Dog training is, for some, all about who’s the dominant one, which is wrong for so many reasons
I know that not many will be surprised by this, but dogs are actually NOT on some sort of a quest for world domination. They are not just socialized wolves who are constantly striving to achieve a status of ‘top dog’ or ‘alpha dog’ over us, and they are not hard-wired to try controlling every situation.
Contrary to what traditional training ideologies and much modern media would try to make you believe, most canine behavior problems stem from insecurity and /or a desire to seek and maintain safety and comfort, not from a deep desire to establish higher rank and be the top dog over you.
Which s why teaching dogs ‘who’s the alpha’ by means of forcing them into some mythical state they call ‘calm submission’ is exactly the opposite of what they actually need to learn effectively and overcome behavioral issues.
This misunderstanding largely comes from the erroneous application of some studies done in the past of captive wolf packs to our understanding of the dynamics of our domestic dogs. However, there are two main problems with extrapolating those early studies of wolf packs onto dogs:
1- Wolves and Dogs are Not the same, they are different species
2- The Results of those studies have since been disproved by none other than the very scientists who conducted them.
Despite that, terms like ‘pack leader’ , ‘alpha dog’, and ‘top dog’ have become so accepted by society that the majority of dog owners use them. What’s interesting is that, when those terms are used to describe the human concepts of leadership and rank hierarchy, they can be useful indeed and usually doesn’t pose any problem. It’s when we use ascribe those concepts to dogs that issues begin to rise. We incorrectly assume that dogs are placing the same value as we do on identifying who has the higher rank in any given situation
What we must do is to stop assigning human insecurities onto our dogs, they don’t think and feel the same way we do. Only when we stop assuming that they think and feel the same way as we do will be able to understand them and build truly balanced and healthy relationships with them
In the next page: The scientific history of dominance and our understanding of it