confident and friendly.

    When I think of a dog that's dominant, the term 'aggressive' comes to mind. A dominant dog is a dog that towers over other dogs, causing fear in the weaker canines. A dominant dog believes everything is his and you should know that everything is his. If you don't, well, he's more than ready to teach you that lesson. In short, a dominant dog dominates other dogs and the environment around him.

    Dominance is not a dog that plays rough, that lands on top of other dogs when playing, that gets upset and growls once in a while or when communicating with other dogs.

    Fortunately, I think dominance in dogs isn't nearly as common as people think. In fact, I have yet to meet a dominant dog. All of the dogs I know are perfectly friendly, happy-go-lucky fur balls.

  5. Dana

    January 19th, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Dominance, to me, is when a dog's humans fail to establish a heirarchy in the home and the dog feels it has to fill that role. It can be expressed in many different ways, by the dog crowding you on the furniture, crowding you while you're at the dining table, entering and exiting the home first, dragging you down the street on walks, and by resource guarding. It can be corrected by the old school alpha roll, or by more gentle and subtle methods such as: having the dog perform a sit-stay for feeding, having the dog "ask" or wait to be invited before getting onto furniture, removing any resources the dog may be guarding, having the dog sit-stay and wait for their human to cross door thresholds first, and by setting and maintaining boundaries in the home (eg no dogs in the kitchen/dining area, which can also be a safety issue as well). Dominance DOES exist in the canine world/mind, and as owners, it is our responsibility to establish ourselves as our dogs' "Alpha" in order to HELP prevent MOST issues with aggression and territoriality in companion dogs.

  6. KJ Shover

    January 19th, 2012 at 8:38 am

    I don't know about establishing "dominance" to change a dog's behavior. The last 3 dogs I've had were damaged. They were beat and put through various states of abuse.

    GusGus, was a mastiff, Shepard mix who found himself in the middle of many an argument between a couple. The state took him away and he wound up in my house. There he had a nice calm place to be raised, he turned out to be a wonderful dog.

    Chelsie was a Rottweiler that was taken away from her owner. She was beat, starved and used in dog fighting. Needless to say she was a handful. I was the last place to take her and if she didn't do better she was going to be put down. During the first month she had a temper. I was bit 3 times and she was in the battle of wills with me. At the 6th month marker, a little light went off in her head. 12 years later she passed away sleeping in her favorite spot. She turned out to be an excellent animal. No longer majorly aggressive, but full on playful and waited to go for the next ride. You just had to say which car, truck or Motor home then open the door. She would run and sit by the vehicle announced and wait for you to open the door. The only thing that she never got over was being starved, Her food dish had to be full at all times or she would get upset. She ate normally, but the fear of no food was always there with her.

    Bill is my latest. He was picked up by animal control. He was ribs hanging out, hand shy, scared Siberian husky. He's now fat and happy and thinks he is my shadow. He turned around quickly, I'd say about a week. He's been nothing but a loyal pup ever since, going on 4 years now.

    Not once have I used any dominance techniques on the dogs. just patience and time. I think dominance does exist in the canine world, you can see it when my husky and German Shepard interact. Bill always lets Anna eat first and walk in front of him. but, its funny to watch them, one will distract the other then steal their chew bones or dog treats. This will go back and forth, its funny to watch.

    Another opinion on the word dominance, is that it's misused. A lot of people seem to confuse the term dominance with fear. And in my opinion is definitely going in the wrong direction.

  7. Dixie Duran

    January 19th, 2012 at 8:39 am

    To dominate is to control & restrict.
    I would like information about helping a small terrier recover from fear & threats from other dogs that are fearful & threatening. Also about the use of Clomicalm while trying to reverse this condition.
    My dog is now 8 years old & has been like this for at least the past 4 years, especially on leash. The past 3 wks I've been medicating her & it doesn't seem to make the training any easier...in fact a few times, she seemed even more fearful & stubborn to continue.

    Thank you,
    Dixie

  8. kyzyl

    January 19th, 2012 at 8:40 am

    The word 'dominance' has a very specific definition in ethology: a relationship established to insure preferential access to valued resources. We as humans really aren't in competition with dogs for resources, so we really don't need to establish dominance.

    @ReflectAwear: There are plenty of people who aren't Christian or Jewish and won't be moved by an argument from the bible. Also, I'm pretty sure the bible insists several times that men should have dominion over their wives, so that's another good reason not to pay attention to it!

