Dominance Theory
There are sometimes comments that cause me to think that particularly with new dog owners there has been much internet surfing and adoption of ideas that play into the debunked dominance theory. Two such comment recently have been, "shoulder dominating and resetting his place over lower ranking pups" and another, "scruffed him". This comment seems to me to be based in the influence of "dominance theory" proponents. While researching on the internet is a useful tool, one must never lose sight of the fact that in the absence of an opposing view any theory can be made to seem feasible and believable.

I truely do understand how easily this can happen. I have had a dog that caused me to rethink and question my belief that "dominance theory" was a load of rubbish and in no way comes into play in the human canine relationship.
I was presented with every behaviour that may be used by DT proponents to support their ideology. I had a dog who's temperament and traits caused me to feel out of my depth. He was the third dog I had owned of this breed and I would have considered myself experienced in the breed but this dog was like no other, so very, very complicated.

I called on the advice of three different trainers, two of whom were DT proponents, one of which was the dogs breeder and a successful competitor in the sport of IPO. As a non-professional trainer and feeling somewhat desperate I was sucked into abandoning my commitment to the belief that DT was BS. I was in trouble, out of my depth and on the edge of a very dangerous situation. I foolishly stepped into the swamp that is the Dominance Theory and within weeks experienced the catastrophic results of this HUGE error in judgement and found myself in a situation whereby I had a beast of a dog flying 3 metres through the air, with pearly whites gnashing and aiming directly at my face. To complete this image in your minds I will attach a photo of my beautiful dog who's issues should have been addressed by moving as far away from DT as possible.

Trainer number three was gracious but nevertheless said, "I told you so". Never have I regretted anything as much as my foray into the DT world, albeit brief. It created even more problems to be resolved.

I would encourage people to instead of researching, "how to train" which will inevitably bring you in touch with dominance theory proponents, to instead research such as, "what is dog temperemt" or "what are the components of a dogs temperemt". There is so much information to consider and help you understand what is truely behind dog behaviours and interactions with both humans and fellow canines.

There are many facets involved in temperament, it's like a deck of cards and depending on how those cards fall will effect what you are working with in each individual dog. There will no doubt be DT proponents who will claim success but is it really success or have they simply shut the dog down or suppressed behaviours that could be like a ticking time bomb if a dog is pushed to threshold, or was the dog of such a temperament that it was likely to be compliant anyway.
Some combinations of temperament traits work well together but certain combinations can be an absolute disaster as was the case with my boy. He had the desirable traits of his breed i.e. Extreme high drive, determination and focus but put these with a lack of clear headedness and confidence and you have a dog who when push comes to shove will be fearful and use the instinct of fight or flight. He was not one to flee so he would fight. Addressing the individual aspects of his temperament was the answer to resolving problems not the use of dominance.

A puppy being bold or confident does not equal dominance or rank. Yes, there is room in the dog world for the acknowledgement and correct understanding of the words dominance, submissive, territorial, leadership, alpha etc but these words and their meanings have been misinterpreted and misused, hijacked if you like by the Dominance theory proponents. It happens the other way around as well. Many is the time I have used some of these words and some R+ only proponents will immediately respond. Agh, "that = dominance theory". SFun_duh2 No it doesn't !!!!
On another thread Ember shared the information she had obtained in respect to the role of the Alpha male and alpha female and I support the information she related to us.
I am not for a moments suggesting that certain dogs don't need a firm hand but this firm hand is one that is supported by the confidence and trust you create in your relationship with the dog not by a perception of who is the Alpha. This confidence and trust is can be enormously enhanced by the effort you put into understanding your individual dog.

That's my little rant over but my point to new dog owners is, "don't fall into the trap of automatically believing everything you read or that which is presented by charismatic and proficient speakers. Quirky recently commented, "Cesar Milan has taken dog training back 40 years", I believe she is right. Dominance was once the theory in use by trainers and it is proving hard to quash. As with all things we have learned and moved forward.

