Dog Forum banner
Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 20 of 25 Posts

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,222 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
David Mech, read up on him years ago - people seem to be running with what others "read into" what David actually says about the "Alpha" theory. This has to stop - research people. Ever since the demise of Cesar Millan, people seem to want to capitalize on everything.

People are looking at "dominance" and "alpha" as one in the same. It most definitely is NOT. David Mech didn't debunk the idea of "Alpha" when it comes to wolf packs in the wild - he's trying to change the ideal to moreso mother and father, breeding male and female, matriarch or patriarch, leaders of the pack if you will. He admits that he picked the wrong word for it. It's a word.

Even in the wild, there are dominant wolves. Has nothing to do with alpha.

He clearly states that it's fine to term the word "Alpha" in an artificial pack in captivity - they will dominate each other to form a "dominance hierarchy" or "pecking order". Remind you of dogs?

One video - less than 2.5 minutes out of your life - have a listen to the man himself - David Mech.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNtFgdwTsbU


Want an interesting read? Here you go, From David Mech, lots of citations as well.

http://4pawsu.com/267alphastatus_english.pdf
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,222 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
And if you don't want to read the entire 15 pages - here's a few clippings for you. Rather appears people are running on cherry picked data.

On captive packs - unacquainted wolves form a dominance hierarchy.





On dominance in the wild wolf packs...





On dominance and feeding - large or small prey.

 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,398 Posts
I don't necessarily need a "scientific" or "expert's" opinion to enlighten me to the obvious. Dogs are not that much different than humans when it comes to leadership. Both species either lead or are led to the greater degree when coexisting in a social group. Reliance on a worthy leader takes pressure off of the majority allowing the majority to operate more efficiently and essentially thrive. I appreciate this opinion is somewhat frowned upon but I have seen too many dogs be more than willing to fulfill a 'leadership" position when none exists in it's environment and you read about the problems it creates all the time in this forum.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,222 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
From the beloved Ian Dunbar:

To cavalierly and simplistically summarize considerably complicated canid social behavior as “a dominance hierarchy with an alpha dog dictator”, is an insult to both dogs and WOLVES, and, advertises a complete misunderstanding of their most sophisticated social structure. Whereas misunderstandings are understandable and excusable, we have to stop at people imposing the weirdness of their misunderstandings upon others. To extrapolate a misunderstanding of wolf and dog behavior to dog training by citing slippery, phantom concepts of “dominance” and “alpha” as excuses to physically bully dogs is both unfounded and quite distasteful.
Clearly cherry picked data.


All this data seems to stem back to David Mech - another referencing the wolf pack.

Read the first 3 paragraphs.
http://dogtalk.com/Alpha This Alpha That.pdf


Dingo's have been research to death. Clearly there is Alpha.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
662 Posts
There's a difference between dominance hierarchies existing in groups of free ranging dogs and strict dominance hierarchies being the be-all, end-all of a well behaved dog. That is what I was trying to communicate in the other thread.

Yes, a dog who grows up with a human who puts rules in the house from day one and teaches the dog what is expected of them is probably less likely to have behavioral problems. No, that alone isn't going to create the perfect dog.

Yes, a dog with behavioral problems that lives in a household without rules is probably going to benefit from having more well enforced rules.

No, that alone isn't going to fix the behavioral problems.

No, you do not need to use the harsh correction techniques many dominance theory trainers recommend to train a dog, and can raise a perfectly well adjusted, good dog without them. And yes, there are risks to using those methods.

In any pack, the animal considered at the top of the hierarchy is the animal with the most control of resources. Humans will always control the resources of their dogs. Dogs cannot be "dominant over people" because they will never control the resources. Good reinforcement based training actually capitalizes on natural hierarchy within the human/dog relationship, IMO, because it involves careful control of reinforcing resources- and can include control of things like functional reinforcers too if you're not letting the dog sniff/run/jump except when cued and the dog finds those things reinforcing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
256 Posts
Without wanting to go too much in the scientific direction, but just a general note that I find interesting reading in dog forums in general (and Moonstream actually supported my thinking with her post):

On the one side I read a lot about "no alpha, no dominance", but then on the other side: redirect the dog to what "you" want him/her to do, to accepted behaviors, to show the dog rules of how to behave. In my book that is leadership, and thus dominance, which, in itself is not a bad thing at all! The word dominance just has such a negative implication to it. But you can "gently" dominate your dog with reward based training. But it still IS dominance/leadership, because you are setting the rules of what will give the reward and when.

What I am trying to say is that the word dominance or leadership should not be viewed at as negative as it is, just because "dominance" based trainers made it their mission to "enforce" their dominance in the wrong ways. It might be semantics, but I think it is important to distinguish between the concept of dominance and leadership and the positive and negative enforcements of these concepts.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,869 Posts
Although power dynamics unquestionably exist in any group of social animals, I think a few underlying assumptions really skew how many people apply them to dog and even human behavior:

1) My dog won't sit when I tell him to, jumps on the couch or pees on my shoes because of some hidden agenda to usurp my power-- Status has very little to do with a dog's ability to learn basic obedience. That's on the owner.