  9. Rebecca Hollar

    January 19th, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Dominance to me, means the dog has or likes to display that he/she has dominance over you, or the situation. I have two rescue dogs. One is better 'adjusted' and easier to make friends with strangers than the other one. While the other one has a LONG way to go, she is 100% better. They struggle with "dominance" over each other. I think they instinctively know I am top dog, though. The well adjusted dog will try and stand over me to the side, or sit on my leg, jump in my lap, but they both have a "healthy respect" for me, but do not fear me. I reinforce this by some techniques taught by you [Victoria], i.e. if barking to get their way, I purposely make them wait until they are quiet.] I want both to accept that I will at different times cuddle the other - and that's OKAY. To me, their struggles with dominance over each other is so they can earn the beloved # 1 pooch position.
    I think its important to establish, you are confident, and in control over every situation, because on the flip side, my Mom is slightly scared of the maladjusted one, and is taking a long time for her to become 'friends' with this dog, because this dog instinctively knows, she is "Non Dominant" I believe this dog wonders why she's [mom] afraid, and thinks there's something to be feared of her, i.e. she may hurt her or something ?? not sure. I think they like knowing there's some sort of pecking order.
    I believe there needs to be unconditional love, but firm boundaries. [at times I couldn't care less if a dog stands over me, if we are playing, or snuggling in the morning] In cases of unwanted behavior from them, I give one correction, "no," "stop", "sit" whatever, if the behavior continues I put them in 'time out.' [CONSISTENCE IS KEY] Sometimes that means, making them "sit and stay" away from the rest of us, or they can't roam about freely, because I make them 'sit and stay' or in extreme hysterics (as the maladjusted one is prone to have) I put her in her kennel and shut her door, for about 5 minutes or and come to get her and lecture her afterwards, and she's fine with that. ha ha... this sounds like raising children (except the kennel part) but all of my dogs love and 'obey' me and my family always praise my dogs as being "good dogs". But it has more to do with the "good pet owner" than the dog... I think, unless the dog has some sort of brain damage. That's my two cents+ worth.

  10. Elaine Cowling

    January 19th, 2012 at 8:41 am

    I do not like to use the word 'dominance', as unfortunately for most people, it seems to give them the excuse to be aggressive and use unnecessary punishment on their dog. I do believe that one dog can be dominant over another in a given situation, depending on resources and the desire for said resource, however, hierarchies in dogs are fairly fluid and make use of submissive gestures in many cases. In terms of dealing with so called 'dominant' dogs, I believe that dogs need clear guidelines as to what behaviour is acceptable to you, as an owner. If you wish your dog to sleep on your bed/sofa, then that is fine, provided that the dog will also politely get off when asked. My dogs are taught my house rules (I dont allow dogs upstairs as I have asthma and am a light sleeper) by use of rewards for correct behaviour (food, praise, games) and a calm 'no' (as a non reward marker) when they are doing something that I don't want. In the case of my new (second hand) dog, she had previously been allowed upstairs - by returning her calmy back down the stairs every time she came up, and placing a brush as a physical deterrent to remind her that upstairs was out of bounds, she very quickly learnt to stay down the stairs. Our relationships with our dogs should be based on mutual trust and respect, and this cannot be achieved by 'dominating' them.

  11. sarah barsness

    January 19th, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Now there is a loaded word! With my first dog, I used all the old school approaches - I had never heard of anything else - and tried to be the first out the door, feed him last, and other strategies I am ashamed to confess to now. He was marvelous enough to put up with it all. Within a few months, it began to nag at me that none of it made sense. What made sense was to give him confidence and to BOND with him, so that "obeying" was the most natural thing in the world. I remember the day I told him to drop a peanut butter sandwich he found on the street. He did, instantly, and then he did a happy dance when he saw how pleased I was with him!

