Want to see someone’s head explode? Use the terms “pack leader” or “dominant” at a clicker training convention.
But is every person who worries about his dog dominating him really a bully?
Teaching a Golden Retriever to be Submissive
Honey’s breeder taught us a lot.
We had long discussions about genetics and breeding for health and temperament. We learned about grooming. And we how important it was to raise Honey so she didn’t dominate us.
We had to teach Honey how to be a submissive pack member. The breeder showed us how.
Mr. Breeder gently picked up one of Honey’s litter mates. He tickled and snuggled the puppy for a few moments. Then he gently rocked the pup back in the crook of his arm. The instant the puppy stopped wiggling, Mr. Breeder rubbed his tummy and loved him up before returning him to his sisters.
Yeah, that puppy looked really traumatized by his treatment.
Actions Are More Important Than Words
I’ll admit it. The first time I heard Mr. and Mrs. Breeder talk about pack leadership and dominance, my teeth set on edge. I started spoiling for a fight.
But then I settled down and watched.
These people knew their dogs. They saw their soft temperament and knew that any rough treatment would damage these sweet spirits. And they knew that the best way to raise a happy dog was to provide a safe environment for her to explore new things as a puppy.
After a while, I figured that as long as the breeders were gentle trainers who cared appropriately for their dogs, I didn’t have much of an argument with their referencing outdated science and bad terminology.
The truth is, we rely on bad science every day. How recently have you heard the following:
- Don’t go outside without a coat. You’ll catch a cold.
- Men think about sex every seven seconds.
- You lose most of your body heat through your head.
It’s all bogus. But I can’t persuade my friend that her foster kids won’t die of pneumonia because they take off their jackets to play in the winter.
Have Your Response Match the Action
I know there are jerks who strangle their dogs and flip them over hard on their backs in an attempt to make them submissive. If I didn’t know it would end worse for the dog, I’d wish those owners would get bitten. Luckily, I don’t meet many of them.
But I see lots of loving dog people who spout crazy talk about eating before their dogs, walking through door ways first, and making their dog move off the couch in the name of being a strong pack leader.
And I don’t care. The dog certainly doesn’t care. He may think his person is being weird. But it probably won’t affect his behavior.
Alright, I do care. But I’m not going to fight about it. That just makes people defensive and stubborn.
I might, however, toss off a little remark about how the scientist who originally brought the pack leadership theory of wolves to our attention has updated his research. He believes wolf packs are more like families. And maybe that’s true for dogs too.
If my guess is right, that’s information a lot of “dominant” dog owners who love their dogs very much would be happy to know. Because I bet not every person who thinks they have to be a dominant pack leader wants to bully his dog.
Your Turn: Do believe it’s important to correct every dog training mistake? Or are you willing to judge actions before words?