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Thread: No such thing as a 'leader of the pack' with dogs

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    Default No such thing as a 'leader of the pack' with dogs

    Daily Telegraph vet and pet columnist Pete Wedderburn's blog

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/peter_w...inate_your_dog

    Dog training: why there's no point in trying to dominate your dog
    Posted By: Peter Wedderburn at May 22, 2009 at 08:09:03 [General]
    Posted in: UK Correspondents
    Tags:
    behaviour, dog training, dominance, pack order, research

    So we've all been wrong, for all these years. A study released yesterday confirms that there's no such thing as the "leader of the pack" in the dog world.

    Analysis of dogs in a rehoming centre combined with reviews of work done on feral dogs has shown that there isn't a "pack order" in dog society after all. All those efforts that people make to dominate their dogs are a waste of time.

    It's with a little trepidation that I step into this arena: dog behaviour is a complex area, and one that some dog behavioural "experts" feel that vets should leave alone. They maintain that vets should stick to physical illnesses, leaving the animal behaviour to those whose training and experience is entirely dedicated to the subject. They back up this view with stories of bad advice given by some vets over the years.

    In defence of my profession, a considerable chunk of the veterinary curriculum is given over to learning about animal behaviour. Vets discuss behavioural issues with owners on a daily basis. When we go to conferences, there are streams of lectures dedicated to animal behaviour. Vets would never claim to be behavioural specialists, but many of us do have enough training, understanding and experience of the area to be able to offer considerable help to our clients. Part of our training is to know our limits, and to know when we need to refer a difficult case to a true behavioural specialist.

    So back to the issue about the structure of the canine pack. If there isn't an order of dominance, what is going on? I've learned about this from my own two dogs, and I find it easier to talk about the concept of "confidence" rather than "dominance". Each of my dogs is more confident in different situations, and each one could appear to be "dominant" depending on what's happening.
    My territorial terrier, Spot, is in charge when the property needs defended. He barks, and rushes to the fore when a stranger appears. He looks like the "top dog" when you see him like this, but it's just that he's full of confidence when it comes to this part of his life.

    My food-obsessed Labrador, Bessie, is less confident when it comes to defending the home, hiding behind Spot, but when it comes to food, she's definitely in charge. If a scrap of food falls to the ground, she'll see Spot out of the way. She loves food so much that when it's available, she's highly motivated and she's learned that in this situation, she can be the "top dog".

    So you see, the "top dog" concept varies through the day, and as such, it's not very useful. The old theory suggested that the "top dog" dominated the rest of the pack in every situation, and that each animal was vying with the others to be dominant over each other. Old behavioural methods tried to teach owners to dominate their pets, to ensure that they remained in charge. Harsh methods, including punishment, were used to allow an owner to maintain this role.

    The new research explains that dogs' minds don't work like this after all, and efforts to dominate pets can simply induce fear, anxiety and even aggression rather than creating a stable household.
    Animal behaviour is difficult to understand, and we'll probably never fully appreciate what's going on inside their heads. There will always be different theories, and training concepts that work in some situations, but not in others.

    To me, the biggest problems with dog behaviour happen when owners like treat their pets like spoiled children. People don't like to lay down boundaries, finding it difficult to be firm and consistent. One moment, the dog is sitting in their lap, being fed treats. Next, he's allowed up on the sofa, and when he growls, everyone backs off and leaves him alone. One situation is OK, the other is not OK, but to the dog, they seem similar.

    The advantage of the old pack dominance theory was that it provided an easy way of explaining to people the importance of being consistent in their attitude to their pets. It gave owners justification to be more confident than they might otherwise feel.

    The question is this: now that owners are no longer "allowed" to be dominant over their pets, how can they be taught to be consistent and confident so that they don't have their lives ruined by pushy little dogs?
    Karlin
    Cavaliers: Jaspar Lily Tansy Libby Mindy
    In memory: Lucy Leo
    Cavalier SM Information site:www.smcavaliers.com

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    The study he refers to:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/pe...dangerous.html

    22/05/2009 13:25
    TV dog behaviour programmes 'useless and dangerous'

    Television dog trainers use “ridiculous” techniques that can do more harm than good, according to
    scientists.