  12. Rosie Barclay

    January 19th, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Its all explained very clearly here http://www.dogwelfarecampaign.org/

  13. Mike Pfaff

    January 19th, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Dominance is absolutely an issue; regardless of training method, the trainer establishes dominance over the dog via control over food, withholding gratification, or leash correction (when leash correction became mean/negative, I don't know). I have seen many dogs that will not respond to what are called "positive" methods and many dogs quickly booted out of "positive" classes as "too aggressive" to train; mostly rescue dogs. All methods have their place and I prefer to use a combination myself. But, either way, one has to establish "dominance" over the dog. If one owns one dog, and has plenty of time, then the withholding gratification (positive) methods might be best. But an "old school" trainer" with a leash and chain collar can accomplish the same dominance, in a much shorter period of time, making it a better choice, in my opinion, for foster dogs that will be with you an undetermined amount of time, without fattening up the dog or having to deal with undiscovered food allergies from treats and such. Personally, I have had a harder time rehabilitating "positive" trained dogs, as many dogs are smart enough to then refuse to do a thing unless "rewarded." If two dogs are about to fight (over dominance) a clicker, treat, or "stop that, Sweety" are useless, and many dogs get put down as "too aggressive" when they are exhibiting normal dog pack behavior, which could be quickly corrected using old school methods. When one lives with more than one dog, dominance will be an issue, period. Ideally, the owner/trainer is dominant over all of them. That does not mean they are mean to them, which is a common misperception. Dogs are not often "positive" to each other, when it comes to selecting their own pecking order. Any time a dog gets a chance, it will "move up" till the owner is next. This can be very dangerous.

  14. D

    January 19th, 2012 at 8:55 am

    As I said (since most are going to respond here) - My thoughts when I hear the word "dominance" when comes to training dogs, is that the owner or trainer is thinking that the dog is behaving the way it is because it's trying to be dominate, and that being more dominate with the dog, will be the way to keep the dog subservient. Rubbish. Dogs don't have the thought process to take over you and the rest of the world - except in movies like "Cats & Dogs".

  15. Emma

    January 19th, 2012 at 8:56 am

    In human language it means the boss, the one in control, but I dont think it is relevant to human & dog relationships. In biology dominance means the one who has primary access to resources, the one who gets to mate and the dominant one is often so through default (mum, dad, the eldest) and does not need to make others 'submit'. So what could a dog benefit from being dominant over us? to mate with us? use our credit cards to order food online? borrow the car for a roadtrip? This word has lost all meaning and been taken out of context, we dont need to 'dominate' dogs and they arent trying to dominate us we need to teach them what is 'right' and 'wrong' as no one dog or human is born knowing this. We already know that 'dominance theory methods' arent so effective and often make things worse. Within dog relationships they need to use manners with each other and learn to get along so that they can live together peacefully but this is not the army, these are dogs living together and dogs will be dogs and want what the other dog has got, want that comfy spot. These things are not achieved by going around being agressive potentially risking injury, this is dogs being dogs, wanting to feel good because if you feel good you dont feel stressed, if you feel stressed it puts a strain on your entire system and that could make you ill and unable to survive & mate. We all argue with our family it doesnt mean we're trying to take over the world. Rather than 'this dog is being dominant over that dog' is it not 'these dogs are having a little spat ubt eventually they will work it out and be able to live peacefully again'?. It's not a personality trait it is a description of whats going on without having to use so many words.

  16. andyspal

    January 19th, 2012 at 9:27 am

    I have found this term confusing as it applies to my dogs. I have a 6 year old cocker and a 2? year old mix. You would think the older larger dog would be dominant, but he is extremely tolerant. The younger dog is friskier, more playful and pushy. When he has had enough of her foolery, he leaves, or barks sharply at her, and ends the play session. When he likes it, he goes along. She licks his face, so I think that means she defers to him, at times, but when she's feeling feisty, she's in his face, nipping his dangly ears, getting him in a headlock. She does worry about him taking her toys, and will defend them. She knows he lies in wait for her to drop a favored toy or bit of treat, so she will sometimes position herself where he can't hover.
    It seems to be more of a give and take situation, depending on their mood, energy level, interest, etc. I think they get ideas and moods from one another, and often act in tandem, chasing squirrels.
    Perhaps the really dominant animal in my home is the cat, who can boss the dogs around just by looking at them! Many's the time they've been stuck on the stairs, while the cat guards the way, not letting them up or down.

  17. Peter

    January 19th, 2012 at 9:47 am

    It's really interesting that the word has different meanings to different people.
    Some people think it means that they are the 'leader' of the family pack. This is good for the dogs, and even good for the family members. :-) As social creatures, we all need to know where we fit in to the group. Knowing where to go when a problem arises is a good thing.
    Others think it means domination and power: this often carries with it the idea that the leader must show each member of the pack that they are beneath him. Just a couple of days ago, I saw a man pin his dog to the ground by his collar and hold him until the dog surrendered. It didn't appear to be an action that was intended to calm the dog (which it wasn't!), but rather to make the dog submit.
    This show of (gratuitous) force is unnecessary and needs to be driven out of human-dog interaction.

