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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 It is no longer applicable, even L. David Mech (the man who coined the term) says so.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.

Wednesday Winner: Posing Paws

November 11, 2009 Leave a comment

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Daisy and Jasper

Today, I am plugging an event put on every year by the Minnesota Valley Humane Society (MVHS) in Burnsville, Minnesota.
The event is called Posing Paws and is a great fundraiser for the shelter. If there was ever a time to support your local animal shelter, it is now. All of them are struggling to get by with less in this economy, and MVHS is no different.

For $50 you can get pictures of you and your pets, or your whole family and your pets (so far I’ve seen families with cats, dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs!). You can choose from 4 scenes, which by the way, are fantastic! And, about 10 minutes after your sitting, you’ll have a CD of all your pictures that you can crop or touch-up in photoshop. Or, you can take it to any store that processes photos and get cards made up for the holidays. Personally, I use my pictures for my business holiday cards and they look great!

Check it out! There is only one weekend left!
Posing Paws

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Me, Daisy and Jasper

Dogs: Adopt Me Please! The Shelter Pet Project

November 6, 2009 2 comments

42-17304144Anyone who knows me, or has read my blog to any extent, knows that I am passionate about animals. But, I am also passionate about something else… animal adoption.

A lot of people assume that adopting a dog or cat from a shelter means that they will be adopting a pet with physical problems or behavioral issues. This could not be further from the truth! Most of the dogs I have worked with at the shelter over the past 7 years have been wonderful and loving dogs. And, most of them were at our shelter due to circumstances outside of their control… home foreclosure, job loss, an owner’s death, an illness in the family, divorce, etc.

I know it’s hard to believe, but most pets are NOT in a shelter because their owner found them to be an awful pet. And yet, somehow the image still persists that adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue organization somehow means that the pet is “flawed” in some way.

The first dog I ever adopted from a shelter was a Shepherd/Collie mix named Indy. Read more…

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