This morning I happened to find one of those Cesar Millan debunking articles that makes me wince.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m no fan of the Dog Whisperer. Not being a Cesar lover has cost me several friendships.
That’s how much I think he’s wrong about dog behavior.
However, one of the bad things about the obviously made-up crap that the Dog Whisperer spouts is that it has resulted in a reaction that has resulted in people saying things that are just as incorrect as anything Cesar says.
Now, this person is correct that the model for dog behavior that Cesar Millan posits is simply wrong. I agree with this entirely.
But in making this claim, the author then makes a bunch of dubious assertions.
His main theory is the pack theory. The pack theory has been debunked completely. (Here is another article about it, I have a lot more, too.) The fact of the matter is, dogs do not form packs, they instead form loose social bonds that change from day to day. Even if they did form packs, it would not affect the human/dog relationship, because dogs know we’re not other dogs. We have all the resources, anyway. Furthermore, “dominant” is not a personality trait.
Even if we were to believe that dogs formed packs like wolves (which would be ridiculous, because dogs are not descended from gray wolves, they both share a common ancestor, similar to a dingo), wolves don’t form packs in the way most people believe they do.
Now, besides being totally incoherent in terms of syntax or structure, there are several claims at the beginning of this piece that are simply wrong.
Dogs are actually capable of forming packs and working together to kill large prey. Not all wolves form packs, and forming packs in order to hunt is likely a learned behavior.
Studies on street dogs and rural dogs living near dumps would likely show that they don’t form packs to hunt cooperatively. There would be no need to. However, dogs that live in rural areas where there are no dumps will form packs and hunt livestock and deer.
I don’t know why many people think this is impossible, but the evidence that it happens is virtually everywhere. Just ask anyone who has sheep!
Furthermore, dingoes are dogs. Dingoes fit within the East Asian dogs on virtually every genetic study.
Dingoes do form packs to bring down large macropods and sheep.
So that entire claim that dogs never form packs is as stupid as the claim that every dog is born with an instinct to control everyone around it.
Dogs are derived from wolves, not a dingo-like ancestor. They are most closely related to Middle Eastern wolves, which are the primary ancestors of the modern lines of domestic dog.
If one wants to split hairs to make that claim work, one can say that Middle Eastern wolves look a lot like dingoes, and it is true that more-derived subspecies of wolf did descend from an ancestor that looked like a Middle Eastern wolf.
But that’s the only way you can make that claim work.
My guess is this person has read that terribly thought out paper by Janice Koler-Matznick on the origins of the domestic dog.
Virtually every expert on dog origins finds that paper’s claims to be either overly speculative or simply wrong.
Dogs are wolves. Dogs can form packs.
It does not automatically follow from those claims that Cesar Millan is correct.
His ideas are easily debunked with facts and logic, but using bad scientific studies to go after him does not help one’s cause.
Most of the apologists for this type of dominance model are very good at using these claims to show how out of touch their critics actually.
So if you’re wanting to argue against the dominance models, don’t use these claims.
They are as bad as any of the claims Cesar Millan or any of the other dominance model promoters use.