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Dominance in Dogs : Fact or Fiction?

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dominance in dogs - fact or fiction?

Since the early 1960s, as professional pet dog training developed as an industry, many dog training instructors have based their methods on the theory that an owner must ‘dominate’ his or her dog, including the use of ‘pack rules’ to reinforce a dominant position.

This was because, back then, many people in the field did indeed view a dog as simply a domesticated wolf. An owner was told he had to train his tame, domesticated dog as though he was a wolf—a theory that was perpetuated by a number of dog training books published during this time.

Even today, books, DVDs and television shows based on this theory are still popular and, in my view, cause confusion among pet dog owners as they attempt to ensure their ‘dominance’ over their pet dogs by being the alpha in their dog/family pack.

The premise that pack rules should apply to modern day pet dogs is incorrect despite the dog being a direct descendent of the wolf. This results in the following misleading assumptions:

  • A dog’s behaviour closely mimics that of the wolf
  • Grey wolves form packs based on a structured hierarchy and compete to become ‘alpha’ by aggressively asserting their dominance
    over other wolves and, therefore, dogs will do the same.
  • Even though the domestic dog lives with humans, he will act as though he is a member of a pack, therefore the owner and family have to be alpha.

Nobody stopped to question this line of thinking until recently. Over the last few years, however, researchers in dog behaviour have begun to question the relevance of treating pet dogs as though they are wolves and members of a pack. At the same time, researchers studying wolves in the wild have learned that wolf packs function quite differently than had previously been thought.

Many books have now been written that dispel the myth that a dog, given the chance, will try to raise his status or become dominant over his human family. Current knowledge and thinking are questioning whether we were ever right to equate a dog’s behaviour to that of his distant cousin, the wolf.

The purpose of this book is to pull together an overview of the recent arguments that have been put forward by eminent authorities on dogs and wolves as to why the dog is not simply a domesticated wolf and, therefore, should not be treated as such. It will provide an alternative training and behavioural model to one that insists that the owner must assert his authority over his dog(s) by acting as though he is the dominant pack leader.

I believe it’s time to open our minds and consider the concept of pack rules as a thing of the past and recognize that dogs are not constantly trying to dominate their owners.

Book Reviews........

Dr Ian Dunbar BVetMed, MRCVS ........ A little book with a big message. Without wasting words, Barry Eaton dispels the dominance myth and its insidious rank reduction programme, which is nothing more than an arduous task for owners to make their poor dogs lives a misery

Prof Ray Coppinger ....... Learning is best done by challenging the old mythologies and this book surely does that

Jean Donaldson, Author of "The Culture Clash", "Dogs are from Neptune" ........ Thanks for the opportunity to see your fantastic booklet. Excellent. We do have an uphill battle as the sheer amount of repetition of the Dominance concept has cemented it into the public mind.

Turid Rugaas...... Congratulations to the author! Finally a little simple and clarifying book about a very important and very misunderstood topic in dog training today. A highly recommendable book! And fun to read as well.

James OHeare Dip.C.B. Author of The Canine Aggression Workbook ....... Geared towards owners the arguments are nicely laid out. I am glad this book was written.

Dogs Monthly ....... Barry has brought together valuable research of how our dogs evolved and how they learn to live with us.

Our Dogs ....... Barry outlines the reasons why these more recent studies and findings turn on their head the long held view that owners need to mimic the behaviour of the dogs wolf ancestor, and expect the dog to live by pack rules.

Mrs M. Hampshire ......... Dominance: Fact or Fiction should be compulsory reading for all dog owners. I wish you well in spreading the very, very important message in your book. Oh to have read it ealier!!

MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW, USA....... How far is the dog from the roving packs of wolves in the past? "Dominance in Dogs: Fact or Fiction?" discusses the idea that dogs will try to become alpha males in their families, drawing their canine instincts. Studying wolves and comparing them to domestic dogs and how the habits differ are similar, Barry Eaton provides quite the thoughtful study on dogs and their dominance. "Dominance In Dogs" is a thoughtful collection, very highly recommended.

For details of how to purchase the book in the UK and around the world, please look at the book shop
Barry Eaton
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