No, Your Dog Doesn't Want To Be Boss.
But are you ready to be a good pet parent?
Today Petmd.com published an article about how to dominate an alpha dog. We can barely believe that petmd.com published this as it is so out of date and inconsistent with today's best practices and force-free training. To ensure our community knows our stance on this, Lisa has offered the write up below as a response.
It can be easy to write off your dog's bad or unwanted behavior as attempting to be dominant. Sure, it could appear to be a logical leap to see something your dog does that conflicts with what you want and ascribe it to him wanting to rule your world. We can write off the bad behavior as a defect of the dog without really understanding why he's doing what he's doing.
But let's step back and look at the situation from a different - and we believe more helpful - perspective. The reason why your dog does something has everything to do with what he finds reinforcing or doesn't because it's punishing. He does what works. Unfortunately, we have no inherently magical ways with dogs, so the idea of submitting to us just because is ridiculous and frankly dangerous when professionals instruct owners to establish dominance.
PS: these notions of dominance with dogs, developed from studies of wolves that have since been changed by the people that first proposed them, are outdated. Furthermore, dogs aren't wolves - I don't have a wolf in my parlor, do you? Thank goodness! So let's treat dogs like the companions they are, and use the same methods of behavior change we use in everyday life to get the type of behavior from our dogs we want to see more of.
Obedience classes are one way to develop a relationship with your dog. It has nothing to do with placing you at the top of the dominance hierarchy. It's so much more than that and to reduce it to a linear pecking order is disappointing and does a disservice to how training can improve the bond with your dog and teach behaviors you'd like to see in real life. We love training, and we know that those tiny ways you incorporate into real life really make a difference for you and your dog.
While dogs are certainly not children in furry costumes, we can take a page from how parents teach their kids. We want our dogs to know we've got their backs, that we'll keep them safe, and that we're a team. That's what a companion means, right? We don't need to act like dogs to get our dogs to behave, so let's not resort to growling and feats of strength. Why use brawn when we've got brains on our side?