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Well said! /clap A good leader is kind and gentle yet firm and decisive otherwise they're a pushover or a dictator.
Beautifully put Trifan.
Like I said if you truly have a despot dominant dog and you decide to make a claim for the throne. Good Luck with that.
I have been fortunate enough for several years been able to witness dogs in a pack. Daycare and boarding anywhere from 20 to 80 dogs, there was no pack leader. In certain situations different dogs would claim something. Like the swimming pool, but in another situation or different day another dog would stand out. This is similar to what I have seen in my own multi dog household over the years. It is very fluid.
As a dog owner we should strive to have our dogs having confidence and trust in us. Sorry Dominance Theory will destroy this.
I will share something with you which happen about 5 years ago. I was training with a group of friends, one of which is shall we say old school.
I was working on "fronts" calling my dog to sit close and straight directly in front of me. He would either sit away or turn his head away from me.
Now old DT told me my dog was giving me the bird. Oh how I laughed. NOTHING could be further from the truth. Draco was very aware of my frontal pressure, very respectful, his turning away was appeasement. Can you imagine the damage to our relationship if I was a DT owner.
I beg people who use DT to try another way. I am not soft, or a hippy tree hugging, or wimpy dog owner. I have respect for my dog, because without it how can expect respect back.
There is a saying. "Violence begins where knowledge
I have seen in the horse world and dog world owners who saw everything as dominance, they trained with DT in mind, the ones that were"successful" and were respected in the field owned animals that had truly been broken, I have seen such emptiness in these animals eyes, it still haunts me.
Dominance theory is based on the very false notion that dogs see us a another pack member. This is completely false!! Dogs are fully aware that we are not strangely shaped dogs. They get that we don't use the same body language or other communication techniques. They are perfectly capable of realizing that we set rules and enforce boundaries without being dominated. Even amongst a pack of dog, without any human interaction at all, dominance is a very fluid thing, not at all what the old style trainers tried to convince us of. Imitating pack dominance in the way that dogs *may* understand would still not help with the type of training humans are trying for. And dog packs don't have the same dominance hierarchy that wolf packs do, which is the specie dominance theory is based on.
Gotta love 'em.
Very well said, and in a place where people can find this information. It is very true.

And sadly, I have a story from just this week.

As I've said elsewhere, Daniel had the flu over the weekend, and he was also house sitting for an absolutely lovely Australian Shepherd. Layla is my Uncle's beautiful, spunky, spirited one year old girl. Daniel, only wanting to sleep in his bed, asked if Layla could come and stay with us (yay, three dogs).

The next morning, everyone was getting along fine. I decided to hand out treats after breakfast (big no no with an unknown dog). Layla, in her enthusiasm, gobbled hers down.

Ember is on Fluoxetine now, and coming into some of the side effects. This means she is slower to eat because her stomach is probably rolling. Apparently, Layla interpreted this as "not interested", and took Ember's treat literally right out from under Ember's nose while she licked at it. This made Ember growl in protest, but Layla got her wish anyway.

Unfortunately, I am a bit of a hot head, and I learned about "scruffing" way before I learned of gentler methods. Now, my scruffing isn't rough, and if Layla had a collar on, it would have been a collar grab instead. But basically I wanted to remove her from the scene so Ember could have a second go, and the only way I saw to do so at that moment was to lead her out by scruff (because hey, this room was WAY more fun than following me anywhere).

And because she knew she was missing out, Layla literally screamed the whole way to the bedroom. I wasn't unnecessarily rough, but very direct and purposeful.

When I came back, I offered Ember a treat, and she nearly jumped out of her skin.

It has been three days now and my dog still will not take food out of my hand. I have to literally start over from the day I got her, over a year ago. Thankfully, Ember is also very specific, and has no other issues with me. She'll eat meals I give her and wants to cuddle so bad, but she will not train and will not eat from my hand, and also has trouble coming when I call.

30 seconds of asserting myself has undone almost everything I've worked for.

And the sad thing is I never needed to. All I had to do was lead Layla out with another treat. Ember had already reprimanded her. I could have saved everyone so much drama and heartache if I had been able to keep my head and think things through. Unfortunately I have trouble with spur of the moment, but I have journaled everything to remind myself to make time to have a plan for "next time".
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Gotcha Day: November 14, 2015
Vet-Listed Birthday: May 2, 2014
Quirky recently commented, "Cesar Milan has taken dog training back 40 years", I believe she is right. Dominance was once the theory in use by trainers and it is proving hard to quash. As with all things we have learned and moved forward.[/quote]

Have you seen the video "Show down with Holly"? It presents a dog (Lab) who is resource guarding her food. Cesar pushes her and pushes her to the point that she bites (and he didn't see it coming 8| ). I saw the bite coming, he was bulling this poor dog. What I witnessed is that Cesar took a normal, resource guarding dog and taught her that if she growled she would be attacked, and pushed, and bullied. Just my uneducated opinion but I think Cesar taught Holly to fight and to bite. No one will respect her growls and will bully her to the point that she feels she had to defend herself. Cesar took a dog that needed training and changed her into a dog that was dangerous.

