The widespread interpretation of dog behavior as based on ‘dominance,’ which holds that dogs try to assert their dominance over their canine or human pack, turns out to be wrong, and using this approach to dog behavior and training can actually cause bad behavior, rather than correcting it. Research published the University of Bristol’s Department of Clinical Veterinary Sciences challenges the dominance-related interpretation of behavior and training techniques used by some TV and other dog trainers.

The researchers, who spent six months studying dogs freely interacting at a Dogs Trust re-homing center and reanalyzing data from studies of feral dogs, concluded that individual relationships between dogs are learned through experience, are not the result of a dog’s desire to assert dominance and that dogs are not motivated by maintaining their place in the pecking order of their pack, an approach used by many dog trainers.

The researchers also determined that training approaches aimed at ‘dominance reduction’ are either worthless, or actually can be dangerous by making bad behavior worse, even leading to an escalation of aggression.

According to Dr Rachel Casey of Bristol University, the blanket assumption that every dog is motivated by some innate desire to control people and other dogs is ridiculous and underestimates the communicative and learning abilities of dogs. It also leads to the use of coercive training techniques that are injurious to the dog and can actually cause problem behaviors.

In searching for a trainer or training method for a dog or new puppy, this study suggests strongly that training methods based on dominance reduction should be avoided.

For the complete Science Daily article, go here.

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