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

  1. #11
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    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.


    But this is exactly what the last study I cited DOES show -- and there really are only two methods -- punishment/corrections vs reward/positive motivation. The study cited was also published in one of the most prominent research journals in its area. I'd also suggest that casual observations by those who are not familiar with what species' behaviour (understood by a trained specialist) means can very easily assign the wrong interpretation to an area of study that involves a professional degree and many years of scholarly and field study which no one I believe on this board has (though some of our trainer members like TKC DO have several years' training and international professional qualifications). Untrained casual observation of packs of dogs (and there are no true 'feral' packs except in Africa so you are not seeing wild behaviour, you are seeing roaming former domestic dogs) is just as likely to be completely wrong as if I went out in the field to do your professional job without your qualifications. In addition this board is full of examples of how interpretations of casual behaviour very often is easily and wrongly interpreted -- going by how many times people assume their dogs are saying x when basic behavioural knowledge (of the type that sadly doesn't get onto as many TV shows ) would indicate they are saying y -- for example people who with the best intentions think their young dogs must be deliberately opposing and defying them because they haven't learned (choose the behaviour) housetraining, to sit, to lie quietly, to stop barking, to get off the sofa, to not fight over food. Many of these behaviours result because 1) the dog is too young to know yet to have learned a behaviour well enough to be reliable; 2) the owner has not put the time or consistency into training; 3) the dog has been 'taught' in such a way that the results are the opposite of what is wanted -- eg the dog is scolded for peeing inside and hence its obvious conclusion is -- I get scolded if I pee when someone sees me so I will do it secretly when my owner isn;t in the room -- not 'gee, that must mean I should go in some other location', a far more subtle distinction.

    And given that a dog has absolutely no problem telling a cat from a dog -- why in the world do we have this ridiculous idea that a dog looks at a human and says -- "gee, that must be a giant dog and my leader of the pack!'. If a dog doesn't relate to another four legged animal about its same size, why are we so self-centred as to believe a dog is so clueless as to confuse a human with a lead pack dog?

    One thing I have learned over a lifetime of owning dogs -- and especially from having spent so much time with professional trainers in the past 6 years -- is that dogs are not stupid. They do -- like 'non-pack' animals like cats or tigers or horses -- respond so spectacularly well to positive methods training used correctly that this type of training is used in every area in which animals must be trained with precision for predictable performance -- eg Hollywood, performance show animals, etc.

    Dogs like any animal or humans do recognise calm positive leadership and guidance, and just like people, tend to work especially hard for a reward, be it praise, a nice meal, a salary raise for people -- or -- yes, praise -- or attention, or food if a dog.

    NB the study doesn't argue that dogs do not live in pack structures at all; it argues that basing training techniques on ideas of what some imagined alpha dog does to maintain control (and that is the whole problem -- dog leaders do NONE of the TV trainer poking, hissing, alpha rolls etc to act as leaders) is not just wrong -- because it is based on totally wrong ideas about dog pack structure -- but dangerous. Dog pack leaders are not aggressive, they are benign leaders. And often there is more than one leader depending on the activity/task.

    In general, it is wise not to make the common and significant error of assuming casual observation of our pets equates to professional observation and study of same -- especially with preconceptions of what behaviour 'means' taken from watching television programs and absorbing what has been popularised in pet ownership books despite being ~LONG DISCOUNTED~ in professional animal behaviour study.

    I have posts in the training section and library with more info and links on why these studies were simply wrong from the start.
    Karlin
    Cavaliers: Jaspar Lily Tansy Libby Mindy
    In memory: Lucy Leo
    Cavalier SM Information site:www.smcavaliers.com

  2. #12
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    More on this research:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0521112711.htm

    Using 'Dominance' To Explain Dog Behavior Is Old Hat

    ScienceDaily (May 25, 2009) —
    A new study shows how the behaviour of dogs has been misunderstood for generations: in fact using misplaced ideas about dog behaviour and training is likely to cause rather than cure unwanted behaviour. The findings challenge many of the dominance related interpretations of behaviour and training techniques suggested by current TV dog trainers.

    Contrary to popular belief, aggressive dogs are NOT trying to assert their dominance over their canine or human “pack”, according to research published by academics at the University of Bristol’s Department of Clinical Veterinary Sciences in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research.

    The researchers spent six months studying dogs freely interacting at a Dogs Trust rehoming centre, and reanalysing data from studies of feral dogs, before concluding that individual relationships between dogs are learnt through experience rather than motivated by a desire to assert “dominance”.

    The study shows that dogs are not motivated by maintaining their place in the pecking order of their pack, as many well-known dog trainers preach.
    Far from being helpful, the academics say, training approaches aimed at “dominance reduction” vary from being worthless in treatment to being actually dangerous and likely to make behaviours worse.

    Instructing owners to eat before their dog or go through doors first will not influence the dog’s overall perception of the relationship – merely teach them what to expect in these specific situations. Much worse, techniques such as pinning the dog to the floor, grabbing jowls, or blasting hooters at dogs will make dogs anxious, often about their owner, and potentially lead to an escalation of aggression.

    Dr Rachel Casey, Senior Lecturer in Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Bristol University, said: “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 behaviours.

    “In our referral clinic we very often see dogs which have learnt to show aggression to avoid anticipated punishment. 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 its not their fault when they have been advised to do so, or watched unqualified ‘behaviourists’ recommending such techniques on TV.”

    At Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, rehoming centre staff see the results of misguided dog training all the time. Veterinary Director Chris Laurence MBE, added: “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. They can be very fearful, which can lead to aggression towards people.

    “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 and will just do nothing, or one so aggressive it’s dangerous to be around.”

    Journal reference:
    John W.S., Bradshaw , Emily J., Blackwell , Rachel A., Casey. Dominance in domestic dogs -- useful construct or bad habit? Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, May/June 2009, Pages 135-144 [link]
    Karlin
    Cavaliers: Jaspar Lily Tansy Libby Mindy
    In memory: Lucy Leo
    Cavalier SM Information site:www.smcavaliers.com

  3. #13
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    I like Patricia McConnell's training methods and her understanding of dog behavior. She uses the term 'leader of the pack', but not in the way which you're describing. I have several of her booklets, which I bought from a CPDT (APDT) trainer: http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/cat...lving-booklets
    Cathy Moon
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