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Thread: Article: Why Won't Dominance Die?

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    Default Article: Why Won't Dominance Die?

    My FB is showing all sorts of interesting articles today. This one is too long to cut and paste: Why Won't Dominance Die? | Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors

    Most of you will already know most of what is said, but there are some interesting points in there. Like the mention of the original domesticated dog being a scavenger of human waste and that that only changed when humans started breeding them for specific purposes, which resulted in behaviours which might make them more difficult to train as companion animals.

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    I don't think most people think of dominance and submission as a fight to the top. That's not necessarily the way it is. Dominance means role power, and submission means subordination. The relationship you have with your dog should in a lot of ways be similar to employer/employee - there's a mutual respect, but it's understood that you provide the food and shelter so your word is law and the dog must follow instructions. A dog with no respect for authority roles is difficult to manage, cannot adapt to a human-centric environment as easily, and cannot be trusted.

    In these articles they misunderstand dominance and submission to mean a state of conflict and fighting, when I think it's a more natural fulfillment of personality roles. The teacher is dominant, imparting information, while the student is submissive, listening and learning. In my job I see a lot of dogs interact, and the dominance/submission model is the closest thing I've found to reality.

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    But then we're getting into semantics. Your definition of the word may just not match theirs. That doesn't mean you necessarily disagree with the premises of the article? The article talks about the 'dominance model of animal behaviour'. It doesn't deny that there is a pecking order in a group of animals or humans/animals. What it does go against is the notion that most dog behaviours centre around their desire to upset that pecking order and rise up in the ranks. Which is very different to regarding them as mere opportunists who are always looking at the best way to fulfill their individual needs. And I believe that the mere notion of being top dog is not an important driver. Access to resources is though, hence the more modern idea that that provides a much better motivator in training than aggressive behaviour like rolling over. Following your analogy, how often do students or employees try to take over the role of authority from their teacher or employer? They might play up to have some fun and test the boundaries, but most of the time they accept their role.

    The idea of the "alpha male" always having to look over his shoulder to watch out for challenges on his position from other wolves is just a myth. The feel pretty secure in their hierarchy and challenges are rare or even non-existent in a family group. Which is what most of us try to imitate in our own little packs at home. The only times a pecking order challenge should be expected is when your dog meets another dog it has not met before. But once they've measured up, it is unlikely they will repeat this process again and everyone will just accept their place.

  4. #4

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    Sorry to add my bit - but I'm isolated here and I love discussing these things, with people who are even interested. I THINK the discussion of dominance and packs is mired in those who see it as Old School, Darwinism, as seen in Marvel Comics... All our relationships are influenced by power or prestige. We may not see ourselves in that way, but we all know friends, where one is much more outgoing, whose social life dominates what the 2 do. It doesn't diminish that friendship, but one is usually okay with being a follower. Similarly, we can't have a relationship of equals, in a successful dog/human relationship. As equals, if we call, our dogs would come when they finished what they were doing, if at all. The devotion we adore is not equal. We have a whole different relationship with family and workmates. Our investment, to put it crassly, is more divided, therefore we are more important to them.

    Family politics has to be fluid, to allow for new arrivals. Usually we hear about major dominance battles erupt with a young mature male entering an established family group - but if the new dog is laid back, there may be no squabble. Similarly, it's the strong minded females that really get stuck in. It's simple personalities. The 'family' is full of personalities. That is what dominates. How else to describe all the jrts that boss about mastiffs, rotties, labs, etc. It is a dominance of personality - but not of Old School stalking watchfulness to claim more sex, especially when these days, most are desexed.

    Put a school hall of adult women together, and you'll see hackles and stiff legged stalking, before long. Personality. You'll see women wanting to organise and others, sneaking off to pull off their shoes and drink the free booze...

