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Many people speak of “dominance” when they talk about dog training. This theory suggests that because dogs in the wild live in packs, you must be the pack leader so your dog will obey and look up to you.
One of the most well known dominance techniques is the “alpha roll”. You, as the pack leader, roll your dog onto his back, which is a submissive position in dogs. By doing this, you reinforce your dominance over the dog.
Is this type of training really necessary?
The American Veterinary Society for Animal Behavior thinks not. They suggest that the canine pack structure, such as that found in wolves and other wild canines, doesn’t necessarily follow the “one pack leader” hierarchy. So, this theory of having only one boss doesn’t necessarily mimic a dog’s way of life in the wild.
It’s easy to see that if you use such methods to train your dog, he may not respect you but he will be afraid of you. Your relationship will evolve out of intimidation and fear.
So, what are the alternatives?
If you have ever been to Sea World or a similar marine park, you will have seen whales and dolphins leap through hoops and perform a number of clever tricks. How do their trainers teach these animals to do these things without having a leash on them or in many cases, laying a hand on them?
Operant conditioning, or clicker training in dogs, rewards your dog for doing what you want him to do, so he is more likely to do it next time. It is positive and fun, and doesn’t involve force, compulsion or intimidation. This is how dolphin trainers can get these intelligent mammals to perform their spectacular leaps with such obvious enthusiasm.
In Summary – Before you decide to pursue training methods based on dominance over your dog, think carefully about whether you really need it, or whether there is a better alternative to teach your dog to behave. It’s better to have your dog obey you out of respect rather than fear.
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