Isn’t it amazing how quickly theories, beliefs and research can change the way we view things? Less than a year ago I wrote my first blog called “Who’s The Boss?” and it was about the theories surrounding dog training and behaviour based on observations of the way wolf packs interact. It all seemed plausible and there were some things that I personally have taken from those theories and tested them with my dogs, with differing degrees of success. In most conversations you have with friends, family and colleagues, the issue of ‘dominance’ usually arises, and most of us have at some point decided that we need to show our dogs that we’re the boss.
During my last holidays, I bought a book called In Defence of Dogs by John Bradshaw. It was published by Penguin in 2011. My husband read it first and said it was very interesting but didn’t want to discuss it until I’d read it too. I am now half way through the book and can’t wait to discuss it in depth, though I will wait until I’ve finished it to ensure I have the full picture.
To throw you a morsel, however, leaving you wanting more, the book scientifically overturns the most common myths about dogs’ emotions and behaviour. It shows how we should really treat our pets, and stands up for ‘dogdom’; not the wolf in canine clothes, not the small furry child, not the trophy-winner, but the real dog, the one who wants to be part of the family and enjoy life – mankind’s closest friend.
“The old ‘dominance’ model of dog behaviour is based on three concepts, each of which is now known to be false. First, it is derived from how wolves behave when they are living in unnaturally constituted groups in captivitiy, and not from the natural behaviour of wolves living in wild packs. Second, ferals or ‘village dogs’ when allowed to establish family groups, do not behave like wolves at all, neither captive nor wild. These feral dogs, which are much closer to the ancestors of our pet dogs than any wolf, are much more tolerant of one another than any other modern canid would be if it lived at such high density….. Third, although dominance based on competition and aggression does occur amoung wolves in captivity, dogs ket under similar conditions do not establish heirarchies.”
“Rejecting the idea of dominance as a natural driver of dog behaviour is not the same as saying that dogs are never competititve – of course they are, when they have to be. Put several un-neutered dogs of the same sex that do not know one another into a small space, and they are likely to set up a temporary ‘hierarchy’ based on threats, or even fighting, especially if they sense that there is a member of the opposite sex nearby. This outcome would occur with almost any species, having nothing to do with the dog being descended from the wolf. “
“There are fundamental disagreements among trainers about how dogs are motivated to learn. Old-school advocates, supported only by tradition, think dogs need to learn their place in the pack; modernists, supported by scientific evidences, think dogs learn to please their owners”.
If you believe what is being said here, it really does change the way you interact with and train your dog.
The book has many more interesting revelations (and I’m only half way through) which sit much more comfortably with me than some of the outdated theories and practices which have been used with a great deal of media hype over the past couple of decades. I am looking forward to my next holiday so I can finish the book and send you a few more pearls of wisdom!
Of course if you can’t wait that long, you can always purchase the book and beat me to it!!
I would love to hear your thoughts on the above and successes you’ve had with your interactions with your own dogs.
Here is a short video by the author.