Teaching Alpha Dogs New Tricks–part 1

I’m amazed to find how pervasive talk of being the alpha in your family and teaching your dog who’s the boss has become. My husband says that’s because I’m a freak and I just don’t understand how weird I am compared to the rest of the culture. Fair enough!

But my reading tells me that science has moved beyond understanding dog misbehavior in terms of it asserting dominance. And yet this seems to be the prevailing idea among many dog people.

I don’t like to pick fights. And I like to find common points of understanding with people I don’t agree with. And I want to see positive things everywhere. So here’s my list of “good things” about using dominance theory when training your dog.

  • Walking through a doorway first or eating before you feed your dog won’t hurt him a bit. But it does make you more conscious of where he is at any given moment. And that’s never a bad thing.
  • The most famous celebrity dominance trainer, Cesar Millan, emphasizes long daily walks. He’s right. Nearly every dog is not getting as much exercise as she needs (and neither is her person).
  • It’s always a good thing to train your dog.
  • At least dominance trainers are trying to see the world through a dog’s eyes (although it’s based on debunked assumptions). To old school trainers, there was no point in understanding a dog’s viewpoint. You just made them obey.
  • People are looking at dominance theory because they want to understand their dogs more and have a better relationship with them. Maybe openness to learning new things will lead them to more positive and effective training methods.

I’ll post again soon on some of the wonderful resources for people who want to move beyond being the “alpha of their pack .”

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  1. Great list!!

  2. Thanks! I thought of one more today–anyone who’s trying to work with a trainer is at least showing hope of improvement. Some folks just give up!

    BTW, I loved the swimming entry over on your blog. I’ll comment there soon–i want to check it out with Honey so she can be inspired by Luna’s new skill.