Posts Tagged ‘dominance in dogs’

Check it out.

“Basing dog training on a misunderstanding of wolf behavior is as useful as basing human education on a misunderstanding of chimpanzee behavior.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself!

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Cesar thinks so:


Um. In case you haven’t noticed, he’s full of crap here.

Cesar has Chanticleer’s fallacy– big time. Chanticleer was a rooster who appears in Medieval English folklore. (He makes an appearance in the Canterbury Tales, if my memory serves.)

In one of the stories about him, Chanticleer is dead certain that his crowing makes the sun rise. He does not realize that the two events are merely correlated, and he assumes that correlation is equal to causation.

This is exactly what Cesar is doing here. He is assuming that because dogs carry their tails aloft while walking that he can just raise the tail of a dog and it won’t be nervous or insecure.

He’s literally telling us that the tail wags dog here.

It’s hooey.

And yet still a he’s a great dog expert.

I’m not a dog expert at all. I don’t claim to be.

But this is such nonsense.

I think he literally made this up on the spot.

Which is nice.

But please don’t assume that it’s anything like reality.

Otherwise, you’re talking advice from the Chanticleer of dog trainers, excuse me– “dog rehabilitators.”

Here’s a hint: the brain controls what the dog feels. The tail is merely an outward expression of emotions that originate in the brain.

And yes, I’m aware that actions, like licking, can cause the dog to release endorphins and that will make them feel better.

But I’ve never seen a single study that suggests that putting a dog’s tail in a position automatically make them feel that way.

I can’t buy this, as kooky as it sounds.

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Hat tip to Jess Ruffner.

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Is the adult golden dominant to the puppy in this context?

Patricia McConnell continues her discussion of dominance:

This time it’s within the context of domestic dogs.

As with all things with dogs, it is complex– even contradictory.

I don’t think the way that certain people use the term dominance is very use the term.

Dogs are capable of learning social mores and rules. I think that’s where we should put our focus instead of using this concept.

I wish we had a better word other than “dominance,” because the term has been horribly corrupted. The view that this is all dogs think about and the only way to relate to them is as the boss man is a little bit dated.

I would use the term for the relationship between dogs and people as more of a teacher-student partnership. The way dogs relate to each other is more or less this way. One dog becomes the wise elder of the group, but because situations change,who the wise elder is changes accordingly.

That’s what I’ve observed from my own dogs.

For example, my grandpa had a beagle x that ruled the roost when he was around her.

As soon as he was gone, she was the low dog on the totem poll.

These relationships are infinitely more complex than Schjelderup-Ebbe’s pecking order in chickens. It is more give and take than one would assume from reading dog pop psychology.

Most of the pop discussion on dog dominance are extreme violations of Morgan’s Canon. It is assuming that dogs have this understanding their place in the world. And like Pinky and the Brain, they begin every night with this discussion:

Pinky: “Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?”

The Brain: “The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!”

The model she describes in Bradshaw is far more parsimonious. We know that dogs are great associative learners. They may be better at it than wolves are, and that is the main function that drives dog behavior rather than these assumed innate drives to control everything and everyone.


Now, it is possible to take this too far. Raymond Coppinger thinks that dogs are not social animals that live in groups. They are actually very much social animals.

It’s just what societies they develop are much more variable than any one would see in wild animals.

I know that horses are very much ruled by a linear hierarchy, but I’ve not seen that same social arrangement in dogs.

But it is easy to project these relations onto dogs, because dogs do tend allow one main dog to act as the “elder statesman.”

But it is unlikely that this main dog maintains absolute authority in all situations.

In horses, you get something like this, but that’s because their societies are much more strongly driven by instincts. Horse societies operate on a dominant mare who leads the other mares, and a stallion who herds his harem around. That’s because horses breed in harems, and the band stallion is forever being overthrown. Their lives are always in social chaos in the wild. They need strict linear hierarchies just to maintain order

Dogs social relationships are not so written in stone. Their social lives are not so dramatic, and they are much more removed from the wild than horses are. Their lives include us much more intimately, and associative learning has a much greater influence on what animals they will become.

Dogs are not tabula rasas, but they aren’t wild animals that are driven by instinct alone.  What they become is much more a result of what we do than what they are. That’s what’s different between wolves and dogs. Dogs can adapt to our world. Wolves are still molded by their natural history.