    By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
    Last Updated: 8:45PM BST 21 May 2009


    Researchers found that methods to
    assert dominance over pets, used by
    the late Barbara Woodhouse, could
    increase aggression in animals.
    They claimed that each series “puts
    back animal behaviour by 10 years”
    because they are built on the false
    assumption that dogs are constantly
    trying to dominate the pack – whether
    that be other animals or humans – and
    must be put in their place.

    Experts at the University of Bristol’s Department of Clinical Veterinary Sciences said it was far more effective to train
    dogs through reward rather than punishment. Behaving aggressively only made dogs scared and confused and more
    likely to lash out, they said.
    “The problem is that some trainers are not qualified,” said Dr Rachel Casey, a senior lecturer in companion animal
    behaviour and welfare.

    “They are just hired to look good. There are huge welfare implications in having this stuff on television.”

    Dr Casey and her team spent six months studying dogs at a Dogs Trust rehoming centre, and reanalysing data from
    studies of feral dogs. They found that rather than fighting to be head of the pack, dogs were much more co-operative
    and tended to treat others like they were treated themselves. The researchers concluded that training aimed at
    “dominance reduction” was therefore worthless and being aggressive only made dogs more likely to copy such
    behaviour.
    Dr Casey, who published the findings in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour: Clinical Applications and Research, said
    that methods such as instructing owners to eat before their dog or go through doors first would not influence a dog’s
    perception of its relationship with its owner.
    Techniques such as pinning dogs to the floor, grabbing jowls, blasting hooters or using an electric collar made them
    anxious about their owner and potentially more aggressive, she claimed. “The blanket assumption that every dog is
    motivated by some innate desire to control people and other dogs is frankly ridiculous,” said Dr Casey.
    “Owners are often horrified when we explain that their dog is terrified of them, and is showing aggression because of
    the techniques they have used, but it’s not their fault when they have been advised to do so, or watched
    recommending such techniques on TV. Being consistent and rewarding good behaviour is so much better than
    punishment.” Chris Laurence, a veterinary director at the Dogs Trust, said: “We can tell when a dog comes in to us
    which has been subjected to the 'dominance reduction technique’ so beloved of TV dog trainers. Sadly, many
    techniques used to teach a dog that his owner is leader of the pack is counter-productive — you won’t get a better
    behaved dog, but you will either end up with a dog so fearful it has suppressed all its natural behaviours, or one so
    aggressive it’s dangerous to be around.”
    A spokesman for Victoria Stilwell said: “Victoria has been a vocal opponent of dog trainers on TV and in private
    practice that continue to promote outdated dominance-based philosophies.
    “As a passionate advocate of positive reinforcement training methods, Victoria is firmly against and has never
    advocated practices such as going through the door before the dog, pinning dogs to the floor, grabbing jowls or using
    electric shock collars (against which she has campaigned for years). She remains committed to debunking myths
    surrounding outdated, scientifically-flawed, dominance-based philosophies.”
    © Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2009
    Karlin
    Cavaliers: Jaspar Lily Tansy Libby Mindy
    In memory: Lucy Leo
    Cavalier SM Information site:www.smcavaliers.com

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    And this university study comes right on the heels of this US one ALSO making the same conclusions:

    Applied Animal Behaviour Science
    Volume 117, Issues 1-2, February 2009, Pages 47-54

    Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors


    Meghan E. Herron, a, , Frances S. Shofera and Ilana R. Reisnera

    Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3900 Delancey Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010, USA


    Accepted 22 December 2008. Available online 24 January 2009.
    Abstract

    Prior to seeking the counsel of a veterinary behaviorist many dog owners have attempted behavior modification techniques suggested by a variety of sources. Recommendations often include aversive training techniques which may provoke fearful or defensively aggressive behavior. The purpose of this study was to assess the behavioral effects and safety risks of techniques used historically by owners of dogs with behavior problems.