Trifan, I had German Shepherds and I hope to get another in the future. I love GSDs but they are a world apart for BCs (as you know). I love your photo. To me that is the perfect shepherd.
Thank you T&M. He was a magnificent dog. He was a working Line Shep, I would not own a Showline dog as they are now so far from what a Shep should be. At my age I also don't have it in me to start again with a WL Shep and I admit I never fully recovered (mentally) from the attack and never fully trusted him again.
It was an attack with full intent and would have caused great damage to my face had I not quickly put my forearm in front of my face. He tore through my thick dressing gown, woolly sweater and pyjama's before taking a bite out of my arm. He was guarding his food bowl that had inadvertently been left on a kitchen bench and I walked too close to it for his liking. Extreme guarding was one of the issues for which I was seeking help from professionals. Hmm, enter DT trainers and the problem was exacerbated 10 fold and I believe was the reason we ended up where we did.
If I were younger I'd probably face my concerns and have another WL Shep but that is not the case, so I turned to BC's as my retirement dogs LOL

You are right, I saw that program and I also think Cesar taught that dog to be a biter. It doesn't take much at all to teach a dog to use biting as there "go to" behaviour. If it works for them once, they will try in again with every likelihood that they will not bother with the warnings that they have been shown will be ignored. Do it once, do it again and bang just like that it is a learned behaviour.

I don't have many regrets in life but following his breeder/trainers advice is probably the biggest regret I have and I carry the guilt of giving him even more problems to be dealt with to this day.

I am soon to start helping a friend train a WL Shep in tracking, so I truly hope I do not carry any hesitation with me, it's purely phycological, I really have no valid reason to be concerned but I want to go into it with complete confidence in handling this dog. To not do so would be unfair on my friend and more so the dog.

PS He's a little chubby in that photo but I quickly rectified that.
What a really interesting thread. I have to say that I thought many moons ago that Cesar Milan had some useful thoughts on dogs but I think he has become so much of a celebrity now that as others have said he does a lot of damage. In some case he does not even dominate a dog he just hangs them by a lead until they are partly asphyxiated and calls it submission. I don't think him interesting anymore. If I applied some of the basic stuff to Dilwyn he would be a nervous cowering wreck- not the sort of dog I want. I know Ember how it is to make a bad choice in handling a situation, I have a bit of a temper and if I'm tired I can snap and shout. If I do that to Dilwyn he reacts badly so I've started meditating . It helps me relax and control my temper and he responds much better. Works all round, he's happy and learning and I'm happy because he is dog to be proud of . Heart I love working with him to improve some of anxiety he has and to see him SAD a previous horror and look at me as if yo say " Oh I don't have to worry about that" is great!! How would DT theory have dealt with that? Sorry if that sounds a though I'm humanising him a bit but he is coming forward a lot recently!!
Christine I think you've had a really difficult time to cope with the addition of the third dog and I'm sure with your help Ember will come round it's just a temporary setback
Milan hanging a dog by the neck until almost asphyxiated is not actually to achieve submission as such but instead a method by which the dog is neutralises when the dog has been pushed to a dangerous level of aggression due to DT methods.He can call it what he likes in a TV show but neutralising by asphyxiation is the truth of it. Although it can be done with a slip lead there is actually a collar design specifically for this purpose called a "Dominant Dog Collar" and it was part of the equipment left with me by DT trainers and I was told to have one on him at all times.I never used it fortunately so at least that is one guilt I didn't have to live with.
The sick idea is that when training a dog with DT methods and he becomes resistant and lashes out at you, you use the DD collar to lift them off the ground until they are bordering on unconsciousness. When they are returned to the ground they are not willingly or knowingly submissive, they are oxygen deprived and in a daze. Can you just see the potential for brain damage with this awful stuff apart from the obvious cruelty, yeah right, that's a way to gain a dogs trust NOT.

If someone was to go on TV and demonstrate how to make fire crackers there would be outrage at the danger and irresponsibility. What is the difference between getting an arm blown to pieces or torn to shreds while torturing a dog ? I just cannot believe he is permitted to show this stuff on TV.
The sad thing is R+ or any other method does not work for television. It can be considered too slow, too boring, or not showy enough. I beg to differ, though - if I could have a documentary crew follow me around for a year, I think something fun could have been shown for Ember's story.

That being said, in the cat world Jackson Galaxy actually does a completely R+ behavior altering show for cats (My Cat From Hell). If they can do it for cats, why can't someone figure it out for dogs as well?
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Gotcha Day: November 14, 2015
Vet-Listed Birthday: May 2, 2014

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