    Similarly, I don't think any bitch or dog wants to be top. The happiest dogs are those with an owner who is in charge, perhaps more. I don't know that they even want to be top dog or bitch. It takes some fun away. They don't want to be TOP, they just want to outrank their most irritating same sex family member. That's what it is. Just want to make sure the Beach doesn't get anything, before you

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    Quote Originally Posted by Beloz View Post
    But then we're getting into semantics. Your definition of the word may just not match theirs.
    It clearly doesn't match the definition of the article, but I think in writing it they are sort of missing the point. There can't be a pecking order without dominance and submission. Most dogs are happy to be led unless they feel like there is no strong leader - similarly an alpha male who is aggressive or unpleasant will need to watch his back because he will inevitably be replaced by a dog that is more suited to the job. Like humans, most dogs won't try to fill the role of leader unless they feel like there is nobody better for the job. After all, the pack's survival depends on how competent its leader is. We can see parallels of this behaviour in our own social circles.

    Quote Originally Posted by Menageriemanor View Post
    All our relationships are influenced by power or prestige. We may not see ourselves in that way, but we all know friends, where one is much more outgoing, whose social life dominates what the 2 do. It doesn't diminish that friendship, but one is usually okay with being a follower. Similarly, we can't have a relationship of equals, in a successful dog/human relationship. As equals, if we call, our dogs would come when they finished what they were doing, if at all. The devotion we adore is not equal. We have a whole different relationship with family and workmates. Our investment, to put it crassly, is more divided, therefore we are more important to them.
    Exactly. Dogs must be subordinate to humans because we outrank them in terms of intelligence and awareness of our world. The balance of power would probably be a little different if a dog that was an experienced survivor was travelling the wilderness with a city-dwelling human.

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    Back to comparing dogs to wolves...when they are so very different..........Wolf Families are just that. A pair and their offspring, with sometimes an extended Family. like Beloz said they hardly have any fights within the Family, sometimes fights from outside the family and the Family will fight those off. And when the roll over happens, it is often to kill that outsider and not to make him submit. hence it is terrifying to be rolled over, it might mean death.

    I quite like the link..a good read. All of this will go on and on....there are still so many who truly believe this

    My own personal take on this is from a lot of my own experience and study

    The dogs that fight are not always the dogs that are the top dogs in a family group.....it is what i call the wannabee.....i have that problem here at home. My smallest dog gets into little fights with the others. She is not a dominant dog. She just gets it wrong with the bigger dogs. She wants their bone, their bed at that moment....not to be dominant, but because she wants it at that moment. When there is a scary moment with a stranger dog, she is instantly behind them and waiting for what they do. if she was a true Leader, she would lead. it is the quiet dog who leads...he will show his leadership in those moments. He is never in a scuffles..he just gives a look. And they all adore him and never hassle him. The other three get into little scuffles here and there, not too often, mostly about bones.

    I think it is always quite funny how people say jumping is dominant behaviour..our most quiet timid dogs when he came, was the one who wanted to jump up...i think he was actually trying to get us to accept him by doing it. We taught him to jump up and taught him to sit on command.......It was so easy.........And now he only jumps up when he is asked. And we do it when he is having one of his timid moments and make a game out of it. We ask, he jumps and he thinks we approve and he is happier....it is a bit of an extreme paw-lifting with him....if we had kneed him or stood on his hind feet to stop him, we would have destroyed an already timid dog. I find it is often the nervy wanting to please dogs that do the jumping up.....And so easy to just help them stop it, instead of make them stop it....

    I often think that the reason dogs jump is because we taught them.....And suddenly we do not like it, so now we want it to stop.

    I can almost second guess the owner/dog relationship, when i get a phone call form someone who tells me their dog is dominant. And most do not understand unless you go through lengthy explanations why you have to go to basic obedience to hep the dog......They all think there is a sudden way to make this so-called dominant dog less dominant.......And find it hard to cope that it can have such a basic start as basic obedience, with everyone (in the family) following the same system.......

    Anyway I think there will be those who believe in dominance for a very long time
    Pets are forever

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    Put a school hall of adult women together, and you'll see hackles and stiff legged stalking, before long. Personality. You'll see women wanting to organise and others, sneaking off to pull off their shoes and drink the free booze...
    And the women organising my school reunions wonder why I don't want to go. Mind you most of them are in for "the drink free booze", and some are in the light up a ciggy too. Which turns me off. Last one I went to, I got bored. I had a hard time dealing with the smoke, I didn't feel like getting smashed - because I wanted to drive home, and I couldn't hear what anyone had to say.