    A 30-item survey of previous interventions was included in a behavioral questionnaire distributed to all dog owners making appointments at a referral behavior service over a 1-year period. For each intervention applied, owners were asked to indicate whether there was a positive, negative, or lack of effect on the dog's behavior, and whether aggressive behavior was seen in association with the method used. Owners were also asked to indicate the source of each recommendation. One-hundred-and-forty surveys were completed. The most frequently listed recommendation sources were “self” and “trainers”. Several confrontational methods such as “hit or kick dog for undesirable behavior” (43%), “growl at dog” (41%), “physically force the release of an item from a dog's mouth” (39%), “alpha roll” (31%), “stare at or stare [dog] down” (30%), “dominance down” (29%), and “grab dog by jowls and shake” (26%) elicited an aggressive response from at least a quarter of the dogs on which they were attempted. Dogs presenting for aggression to familiar people were more likely to respond aggressively to the confrontational techniques “alpha roll” and yelling “no” compared to dogs with other presenting complaints (P < 0.001). In conclusion, confrontational methods applied by dog owners before their pets were presented for a behavior consultation were associated with aggressive responses in many cases. It is thus important for primary care veterinarians to advise owners about risks associated with such training methods and provide guidance and resources for safe management of behavior problems.
    Karlin
    Cavaliers: Jaspar Lily Tansy Libby Mindy
    In memory: Lucy Leo
    Cavalier SM Information site:www.smcavaliers.com

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    I have to say I often wondered about this as my three boys seem to all be leaders in different ways at different times depending on whats going on at the time.

    I thought it was just my dogs and wondered if it was something to do with me and the way I was treating them all.

    Gus does seem to be head of the pack (with them, not me) but in a very placid way. It's seems to be something the other two just accept, IF it suits them at the time.

    That may be because Gus was here first.

    Pippin seems to be leader in some things though and Gus lets him away with this. At other times although very rarely DJ will lead......DJ and Pippin will play together and sometimes pippin and Gus will play but Gus won't play with DJ.

    Dj will sometimes try to mount or poke Gus but Gus will put him in his place.

    I think it seems to be something they have worked out between themselves or is it just random depending on whats happening? Either way it seems to work and all in all they get on fine. Although Pippin and Gus always have to be fed seperately as in an x-pen to divide them or Pippin will start a fight when the food is finished?!!
    Gus(blenhiem) Pippin(tri) DJ(ruby)

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    So much of this interpretation of dominant leader began with wolf study and, although those interpretations have changed, the "dog" people got stuck in the theory and resisted moving toward different concepts. The video explains the new understanding in wolf study.

    http://www.davemech.org/news.html
    frecklesmom
    Learning new things everyday

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    I like seeing the scientific results of studies like this, even if they are contrary to my personal belief.

    I can't say I personally agree because I have personally seen much the contrary within both feral and pet dogs. I really want to find a study that measures the trainability and happiness levels using all the different methods. I currently use the 'leader of the pack with lots of love and praise and treats for good behavior and a cold shoulder for those naughty moments.' It seems to be working well. I just wish that Anna would get the potty issues done Sooner .

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    At risk of showing my age here, does anyone else remember Barbara Woodhouse.I remember her when I was a small child in the 1970's.
    She had this technique called the "Woodhouse chuck" where a dog who pulled on the leash would nearly suffer whiplash from the sharp correction applied to the leash.
    Cover your eyes Karlin,this is Barbara from 1982 training William Shatner's Doberman.
    http://www.livevideo.com/video/71908...woodhouse.aspx
    Admittedly Caesar has better teeth

    Sins

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    When I got my first dog at age 11, my mother signed me up with my dog (a cocker spaniel mix named ...BANDIT!) in an obediance class. The required equipment was a choke chain and the teacher taught to yank HARD to make the dog comply and just as hard to correct. I remember being very disturbed by the cruelty I viewed those methods as being. When I was home on my own, I trained him to do a zillion tricks on my own using cheerios as treats and praise. He learned so fast and so eagerly using those methods, yet he HATED obediance work. No wonder. I sure wish that I had never even been exposed to those abusive methods. I never use them.

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    I have to agree as well.No one likes to be dominated,its a very horrible feeling to be pushed around.Trust and understanding is the way to go and patients.Any thing being pushed around would be come defensive,it makes sense.I hated Woodhouse growing up,watching her made me cringe,esp. her annoying voice.

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    I quite liked William Shatner in that clip though,when trying to get the dog to stay, he was using the kind of hand signals that Captain Kirk would have used when backing away from a Romulan or a Klingon . I guess old habits die hard when the cameras are rolling
    Sins

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