  18. Robert Broussard

    January 19th, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Victoria,

    I believe most of the time owners are punishment oriented not because they are hard core believers in dominance or pack theory but because they are just extending traditional notions of child discipline to dogs. Traditional orientations toward child and adult discipline are still ingrained in our culture, and are closely tied to many long held Western religious and philosophical ideas. Science is slowly changing the culture of child rearing, and will also change the culture of dog rearing. When we bring the term dominance up in popular discussions of dog training, we provide validation that the term still deserves an important place in dog training theory, and end up stereotyping trainers, which makes it more difficult for healthy respectful discussions to take place among professionals . Also, pointing out that there is "another side" to the coin can create a curiosity about what that side is like, even after arguments have been provided against that side. IMHO the best way to deal with the term dominance is to ignore it, and to provide people with scientifically supported information that help them understand their dogs better.

  19. Deborah

    January 19th, 2012 at 10:15 am

    I think a lot of dog behaviour is misinterpreted by humans, and often unwittingly (and sometimes dangerously) anthromorphised. Possibly this stems from humans being given animal toys as babies, then growing up with stories, films and TV programmes depicting animals as human beings (Lady and the Tramp, Watership Down, 101 Dalmations etc.).

    So human beings expect dogs to understand human language and wishes, and the dog's communication is ignored or misunderstood to the point that the only communication the human notices is the dog's extreme behaviour. The dog is considered to be dominant if its behaviour is strong, assertive and unwanted. The dog cannot use its natural, more subtle, ways of communicating because the human disregards them. Eg. a dog turning its head and yawning means 'I don't want to be patted' - a human interprets that as a sleepy dog and gives it a cuddle - the dog growls and moves away - the dog is labelled grumpy, unsafe, or dominant.

    Dominance seems to be a very common human trait. I consider a dominant person to be one who takes contol of a situation regardless of other people's opinion or needs, and who does so without empathy. So isn't that what the human is doing to the dog? I'm actually amazed that these days I still see people pushing their dog's rump to make it sit, and vets dragging unwilling patients onto scales. It's the human being that is dominant - with all the negative connotations that go with it.

    So dominance in dogs - no. Dominance in humans - yes, far too much.

  20. Pat Knittel

    January 19th, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I look to science regarding behavior. There is a fantastic definition and discussion here from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior... http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/images/stories/Position_Statements/dominance%20statement.pdf

  21. Eva Date

    January 19th, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Being dominant is simply the same as being the one who's in control of the daily routines and establishes what the culture in which the community (people and dogs for ex.) conduct those routines. What methods are used does not count for dominance. That then is a way of training. Thus dominance need not be an ugly word.

  22. D

    January 19th, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Dana I am afraid you are way off the mark. I surprised you even found your way to this site. You would be better off on another celeb's page.

  23. ALiza

    January 19th, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Mike- I have some serious reservations about "get it done" trainers. I live in a house with 2 Aussie's 2 labs( one who was a rescue 2 months ago) and a tiny poodle mix and 2 cats. With this amount of animals in my house I have become very good at understanding the "order of the house" is this dominance? Maybe to a degree but is not a FEAR based relationship. I think sending a dog out into the world without TOOLS is a huge disservice to them and will create more complex and dangerous behaviors in the future. Through the training that Victoria and many other trainer's employ we are trying to give these dogs tools in dealing with their people and their world along with fostering a relationship with them so that they understand that we are not going to put them into situations that they can't handle without the tools to deal with it.

    Although you do bring up a good point about the "trainer" I think it as rude to assume that all positive trainer's are wishy -washy and permissive. We are not in the least we work to understand the reasons beyond the behavior we see and get to the root instead of treating just the symptoms. Yes it may take longer and require tremendous amounts of patience and restraint but Rome was not built in a day!

  24. Sue

    January 19th, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Yes, I believe that dominance does seem to exist in the canine world as a way to determine the level of social status relative to other individuals and, as such, the leaders, or alpha pair, in a pack can be said to dominate - exert a supreme determining or guiding influence on - the rest of the pack.