    We've got the 30 year re-union this year but I'm peeved because our x10 year reunions used to be in line with the x10 year eg 2010 and the new system excludes girls who left school at 15 or so (about a third of our lot).

    Anyway - with dogs - I think there are often certain dogs that all the other dogs defer to, but that main dog doesn't have to do any of the behaviours attributed to "dominance" to get that. With my dog, she defers to every single other dog on first meeting, but she will - after having made the initial meeting/greeting, happily bully for or steal all available resources. Eg all the chicken or treats from the treat lady. She doesn't growl or try to beat everyone up, but she's right there, sometimes barking her head off, and pushing in. Other dogs actually wait their turn. I have to go get my dog put her on lead and supervise. And with a lot of treat handouts I actually ask they give the treats to me - or demand my dog work for them (eg hold a nice drop, no barking and no jumping up).

    My dog will take the best spot on the couch, the best food, and demand attention loudly - if she gets away with it. And lots of people get sucked in by her. But I don't think that's being dominant. She will take over if nobody else steps up. Won't be in anyones best interests though. I think of it more as being "opportunist". She will take the opportunity to grab all prime resources, from food, bed places, and tummy rubs.

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    Great thread, very interesting comments and thoughts, thank you
    The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
    Mohandas Gandhi

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    Newfsie, is what you are saying that lots of behaviours that are describes as dominance issues are actually the dog having no clue what's expected of them? I am no trainer and have little experience but that's what I often think when people talk about issues with their dog. They seem to assume that their dog knows what is expected of them and why and is just deliberately disobeying them. I actually think the same when people talk about their young kids being disobedient too! I once started getting angry with my 4yo because she had cut herself a fringe when I sent her outside with the scissors to cut me some rosemary. Until I stopped myself and asked her "Did you know you are not allowed to just cut your own hair, but need to get mum or a hairdresser to do it instead" and I believed her when she said "No". We so easily assume that our rules are clear to everyone...

    I think what is ultimately wrong with the whole wolf pack theory is that a dog living in a family in suburbia lives a very different live and needs to learn heaps of rules that don't have any link to their instincts. You can try use their genetic predispositions to teach them those rules - training in drive is an obvious example - but ultimately it is more about reprogramming the dog to teach them how to get access to the resources that are important to them, including the approval of us super-beings. Which is of course what NILF is about. Even if you don't continue with NILF for their whole lives, it's a quick way to "re-educate" a dog and teach them the rules and boundaries of their environment. That is really a far cry from behaving like an alpha male wolf to make your dog want to submit to you.

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    Your right Beloz...Some poor dogs have no idea. And the owners are so confusing. One day they grab something of the table and the owner laughs, quick learning dogs thinks "cool they like that". next time the owner rants and raves. WTF....

    Jumping is the most perfect example.........Little puppy jumps up, people laugh, pet, cuddle feed. "yeah says puppy, they like this".........Dog gets bigger.....Suddenly it is "my dog wants to be dominant".......Hello, who are the idiots.

    even the dog jumping on other dogs....how often is that laughed at, most of the time. If not by the owner, some bystander will laugh or at least react. Again dogs things "attention, I get attention this way".

    If all of these things were nipped in the bud early and either ignored or redirected all these so called dominant behaviours would not even happen. Or if they did, it would be short lived.

    I find Youtube the most frustrating and funniest home videos a close second....all these potentially bad habits are laughed at. I would love to meet all these people again in a few weeks/month/years and see what they have at home. A dog/cat that annoys them, they no longer laugh. But now it is the pets fault.

    Dogs love rules and they love it when you give them those easy to follow rules...Rules that do not change with your mood. Dogs do limitations really well, it makes them feel secure. I notice when we get fosters/rescues in. We give them care and attention and we set the rules from day one. It amazes me how quick they are in the uptake and how easy they follow.

    Rules are simple.
    Pets are forever

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