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Pet training and care > pack rule theory

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message 1: by Karen (new)

Karen Davison | 2 comments I was just wondering what members feel about the more up to date concepts of pack rule theory i.e dogs are not actually pack animals, so therefore do not have a structured hierarchy. We do not need to be pack leader or show them who is boss in order for them to be well behaved canine citizens. I would welcome an open discussion on the topic.

message 2: by Alena (new)

Alena (avaantares) | 24 comments Typing on my phone, so apologies for brevity/typos. :)

It helps to understand the background of dominance theory as applied to dogs. Almost all of the pack-animal mythos was based on faulty studies of wolves in captivity that were done in the 1950s. Though the studies had been redacted by the 1970s, some dog trainers had already latched on to the idea of a pack hierarchy, and the concepts survived through word-of-mouth, apprenticeship training, and books written by laymen.

If you look at the matter from an ethological or scientific perspective, it becomes immediately clear that there is no valid evidence to support the idea of dogs as pack animals. It's a deeply-held belief, but there is simply no science to back it up. Even much of what the average person "knows" about wolves (alpha behaviors, etc.) is actually contrary to what ethologists have observed in properly-conducted studies. A lot of it is just plain human superstition -- we have always been told what "submissive" behavior looks like, so we associate dominance/pack theory with fear or avoidance behaviors that we see in our dogs.

It's not really beneficial -- and can be harmful, in some cases -- to attribute superstitious causes to an animal's behavior. By focusing on dominance or "leading" the dog, we often miss the true root cause of an issue or even create problems that weren't there to begin with (I.e., alpha-rolling leading to increased fear-aggression).

I can contribute more when I have a real keyboard. :)

message 3: by Karen (new)

Karen Davison | 2 comments I couldn't agree more Alena. Dominance hierarchy cannot even be applied to wolves. Wolves are family units, and the so called pack rules ie Alphas get to eat first and get the best food, always lead the pack from the front when travelling and hunting etc are not true. In actual fact when food is scarce lactating females and pups get fed first by the entire pack including yearlings from the previous year. When hunting often it is the juveniles and lighter females that begin the hunt, wearing down the prey, with the larger and more experienced individuals coming in towards the end for the kill. Wolf biologists no longer refer to Alpha, beta and omega members, rather they are the breeding pair and their offspring. If we cannot apply pack rules to wolves, how then can we possibly associates these rules to a species that is so far removed from wolves by thousands of years of evolution and domestication? Dogs most certainly are social animals, but dogs living in the wild do not form packs. Personally I agree with you that to adopt this way of thinking is detrimental to the relationship between people and their pet dogs. Dogs are not trying to take over the pack and dominate us, most of the behaviours that are commonly associated with dominance are usually due to inconsistency and lack of training. Sadly due to uneducated 'trainers' (some of which have a massive TV audience) continuing to reinforce this outdated and inaccurate information dominance theory is still widely believed.

message 4: by Sarah (new)

Sarah J | 2 comments There are so many wonderful books out their that discuss this issue - the popular theory of dominance is an archaic theory that has been disproven by countless researchers.

While on the subject, using punishment (choke chains, ear pinches, alpha rolls) is equally outdated and misused by the vast majority of the public. These tactics are often used to correct or control the dominant dogs they claim to have, but the effects to dog and trainer can be catastrophic.

Thankfully, both of these ideas have been heavily researched and better methods have risen to replace them. It will still take time before the public's view will change (as with anything else), but I believe that the more people who read and learn and study today's research (along with reading the past to understand how we got here), the better the future will be for dogs, people, and animals everywhere.

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