2) My dog is dominant by nature-- Not really. Dogs are pushy and ill-behaved when boundaries are not clearly laid out and enforced. Dogs are no less capable of being dominant 24/7 than are humans. That would consume a lot of energy and make you a lot of enemies. An animal's status varies from situation to situation, and depends on how badly they want it. A lazy mastiff has no reason to exercise his power to get dominance over, say, a watering can. The watering can is of no significance to him and therefore he doesn't need to put any effort into taking control of it. A hot dog, on the other hand, might be a different story.

Mech also suggests that at some point in their life (ie, when they split off from the pack and find a mate), all dogs assume the alpha role over their pack/babies.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
662 Posts
In my mind, there's a difference between behavioral problems being linked to bad leadership by the owner and the problem being caused by the dog trying to take on the leadership role. I do not think that behavioral problems ever arise because the dog is trying to take on the leadership role. Or close enough to never that I feel comfortable saying that as a generalization, even if 1 dog in 2,000 that is true of.

In my mind, training and leadership are pretty heavily intertwined. Most dogs can be trained manners by rewarding good behavior with attention/praise and play and maybe the occasional food reward and withholding or removing attention/play/engagement when they are practicing behavior you do not want to see increase or continue. I can't think of anything I believe must be taught through the use of physical correction. Some form of non-physical correction, sure. You do need to let the dog know when it isn't doing what you want, but you can do that with verbal interrupters, a non-reward marker, and/or verbal corrections. I also think a very exceptional trainer could train a dog by just redirecting the dog before it gets the chance to do the behavior they would then have to correct, but I don't think it's plausible to expect every pet dog trainer ever to be able to do this. I think mostly professional or high level hobby trainers are the ones who are going to be able to actually create a high aceiving dog through this kind of training, and I think that to do so you have to aquire all the knowledge and experience you need prior to getting the dog or very soon after, have a well lain out training plan, and have that be your utmost goal and not speedy training/proofing. There's a reason I always suggest people work with a profession when I give advice on this forum. Very few people are naturally gifted trainers- it is a skill set that needs to be honed, and those that are good at training dogs through operant conditioning without prior practice generally have life experience that practices the same skills- maybe teaching, maybe they just spent a lot of time with small children, maybe they grew up around horses and spent a lot of time learning to interact with horses. Whatever.

Pretty much, good leadership is always doing a good job of telling the dog what is and isn't allowed, helping the dog make good choices so that it is practicing the things that aren't allowed as infrequently as possible, and working hard to make sure the dog understands fully what you do want before you introduce any kind of pressure (corrections) to training, as well as having as much skill applying pressure/corrections as you do applying reward. If you're proofing a behavior by putting the dog in a situation where it has the option to make a bad choice, there should have been groundwork lain prior to that so you're fairly sure the dog will make the right choice.

Again: dominance hierarchies DO exist. They DON'T have a whole lot of inter-species application to the human/dog relationship, IMO. Leadership IS important to having a well behaved dog, but to think you need to be physically correcting a dog to be a leader is a fallacy. To think you should be giving physical corrections "like another dog" is just plain ridiculous to me. Leadership is something that will be developed through normal training. Most people should be taking an introductory puppy/obedience class with their new dog to get the ball rolling in the right direction in terms of being the leader. Dogs aren't misbehaving because they want to be the leader in the relationship.

Once more: dogs aren't misbehaving because they want to be the leader in the relationship. Overwhelmingly, this is what people mean when they say "dominance in dogs has been debunked". NOT that dominance hierarchies/relationships don't play a role in dogs social lives.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,869 Posts
But they don't.... This is Mech, look at the father wolf acting "submissive" with his young pups (9.00mark).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKMfaIUoRFA
This is where I think that the terms "dominant/submissive" versus "alpha/omega" diverge. Your example is one that I like to point out a lot. All functional relationships are a give-take, whether between animals or humans.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
661 Posts
This is where I think that the terms "dominant/submissive" versus "alpha/omega" diverge. Your example is one that I like to point out a lot. All functional relationships are a give-take, whether between animals or humans.

IMO, it is neither dominant/submission or alpha/omega, it is up and down, or mirroring.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,398 Posts
It is a great debate but I guess for me, the dogs that live in the "middle" can be most easily directed because they are "searching". The submissive dogs have accepted their position and most humans do not press this type of dog. It is the dominant dog ( amongst its peers ) which captivates me. This type of dog has a willfulness which lends to its abilities due to its nature. All dogs regardless of their standing and outward display of their perceived status is not a hurdle in the big picture. The difference is made by the human in the understanding of how to get the most out of the particular dog. One size does not fit all, even though many might suggest it does.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,869 Posts
IMO, it is neither dominant/submission or alpha/omega, it is up and down, or mirroring.
I also think that self-handicapping comes into it, especially where dogs are trying to create a positive relationship with another dog.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,398 Posts
I also think that self-handicapping comes into it, especially where dogs are trying to create a positive relationship with another dog.
What is a "positive relationship with another dog" ? Most all of my dogs have either attempted to or dominated other dogs because it is the nature of the dogs I have had. I'm the one ultimately responsible for keeping the "relationship" with another dog "positive" because I make the rules. I certainly cannot leave that up to the dogs. Does that mean I dominate my dominant dog?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
661 Posts
When two dogs play together without vibrating they are playing well because they are both emotionally grounded and feeling sensual, and you see a ping pong of up and down and pleasuring. Vibration between dogs is not good. Do you want to hear a vibration in your car? Probably not because it means something is wrong. What is the difference between driving an old clunker versus a Mercedes Benz? The clunker is a vibrating tin can and the Merc is as smooth as butter.

