View Full Version : APDT: Dominance and dog training

4th November 2009, 12:21 PM
What every dog owner needs to know. This international professional training body has just issued this new statement. This helps make clear the difference between dominance as a dog to dog relationship and the dangerously popular myth of 'dominance' as a training and behaviour issue:

Dominance and Dog Training

Association of Pet Dog Trainers
Position Statement

There has been a resurgence in citing "dominance" as a factor in dog behavior and dog-human relationships. This concept is based on outdated wolf studies that have long since been disproven. Contrary to popular belief, research studies of wolves in their natural habitat demonstrate that wolves are not dominated by an "alpha wolf" who is the most aggressive pack member. Rather, wolves operate with a social structure similar to a human family and depend on each other for mutual support to ensure the group's survival.

Dogs are not wolves. The idea that dog behavior can be explained through the application of wolf behavior models is no more relevant than suggesting that chimpanzee behavior can be used to explain the intricacies of human behavior. While wolves and dogs share some similarities in behavior, there are many more significant differences. Dog training and behavior modification strategies that rely primarily on misinterpretations of wolf behavior are therefore irrelevant, ineffective and can lead to serious negative complications.

While dominance is a valid scientific concept, the term "dominance" itself is widely misunderstood, such as when it is used to describe the temperament of a particular dog. Dominance is not a personality trait but a description of a relationship between two or more animals and is related to which animal has access to valued resources such as food, mates, etc. It should not be used in any way to support the belief that dogs are out to "dominate" us, especially as that misunderstanding causes some people to respond with force and aggression. This only serves to create an adversarial relationship filled with miscommunication and even more misunderstanding. The unfortunate result is often anxiety, stress and fear in both dogs and humans towards each other. The use of techniques such as the "alpha roll" on dogs, which is based on these mistaken beliefs about dogs and wolves, has no place in modern dog training and behavior modification. Dogs often respond to this perceived threat with increased fear and aggression, which may serve to make a behavior problem worse and ruin the dog-owner relationship.

The APDT's position is that physical or psychological intimidation hinders effective training and damages the relationship between humans and dogs. Dogs thrive in an environment that provides them with clear structure and communication regarding appropriate behaviors, and one in which their need for mental and physical stimulation is addressed. The APDT advocates training dogs with an emphasis on rewarding desired behaviors and discouraging undesirable behaviors using clear and consistent instructions and avoiding psychological and physical intimidation. Techniques that create a confrontational relationship between dogs and humans are outdated. Modern scientifically-based dog training should emphasize teamwork and a harmonious relationship between dogs and humans that fulfills both species' needs. Most of all, it should be a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

The Association of Pet Dog Trainers encourages and supports continued trainer education in order to promote gentle, effective, fast, and fun ways to train dogs using the most up-to-date information and sound, scientifically-based methods.

For more information, please see related information on our Web site at www.apdt.com.


APDT Board of Directors


Approved 10/20/09

Link: http://www.apdt.com/about/ps/dominance.aspx

4th November 2009, 06:05 PM
Thanks very much for that, Karlin.

I've just had quite a dispute with a friend who watches all "those" dog behaviour/training programmes on TV and is convinced they are on the right lines. In particular she has swallowed the "dogs are wolves" concept lock, stock and barrel.

It will be good to have this statement to read out to her next time we meet cl*p

4th November 2009, 06:36 PM
aahh, good old dominance!! i fear it is will never die.....:(

thank you, karlin, for the post.

4th November 2009, 08:40 PM
An interesting read, so many people are influenced by televised dog trainers such as Cesar Milan and blame dominance for so many aspects of their dog's behaviour. It's such a shame that potentially good pet-owners are being so mis-informed.