I’ve not seen Cesar’s new show, but it sounds a lot like a canine version of Donald Trump’s.
The most important part of the blog post is this bit:
In terms of wolves and dogs, it is important to remember both parts of this essential paradox: The dog is a wolf; the dog is not a wolf. Biologically wolves and dogs are so close that they must be considered the same species, despite thousands of years of conscious and unconscious selection by humans of particular traits in dogs, none more intensely than during the past 200 years.
The contemporary wolf is primarily a creation of centuries of human persecution, habitat fragmentation, and natural forces. At various times in different parts of the world, the divide between dogs and wolves has been less wide than the chasms opened in Western Europe and the United States by wolf eradication campaigns in the 19th and early 20th centuries, campaigns that contemporary wolf haters would like to reopen.
Yet the use of wolves as a model for dogs in society can teach a lesson about dog training that some people who invoke them might not like to hear. Wolves, by all accounts, respond poorly to aversive training. They shut down. They rebel. They flee. Many dogs do the same, which leaves these questions: Why use aversive methods that cause pain and distress when you can achieve better results with praise, kindness, respect, and rewards? Why try to turn your dog into a stimulus response machine when you can teach it using rewards and praise? Why treat any animal or person differently than you want to be treated?
There is such a thing called dominance. No one can seriously deny its existence. An animal is dominant if it has preferential access to scarce resources. It doesn’t mean that it’s the biggest bully on the block. It just means that other animals recognize its authority as an “elder statesman,” and all it have certain privileges. If wild dogs lived under tyrannical pack leaders, there would be nothing but utter chaos.
But if you think that ethological term of art gives you the right to punch and strangle your dog, you are sorely mistaken.
Dominance has been used to justify all sorts of unscientific and actually quite nasty ways of relating to dogs.
It’s why many people avoid using it, and so many others even deny that the term exists.
I wish there were a better word for it, but there isn’t one.
I believe Cesar has jumped the shark. I think the campaigns against him have largely been successful, and it’s really the last hurrah of this bizarre and quite inaccurate paradigm.