You don't need to dominate your dog, you need to help them vibrate less when encountering other dogs. You do this by helping them overcome resistance.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,222 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Minpin can be a jerk and try to dominate when meeting some dogs in the park for the first time, doesn't happen often but it's there. He tried it with a 2 month old female Lab puppy, haven't laughed that hard in a long time - she wasn't having it. He tried it with a very calm pitbull female one day, that almost didn't end well - but it was his fault - she had him in the dirt before i knew what was going on, but she didn't even open her mouth. Tuned him in pretty quick.

Moonstream, dogs will never control the human? the resources? the environment?
If a person has an aggressive dog - and are afraid to take them out - which one is in control? Same aggressive dog - when he gets aggressive - people on here have been told to treat train, dog gets a treat when showing aggression - is he not controlling the resources? There are people out there that are scared of their dog... Who's the dominant - or in control?
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,398 Posts
when he gets aggressive - people on here have been told to treat train, dog gets a treat when showing aggression - is he not controlling the resources?
You make a valid point and your example of an aggressive dog is just one of numerous examples I have seen where a dog controls a reward ( resource ).

Command is issued, dog blows off command, handler tries again and incorporates a food treat, dog obliges. Score: Dog 1 Human 0
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,222 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
The average person dominates a puppy from the get go, but they may not realize it. Example.

Person adopts an 8 week old puppy - great, wonderful. Many have come on these forums - just got a new puppy, what do I need? Crate, food, leash, collar, lots of treats, lots of toys - but these are typically "human" needs. What does the puppy need? The puppy has been taken from the mother and siblings, very social environment is all the puppy knows. This is generally make or break for the puppy - the puppy needs food, the puppy needs water, the puppy needs that social environment - be it with dogs or humans - but both is better. Ian Dunbar, not a big fan - but seems to be one of the big names in the positive training world and stresses heavy socialization from the get go - at minimum, handled by lots of people in different environments.

Generally, the puppy ends up in a crate, many are showered with treats and all they really know is the frustrated owner for the first bit of their life. Owner is frustrated cause the puppy is peeing or pooping on the floor or howling in the crate all night. So the dog went from a very social environment to anti-social.


So if you have a puppy that you've kept to yourself for say, a month or two or more - now the dog is getting used to it's environment all over again. It knows crate, it knows food, it knows treats - it doesn't know social. Now take that dog out into the real world - and it's scared/unsure of everything around it - I wonder why. Now the human has to start adjusting the "bad" behaviors that he/she inadvertently created. People really need to look at what the dog needs.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
161 Posts
Dominance exists, of course. Study ethology for any length of time and it's true. But it's not really useful for training your dog.

And jagger-- once again, you are playing with huge misconceptions and building strawmen about positive training. I am a positive trainer. If you have questions about how it works, you are more than welcome to message me and I can explain as much as you have questions for.

I have my dog, used to extremely reactive. I used positive training with her. She's so much better now. I take her off leash to picnics. Stop pretending it's positive training's fault that some dogs have issues.

I teach my clients how to socialize their dogs. You need them to not be HOLY MOLY THE WORLD IS EXCITING!!! about everything. Making them believe everything in the world is their best friend and every time they see a dog, it's time to play makes everything harder later. We strive to teach emotional self control. We teach a settle and how to build calmness. We don't expect it 100% until the puppies are mature because puppies are babies and they won't be able to give you that, but we build the foundations.

I run a puppy play group and I explain why you don't let dogs "work it out" on their own. We had a Westie who used to be a missile with the intensity of her play. We separated her anytime she was getting too over-aroused and released her to play when she calmed back down. Result? She learned to match her energy to her playing partner and became one of the best players. Shy puppies got their confidence knowing they were safe in this environment. Bold puppies learned to not bully other pups.

Most trainers agree it's not quantity but quality of the socialization. But if you can get a lot of quality socialization, that's all the better.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
661 Posts
Same aggressive dog - when he gets aggressive - people on here have been told to treat train, dog gets a treat when showing aggression - is he not controlling the resources?
I don't believe the dog sees this as controlling resources, that needs a dog to be able to understand separate self, dogs do not have the capacity for that, they do not see themselves as distinct entities from the environment and other creatures (humans included).
 
1 - 20 of 25 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top