    Do we humans really have to establish dominance over a dog in order to get him/her to behave? Well, yes, in as much as if we show no leadership or guiding influence, then we cannot expect any co operation or respect from our dog - or our children! Does this mean rolling our dog on his/her back and standing over him/her menacingly, as some would suggest? Probably not. To me, when we talk about becoming a pack leader to our dog, it means not only gaining their love and their trust but also their respect. This, I believe, is true 'dominance' as it applies in the canine world, and is essential for our dogs to be well-balanced and happy. Unfortunately, it is a lot easier to describe than it is to achieve for most of us!

  25. Char

    January 19th, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Dominance is a negative. As I watch my pack of four (borzoi, greyhound, pomeranian, yorkie) it's clear to me,and to them, that within their world the borzoi is the leader. She is benevolent, she only needs to use her eyes or perhaps a nudge to elicit wanted behavior. Oh if only I could learn to do the same. They all respect me, they all know the expectations, they all observe the main rules with no need to dominate. IMO, the greater the respect we give them the greater respect they return to us. Now if I could just convince the yorkie puppy that all that barking really isn't needed.

  26. Liz M itchell

    January 19th, 2012 at 11:45 am

    ..I dread the “dominance” word. I hear it all the time from people in the street and in my dog training club, but have learned to just walk away from most of it.

    I have four dogs, and they live a loose coalition. They play, snuggle, groom each other, or ignore each other, and do all the usual “doggy” things together. Who will defer or win a resource or argument changes by the minute. My Staffie bitch Dooby seems to want to look after the other dogs, and tries to diffuse any stressful encounters. Flash, the oldest, looks like a cowering cur, but it is not in his nature to argue about things he does not really want. If he does want something, he usually gets it, and the other dogs will back down. The youngest is a brash teenage Northern Inuit, but she respects the boundaries that Dooby sets (although she pushes as far as she can.) Patch my reactive (aka aggressive) Staffie plays well with all of them at times, but can get overexcited and redirect aggression sometimes. However, he is often the one to lose out in a dispute over a toy as one of the others will sneak it off him while he is blustering about it.

    In other words, there is no dominance hierarchy in my house. Every encounter is different, and things change all the time.

    Ethical considerations aside, I could not "dominate" any of my dogs by force - they are all string enough to physically force me to do what they want. If one off them truly wanted to dominate me, I could not do much about it – they all have large teeth and are very strong! So if I want them to do something, I make it worth it for them. They find training fun and we all get along on the whole. If they are not as obedient as I would like it is my failing in training ability, not them deciding not to obey “just to blow me off".

    Trying to “dominate” my dogs in earlier years led to dogs that were so unsure of what I wanted that they never looked confident.
    Patch was the first one of my dogs to have been clicker trained, and not have had lead jerks and other such training methods, and he has the best heelwork of all my dogs. He loves his work, because he has never been punished for being wrong. He tries his heart out to get his rewards, and seems to love the trying now nearly as much as the reward.
    From my observation, dogs do what gets them what they want, usually without putting themselves at risk. Some dogs like Patch, have either learned that unwanted behaviours work, and/ or have a problem with their physical makeup that makes them more excitable and prone to reactivity so they may get themselves into more dangerous situations.

    I am pleased with this open discussion, it is wonderful that a respected and charismatic trainer is trying to dispel the entrenched beliefs and open more people up to a better ( yes better not just more humane!) way of training. Thanks Victoria!

  27. Patricia

    January 19th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I have worked with animals for over 30 years. Dominance for me has always ment Alpha. I am alpha at work with my dogs and the same when I come home to my own dogs. It is not and never has been an outward agressive action. On the other hand the dog knows what is expected of them and the results are 99% wonderful. I still have to deal with the 1% who want to try to push my buttons and then you always have to be one step ahead. Always expect the unexpected when dealing with that one unpredictable dog.

