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  • Judy Bernard

Relax, your 10 week old puppy is not trying to be Alpha!


In this day of modern communication, we often have so much information with so many different view points coming at us, it is hard to distinguish between fact and fiction. I found it interesting that recently studies confirmed that fake news travels faster than real news! There's another phenomenon that occurs as well, long held beliefs are hard to get rid of, even with consistent scientific evidence to the contrary. Both the fake news and long held beliefs seem to apply to the concept of Alpha dog or Dominance theory dog training.

This popular theory maintains that our dogs are trying to be alpha over us, and that if we don't take steps to establish our dominance over our dog they will run ruff-shod over us! The problem with this theory, which was originally derived from a flawed research study in the 1940's by Rudolph Schenkel, as well as subsequent studies on pack theory in the 70's done by Dr. David Mech, is that it's just not true. The original studies had several flaws, including the misinterpretation of behaviors, a focus on a small portion of wolf behavior and last but not least, the extrapolation that this wolf behavior somehow informed us on the behaviors of domestic dogs. The original studies have also been disproved, in fact Dr. Mech wrote a paper in 1999 "Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs" where he said ""Attempting to apply information about the behavior of assemblages of unrelated captive wolves to the familial structure of natural packs has resulted in considerable confusion. Such an approach is analogous to trying to draw inferences about human family dynamics by studying humans in refugee camps. The concept of the alpha wolf as 'top dog' ruling a group of similar-aged compatriots is particularly misleading."

The bottom line is that domestic dogs are not wolfs and they don't act anything like them.

So the next time someone tells you that you have to eat before you feed your dog, or walk though the door first, or alpha roll your new 10 week old puppy in order to establish dominance over them, please pay them no heed.

Most dogs that are labeled alpha are either untrained, pushy or exhibiting typical behaviors that are being misinterpreted. The answer is a positive, evidenced based training program that can educate you on the behaviors your dog is exhibiting and how to modify them.

Here are some good articles from reliable, science based sources that go into detail about the myth of dominance, pack theory and dominance based training methods.

Dr. Sophia Yin

https://drsophiayin.com/philosophy/dominance/

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviorists

Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC

https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Dominance_Position_Statement_download-10-3-14.pdf

Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201007/canine-dominance-is-the-concept-the-alpha-dog-valid


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