Dogs are what we make them. It’s true in breeding.

And it’s true in training.

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Patricia McConnell talks about dominance in ethological discourse.

It appears that this will be the first in the series.

These are going to be good (as in much better than my feeble attempts).

Best line in the post:

“I will say here that the misuse of the term ‘dominance’ in dog training is so pervasive that it causes ethologists like me to want to poke pencils in our eyes.”

I’m not quite to that level yet, but it’s getting close.

I’ve posted this before, but it’s worth watching again:


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This is my favorite dog book.

It is probably the most important dog book to come out since Lorenz’s (very flawed) Man Meets Dog.

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It was this episode that really made me question whether Cesar’s methods were safe or applicable for the average person.

If a professional recommends that such methods be used, there is an issue of legal liability.

That’s why there is a disclaimer at the beginning of the Dog Whisperer Show.

How many people do you think are capable of controlling a dog like this using these confrontational methods?

My guess is you could count them with both your hands.

And that’s being generous.

If you have a dog like this, it does need professional help.

But you need a professional who can give you advice that you can use safely to correct the problem.

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I hope Jen at Shiba Inu Spirit doesn’t mind me doing a copycat post.

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Cesar’s Way 112-120

This section is too long for me quote all of it.

But he starts by talking about how wolves and “wild dogs” (does he mean Lycaon? Lycaon actually have less aggression in their packs than wolves do!) live in packs, and how the pack leader controls every. The leader eats first.

Then he starts telling us how this structure, which is not100 percent accurate for wild wolves is exactly how you should behave towards your dog.

“In nature, if a pack leader shows any weakness at all, he will be attack and replaced a stronger member of the pack. This is true among all animal species that live in tiered social systems. Only the strong can lead” (116).

So if there is a lot of evidence that wolves behave like this in nature, this exactly how you should treat your dog.

This argument is called an “appeal to nature” argument. It is very commonly made these days. If it is natural, it is good for you. It is better than artificial. Appeal to nature arguments also say that if that way things are is because of nature. This argument is very common in politics, especially when we’re talking about economics. The problem with using these arguments is that they are very hard to falsify. You also have know what the “real nature” is before you start making such claims.

What’s interesting is that I find really good descriptions of Coppinger’s description that dogs are morphologically different from wolves– that’s what Cesar means when he says dogs are different from wolves. But in behavior, Cesar seems to think they are 100 percent interchangeable. Now, if that’s true, Shaun Ellis is probably the person to call for dog behavior problems.

Now, I do say dogs are wolves, but when I say that, I’m not saying they are big game hunting wolves from northern Eurasia or North America. Those animals are actually quite specialized, and they are very different from wolves from southern Eurasia. We count them as the same species, but their behavior and conformation is very different. Wild wolves are probably the most variable large species on the planet. That’s why domestic dogs come in such a wide variety of shapes.

Dogs have a nature in that they are social, but unlike wolves, they are much more the result of the environment in which they are raised. Dogs are better associative learners than wolves are. They are also better at reading human body language. That means that “dog nature” is less written in stone than wolves are.

Now, I can go on and explain what most wolf packs are, but I think it’s now mostly useless. Most wolf packs are a mated pair and their offspring. There is very little conflict in these groupings. In the megapacks of Yellowstone, where multiple breeding females once existed, conflict did occur. It’s very simple.  A pack can only bring so much food back to the den, so a female will want to keep rival females from getting an advantage in this respect.

However, I’m not going into this, because this is far more complex and nuanced than you’d imagine.

My main point is this:

Domestication has changed the dog in the same way the frigid wastes of the polar regions have changed the Arctic wolf and the scorching deserts of the Middle East have changed the Arabian wolf.

I see no discussion about how dogs behave differently from wild or captive wolves in any of Cesar’s texts, and because that’s not there, Cesar is saying that dogs and wolves behave the same.

If you don’t believe me, read the whole section!

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But Chairman Cesar says they can!


This is ridiculous!

This dog is some kind of Swiss mountain dog.  The two smaller ones have very strong herding instincts. Herding is predatory behavior. A wolf does not act “dominant” towards a caribou that it’s hunting! This dog is engaging in predatory behavior toward a light.

It probably received a lot of attention for doing so, and the dog thinks this is a fun game.

This dog could stand to go to herding classes.

BTW, when did dog training become a religion? Jesus H. Christ.

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