  28. Nicole

    January 19th, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    I think dominance and leadership are two different things. I think dominance is making a behaviour or outcome occur through force, cohersion or punishment. I think leadership however, is getting the behaviour or outcome through setting boun...daries and expectations for the desired result and teaching, training and guiding the appropriate behaviour and outcome. With a dog that is resource guarding (e.g. my rescue JRT used to guard his pig's ears and toys and would curl his lip and growl if anyone came close), the desired outcome would be a dog that doesn't mind the item being taken away if it's not appropriate have it at that time and not wanting the dog to feel threatened enough that it would progress to a bite to prevent someone taking the item (especially for me I didn't want my dog biting a child if it wanted to play with one of its toys). To get the behaviour or outcome using dominance would be to just forcibly remove the toy/food from the dog and punish it somehow if it responded negatively to that. For example, a trainer we had that used dominance theory, held Max by the scruff of his neck as he pulled the pigs ear away from him and when Max tried to bite him he was shaken by the scruff of the neck. We were told to practice this by tying string to the pigs ear and pulling it away from our dog and then when he got close to hold him down while we took the item away from him. Using this technique (as we didn't know any better techniques), resulted in Max no longer biting or growling when came close to him- good result? Well, not so much as he no longer came when called and no longer trusted us to be near him when he had anything of value. He would not eat in front of us and if given a chew toy or treat, he would find a place to hide where he felt safe to eat it without being threatened or "dominated". Leadership on the other hand, which we've used with our other dog from scratch and in undoing the problems Max developed, means teaching the dog that it is not threatening if someone comes close while eating and giving up their toy or posession might mean that they get something even better. There are many ways we've done this: including getting a sit and a look at us before givign them the food/toy/chew toy, desensitising the dogs to us approaching by dropping high value food near them while eating, exchanging whatever they have for something even better etc. Result? My other dog will let you take anything off of her anytime at all, Max will let you approach and pat while eating or playing with a toy and responds well to exchanging his item for another. He no longer hides from us but has a tendency to sit a little away from us and our other dog to eat something really special and he refuses to eat pigs ears at all anymore!

  29. Lauren Miller

    January 19th, 2012 at 10:58 pm

  30. Jerry D. Patillo, CPDT-KA

    January 20th, 2012 at 4:36 am

    To me, "dominance" implies physically forcing the dog to do something it doesn't want to, or physically punishing the dog for doing something we don't like. It's not about dominance; it's about leadership. What's leadership? It's establishing the boundaries, rules, and limitations for YOUR household. My rules are probably different from yours, but that's okay. It doesn't matter what your rules are. Consistency is the key. What matters is that your rules are the same rules 24/7. The rules that apply at 11:00 a.m. on Mondays are the same rules that apply at 11 p.m. on Fridays.

    In our house, both the terrier and the Lab are not allowed in the bedrooms. In our house, the terrier is allowed on the couch; the Lab is not. The Lab never goes around the house sulking, "That's not fair!" Instead, we taught her that the Lab-sized pillow beside the couch is her special place.

    We feed our dogs BEFORE we eat so we can enjoy the barbecued ribs or roast chicken in peace. We let the dogs out the front door before us -- but only after we release them from waiting at the open door first.

    I'm teaching my Lab canine freestyle. Part of the ending sequence involves her doing a High Five (jumping up and touching her paws to my paws), "knocking" me onto my back with my legs up in the air in a 'V' shape. She then jumps through the 'V', lands on the floor beside me, and ends up laying her 60 pounds on top of my chest for about 10 seconds. Am I worried about her trying to dominate me? Absolutely not. She's very happy to do these behaviors only when I ask her to.

    I wrote and am currently rewriting an article called "The Problem With Positive Reinforcement." The problem with positive reinforcement is that people don't really know what it means. Sure, they recognize it when they see it, but they don't have a clue how to define it. How do we know? Ask them to define the related concepts "positive punishment" and "negative punishment." Ask them to tell you which of these two punishments would dog-friendly trainers prefer to use!

    Dog training is not about dominance; it's about leadership. It's about removing the reward of the behaviors you don't like. It's about teaching your dogs the behaviors you want them to do instead.

  31. Nicole

    February 21st, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    I think dominance is rare in dogs. I've heard many people tell me that their dogs were dominant because they pulled on leash, tried to get up on the couch, wanted to play tug of war and so on. I don't believe I've ever seen a real case of dominance in dogs.

    When I think of a dominant dog, I think of a dog that tries to push everyone around using aggression. So, I guess my idea of a dominant dog is an aggressive dog.



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FROM VICTORIA'S BLOG

The Science Says: Don’t Hit Your Dog

The term "discipline" is thrown around loosely in the dog training world. You'll find all kinds of opinions about when and how to discipline a dog, but how do you know what to believe? While you may not believe a trainer's advice not to hit your dog, it's hard to ignore the scientific research that [...]

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