From Science Daily

In brief:

The dog pack hierarchy model is flawed. The original studies were conducted while observing wolves back in the 40s. A recent study has been performed and has found that a “hierarchy” as has often been described is not actually formed, and such roles as “Alpha/Pack Leader” is not an absolute position dogs are always attempting to vie for.

Instead, dogs (gasp) behave like living beings and learn their role in their pack through experience more than insinct. It is not necessary to feed a dog only after you eat nor to walk through a door before your dog as has often been prescribed. Also, much like humans, dogs will respond to consistency and rewards for good behavior much better than punishments for bad.

My thoughts:

This, of course, really ought to make more sense. When a dog has a behavior problem it’s often only one issue; he’s not going to think he is in charge all of the time because of one little leak, nor does he jump into this behavior ‘insinctually’ — instincts led him to his initial descisions he made, and experience taught him that’s how things work.

The real issue, of course, is knowing how to communicate what you want with your dog, and knowing dog instincts can give you a head start. But if you don’t act like a feral dog pack, your dog is not going to expect you to do so. Proper communication is far better than attempting to ‘dominate’ the dog.

And what in the world, are there people that are saying that constant harsh punishments for dogs is a modern training method? “Dominance Reduction Technique”? Is it me or does that seem like a technique that obviously would stem out of vaugely established 1940s research?

Discussion (11) ¬

  1. Fuzzypaws

    Somehow this doesn’t surprise me. Of course, like all educational models and other assumptions and stereotypes generally, the alpha-etc system does apply to some dogs… like a dog one of my friends has, who is very alpha and does think herself superior to anyone she goes through a door before and so on. But this hasn’t generally seemed to be the case with most dogs I’ve known.

    • Rick Griffin

      I think it’s a case of personality. Yes, dogs have a personality and are not all the same! The dog who acts in charge would naturally tend to BE in charge in a wild pack setting. But it’s not much different from human behavior; in a neutral setting, the human who acts in charge will tend to be in charge by default.

  2. GenericGirlName

    I agree with your thoughts really. I don’t think ALL dogs want to be pack leaders. Not all people want to be pack leaders; I for sure don’t want to lead other people around. A dog still has a personality. Why do people always treat them (And all animals really) like they should be textbook examples instead of being with a personality.

    >__>; I dunno, I just thought that was fairly obvious before some professional popped up and said it was true. . . Common sense takes you a long way in life people. >__>

  3. CalaverX11

    Hierarchical structure is part of nature, and is ingrained in every living being’s instinct. What’s happened is that intelligent and semi-intelligent species have learned that, it’s not JUST “survival of the fittest,” but it’s also “who you know.” The wolf-pack mentality IS prevalent in every dog, but the way one acts when offered a position differs from animal to animal. The older studies were misguided in thinking that ALL animals always want to compete for “top dog,” but the underlying fact is that the hierarchical structure was, is, and always will be there. Animals CHOOSE their position in the hierarchy. The ones who feel they’re better at leading do so, and the ones who feel they’ll do better with someone else in charge stay put.

    When it comes to training dogs, the dog already knows the human is the dominant one; other research has shown that it’s a result of genetic engineering (over millennium of breeding) that dogs will always rely on humans for support. Researchers took wolf cubs and puppies, raised them from birth to adulthood by hand, and trained them to keep their natural instincts intact as best they could. What they found was that, while they possessed equal intelligence in basic problem-solving, when faced with a problem the COULDN’T solve, the wolves would get frustrated and give up, but the dogs would immediately turn to their masters for help.

  4. Valerio

    I never believed in ‘harsh methods’, and my dogs grew up quite friendly and trusty of people, and obedient enough (though I never trained them into ’sit’, ’stay’ and the such)
    I agree with your considerations, our relationship with pet dogs must be re-elaborated with a more modern views.

  5. Draco_2k

    40 years? Good grief, no wonder we’ve been in the dark.

    Although it’s a wonder we didn’t figure out that dogs are – omg – live, sentient beings with complex psychology earlier, given the amount of them we herd as pets nowadays.

    • Rick Griffin

      That’s about 60 years actually. I think it’s too easy for some people to marginalize pets as having ‘X-behavior pattern’ just because they don’t communicate or socialize on the same level we do.

  6. queso

    dogs should be like foxes.. solitary and FLUFFY

    • Astrofenn

      Actually that’s a false staement too, foxes are not neccisarily Solitary… We have a group of four foxes, two sets of mates, which I watched them for about 5-6 years now, they live together, hunt together and work together to bring down pheasant, or the odd hare that wanders into the territory.

  7. Lance

    Dogs are complex beings with unique personalities. Like people, this means that some are nice and some are assholes. You treat nice people differently than you treat assholes. That being said, constant heavy discipline isn’t going to produce positive results in the long run. Shortsighted.

    I find that when my dog misbehaves, or tries to get away with “I know what you’re telling me to do but I won’t do it”, putting him on his back is all that’s needed to get him to “see the light”. Nice and simple, no yelling needed, no rolled-up newspaper.

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