The faults of “Pack Leader” training methods prt.2

The faults of “Pack Leader” training methods prt.2

(if you haven’t read it yet please read Part 1 from Feb 5th 2015 before you go forward)

Now that we understand what was learned through the original 1940s study in addition to understanding the faults and inaccuracies of what was learned through that study we can go forward to look at the specific problems found from the “Pack Leader” or “Dominance” method of training.

First of all, this training method usually focuses on training your dog to view you as the Pack Leader. This is not possible for the sole reason that your dog does indeed know that you are not also a dog. Dog’s do need leadership and guidance so this is not a dismissal of need for leadership, but because the dog already does not see you as another dog there is not going to be a status competition between your dog and you for the position of “Alpha”.

This moves smoothly into the second fault, the idea of a status competition which causes you as the owner to have to continually use force to prove to the dog that you are the dominant figure. Since we know that the use of aggression to achieve the status of dominant wolf in the 1940s research study was not signs of a true pack and that in natural packs submission is freely given by the younger wolves to their elder parent “Alpha” wolves, this needs to be dismissed. By forcing a dog into submission we are not proving to the dog that we are the leader, we are teaching them to suppress their natural instinct. We are also teaching them that we are individuals to be feared. What is seen as calm submission in a dog is actually the dog in extreme stress going into a shut-down mode. More on dog stress and what happens when a dog shuts-down will be seen in a future post.

The final thought I would like to share here is that many trainers who base their training on these methods will say that this training works and that even if the science which brought the method to being may be incorrect, it works and causes no negative affects to the dog so why not use them? They look at the dogs actions after training with these methods as proof that what they have done is appropriate. The problem is that what they are doing is not working, it is only teaching dogs to suppress their instincts and causes them extreme stress and displeasure. The long term effects of these training methods can include health problems as well as a dog who snaps or is apparently aggressive without giving any signs or signals of warning. Because we teach the dog to ignore their instincts and that any sign of displeasure is to be silenced, they are unable to warn us if they don’t like something.

The bottom line is:

  • Dog’s don’t view us as dogs
  • Dogs are not wolves
  • Behavior seen in wolves does not mean it will be seen in dogs
  • Results of the 1940s study which saw aggression and dominance in wolves has been disproved by many parties including the original researchers from the study
  • Pack’s as we know them are Family Groups and function non-violently
  • Using forced submission in training does not show the dog you are the leader as there is no status struggle in Packs nor in Dog Behavior
  • When this method of training is used the dogs are not taught obedience they are taught:
    • We are aggressive
    • Their instincts are to be shut down
    • That stressful situations are normal and not to show stress or fear

Positive methods of training are gaining momentum and becoming the commonplace method of training. There is no dog that cannot be trained by positive reinforcement. There is no dog that needs a ‘tougher’ or ‘harder’ touch. Positive training is not just for ‘easy’, ‘little’, or ‘naturally submissive’ dogs.


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