Fabulous Fur Friends

Must Love Animals

Man’s Closest Friend

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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.

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Author: Fabulous Fur Friends

My name is Kylie and I am passionate about animals and their welfare. My husband and I live in Bendigo, Australia and live with our three dogs - Rupie, Billie and Chelsea - all rescue dogs. I enjoy writing and aim to share health and welfare issues and updates as well as some short stories.

10 thoughts on “Man’s Closest Friend

  1. Before studying animal behaviourism, I had come across the dominance theory and, like you, found that it all seemed to make perfect sense. After studying properly, however, I am now not a believe in it at all and I think this post is wonderful.

  2. Hi Kylie, it’s a funny coincidence that you wrote this. On holidays in January I read a book called “Inside of a Dog” by Alexandra Horowitz. It sounds very similar. I really enjoyed it, made me smile and laugh (“ah that’s why they do that!”) and it did make me change how I love and treat my hounds. My favorite chapter is the final one called “The Importance of Mornings” which has great suggestions for making your dog happy every day- pure and simple. Things like “Go for a “sniffing” walk” (as dogs have 300 nasal receptors as opposed to our 6), “Allow for his dogness”- ie allow him to roll in that smelly thing if he wants to etc etc. And the chapter called “Sniff”. Really a delightful book that has totally put me off anything Cesar Milan related. I recommend it to all (perhaps we can swap?!). I now allow more time for our walks and let Marcus and Lucy sniff as much as they want, it’s their walk after all.

    • I’ve always had a concern about ceaser Milan but couldn’t articulate why, these new beliefs, based on scientifically proven methods, make so much more sense. I’m on hols now so should finish it soon & we can swap for sure. Big doggie hugs to Lucy & Marcus!

  3. I must read that book and try to get my husband to read it as well, when we first had ‘issues’ between our two dogs we sought advice from a well known trainer and from the Cesar Milan dog whisperer series, all based on the dominance theory. Since then I’ve read and learned much more about dog behaviour (still not enough though) and almost cringe at the dominance theory when people start talking about it, but I don’t know enough to debate the topic or to offer any alternatives.

  4. Hi Sam, it really is worth reading – I’ve nearly finished it – and 8’m the same as you – you notice everyone talking about dominance and try to be top dog/alpha dog – arrrghhh – but am not quite confident enough yet to explain why it’s a flawed theory. More reading needed I think and the more we can subtlety bring it into conversations, the faster the word will spread. See also Sue’s comments above about another book along the same lines.

  5. First let say I love you for adopting rescues and we’re on the same page, being that my hubby and I have been into dog rescue the last 28 years in one form or another (fostering, adopting, volunteering at shelters and with rescue groups out in the field, etc. and now donating all profits from my lastest work to the first and only no kill shelter where I live). What I feel is this and I’ve learned it from my dogs, my best teachers, that they along with every other living thing have a “personality” some construct that is their nature, not dissimilar to humans, and I can’t speak to nature/nuture or even God elements (stuff I’ve no experience with really). I’ve seen my dogs want to be part of our family, want to belong, want to be validated, petted, given attention, get what they want (food, walks, play), even the traumatized abused ones (and we’ve had challenges since our primary rescue breed has been rottweilers and some severely abused by gang bangers, etc.). Once abuse and unnatural things are stripped away with loving attention and care, I’ve found that animals respond to the human being the pack leader, while continuing to manifest their nature/personalities of play, competition, whatever label you want to call it. I flip back and forth with positive validation and food reward to train dogs. Depends on the situation (training can go down the drain when they see a squirrel, etc. but then again, if there’s something I want to get at badly enough, for myself, I may just not listen to anyone either). Dogs have evolved along with us. Who can really address what wolf nature exists in them or not? I do see some personalities are stronger than others but is this dominance? I do see some dogs that don’t like and intimidate others. Is this dominance? I see the same in humans and write it off to a bad chemistry, can’t all be liked by everyone else. I could go on and on but this is more than enough and unusual for me to write so much (apologies for the long winded reply). Again, it’s a passion and my greatest teachers (& friends) have been/are my dogs. Big cyber hugs to you, Paulette

    • Hello Paulette, thank you for your lovely long comment – I’m flattered that you found it interesting enough for you to spend some of your time. I have downloaded your book but have not yet read it – am looking forward to reading when I’m on a plane to Europe later in the year! I am actually doing a short story writing course (starting in a couple of weeks) as I would eventually love to write some stories that may be of interest – or if not, just so I can put something down that stretches my capabilities and imagination. If you have any pearls of wisdom about writing, I would love to hear them! I am in awe of what you and your hubby have done in the adoptions you have undertaken and the kindness you have shown dogs who have not had a great start to life, and then to donate your profits of your book to the no-kill shelter. There are not many people in the world like you, so well done, and if I can only do a faction of what you have achieved, I will be proud. Our three dogs bring us happiness and laughter every day and I will continue to help where I can (we had a huge Dog Lovers Show in our city of Melbourne, Australia this weekend and I spent the day there with our greyhound rescue group, spreading the word). Thanks again for your comments and I would greatly appreciate any suggestions you can give me regarding my writing! xx

      • Hello friend,

        I am so sorry I’m late in replying but never received this in my e-mail box and didn’t know you responded. I saw you popped over today and came back here to see how you were doing. Luckily I found this. Apologies as I would have answered it right away.

        About comparing what you’re doing to what we’re doing. We all do what we can and my humble feeling is that when it’s done with love, no matter the quantity of doing, it doesn’t get any better than that. I’m fortunate that my husband and I were both in professions (also without children other than furry ones) and can afford to have profits go to save dogs. Truth be told, money can’t buy the feeling of helping them. You’ve done a beautiful and great thing with yours and your lovely blog site so thank you!

        About writing. I recently did a local public TV show and answered that and wanted to share it with you if you’d like to watch it. Here’s the link. It’s only a 15 minute video, but whenever you want to write and your thoughts get in the way have a look and believe me when I say, this is my message to you, personally.

        When you write, drop by my blog site and let me know and I’ll come read it.

        To not keep you hanging on though the big secret and my answer is this: a writer writes. You just site yourself down in that chair and tell the critic in your head to be quiet or if it continues to babble about all the “you can’t do …” then just do it anyway. The only thing that defines a writer is sitting down in the chair and doing it. I’ve read your post here and answered it, my longest answer to date on any blog site. Why did I read it? And, answer? Because you’re great writing engaged me, resonated with me, pulled me in and held me to the point I wanted to communicate back to the writer, you, about what your piece made me think about. That’s great writing, when it does that!

        I’m a humble, working part-time, first time novel author (working on my second), and I put in a lot of time and work doing it. I had no idea one person would read and like it and all the attention is a huge surprise to me. Again and again, just sit down and write, whether 10 minutes or an hour or ? Don’t worry about what you have to say or any outcome. I writing is what you love, then like the Nike commercial says, Just do it!

        Great chatting with you and if you answer and don’t hear back from me, would you come hollering at my site because I don’t want to miss out on anything from you.

        Lastly, thanks for buying my book. You’ve made a tail wag. I hope you enjoy it.

        Paulette

  6. Thanks so much Paulette for your very kind words. I have a couple of short things in the pipeline so I’ll let you know when I’ve posted them. Will keep your video interview and watch it when I need encouragement!

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