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Posts Tagged ‘alpha dog’

Dog behavior – Stop assuming and start asking questions

February 7, 2013 14 comments

Recently, Debbie Jacobs from Fearfuldogs.com shared a video demonstrating how we can misinterpret a dog’s behavior.

Is your older dog suddenly refusing to sit on command? Maybe it’s arthritis.

Is your dog suddenly afraid to go outside? Maybe those new wind chimes you placed outside is scaring them.

Does your dog suddenly stop and refuse to move on a snowy street during your walk? Maybe the salt the city put down is hurting their paws.

Our dogs are telling us something all of the time, we just have to take the time to listen to them. I think the biggest mistake we (myself included) make when it comes to our dog’s behavior is not taking the time to understand the “why” behind it. Is it because there is something of higher value to them in their environment? Possibly. Did he have a bad experience in this environment that is affecting his ability to do something now? Could be. Is what we are asking of our dog confusing? Very likely.

It’s so easy to scold our dogs and assume they are refusing to obey us because they don’t want to do it or they don’t want to listen, but before we jump to the easiest, and most often the incorrect, conclusion we may want to take time to really listen to what our dogs are telling us.

Before making a judgement about their behavior we should… Watch. Look. Listen.

Here is that video Debbie shared. Take a look and let me know what you think.

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“Alpha” What?

November 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Today I read a great article on Pack Theory (“Pack Theory – Pack It In!”) and why we should stop using this theory when it comes to relating to our dogs.

I would like to supplement this article (which I highly recommend reading if you use the terms “alpha”, “pack leader” and “dominance”) with some additional information.

Did you ever wonder where the term “alpha wolf” came from? Or, how it came to be a part of our public discourse when discussing wolves and dogs?

It all started with a Senior Research Scientist named L. David Mech. Back in 1968, he wrote a book called “The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species.” It was published in 1970 and republished in 1981 and is still in print today. In that book, David Mech described something called the “alpha wolf”. “Alpha” wolves were described as “competing with others and becoming top dog by winning a contest or battle.” At the time this book was written, there was a belief that wolves competed for “Alpha” status and therefore led the pack and held all of the power within the pack. It was based on research at the time and on studies done on an artificial wolf pack (not a wolf pack living in the wild).

In the 40 years since that book was published a whole lot of new information has been discovered about wolves and wolf packs. It turns out that the concept of there being an “Alpha” within a wolf pack is no longer accurate. Take a listen to L. David Mech as he describes how the term came about and why it is no longer accurate when it relates to wolves out in the wild.

So why does the concept remain a part of our vernacular? And, why is it used to apply to dogs?

I think the article I mentioned above does a good job with answering these questions. What I will say is that we need to stop using the term “Alpha” when talking about wolves. It is no longer applicable, even L. David Mech (the man who coined the term) says so. And, it certainly should not be used to describe dogs, who are not in any way like wolf packs. We do not need to be “alpha” in order to have well-behaved dogs. The reality is that the amount of dedicated time and training you do with your dog are what really works. “Alpha rolls” or pining a dog down do not. And, if you don’t believe me, then read this and learn what the newest research tells us about what works in working with dogs.

Goodbye Alpha Dogma. Goodbye Dominance

June 20, 2009 1 comment

42-17304144Heard another person describe their dog’s behavior as exhibiting “dominance” today. The dog was jumping up on people after someone had excited him. Not dominance at all, just excitement.

Yesterday, I had someone tell me that they did the “Alpha roll” on their dog because she was expressing dominance. What was she doing? Getting into things. Acting up. Not dominance at all, just lack of exercise.

These comments immediately made me think of a blog post I had read recently (thanks to a Tweet from a friend and great dog trainer). It is phenomenal. And, it expresses exactly how I feel. Definitely worth a read.

Check out: Boulder Dog and “Alpha Dogma: Goodbye to All That”

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