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Using ‘Dominance’ To Explain Dog Behavior Is Old Hat

ScienceDaily (May 25, 2009) — A new study shows how the behavior of dogs has beenGRRRRR misunderstood for generations: in fact using misplaced ideas about dog behavior and training is likely to cause rather than cure unwanted behavior.  The findings challenge many of the dominance related interpretations of behavior and training techniques suggested by current TV dog trainers.

Contrary to popular belief, aggressive dogs are NOT trying to assert their dominance over their canine or human “pack”, according to research published by academics at the University of Bristol’s Department of Clinical Veterinary Sciences in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research.   (Credit: iStockphoto)

The researchers spent six months studying dogs freely interacting at a Dogs Trust rehoming center, and reanalyzing data from studies of feral dogs, before concluding that individual relationships between dogs are learnt through experience rather than motivated by a desire to assert “dominance”.

The study shows that dogs are not motivated by maintaining their place in the pecking order of their pack, as many well-known dog trainers preach.

Far from being helpful, the academics say, training approaches aimed at “dominance reduction” vary from being worthless in treatment to being actually dangerous and likely to make behaviors worse.

Instructing owners to eat before their dog or go through doors first will not influence the dog’s overall perception of the relationship – merely teach them what to expect in these specific situations.  Much worse, techniques such as pinning the dog to the floor, grabbing jowls, or blasting hooters at dogs will make dogs anxious, often about their owner, and potentially lead to an escalation of aggression.

Dr Rachel Casey, Senior Lecturer in Companion Animal Behavior and Welfare at Bristol University, said:  “The blanket assumption that every dog is motivated by some innate desire to control people and other dogs is frankly ridiculous.  It hugely underestimates the complex communicative and learning abilities of dogs. It also leads to the use of coercive training techniques, which compromise welfare, and actually cause problem behaviors.

“In our referral clinic we very often see dogs which have learnt to show aggression to avoid anticipated punishment. Owners are often horrified when we explain that their dog is terrified of them, and is showing aggression because of the techniques they have used – but its not their fault when they have been advised to do so, or watched unqualified ‘behaviorists’ recommending such techniques on TV.”

At Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, rehoming center staff see the results of misguided dog training all the time.  Veterinary Director Chris Laurence MBE, added: “We can tell when a dog comes in to us which has been subjected to the ‘dominance reduction technique’ so beloved of TV dog trainers.  They can be very fearful, which can lead to aggression towards people.

“Sadly, many techniques used to teach a dog that his owner is leader of the pack is counter-productive; you won’t get a better behaved dog, but you will either end up with a dog so fearful it has suppressed all its natural behaviors and will just do nothing, or one so aggressive it’s dangerous to be around.”

If You’re Aggressive, Your Dog Will Be Too, Says Veterinary Study

ScienceDaily (Feb. 18, 2009) — In a new, year-long University of Pennsylvania survey of dog owners who use confrontational or aversive methods to train aggressive pets, agressive dog-large veterinary researchers have found that most of these animals will continue to be aggressive unless training techniques are modified.

The study, published in the current issue of Applied Animal Behavior Science, also showed that using non-aversive or neutral training methods such as additional exercise or rewards elicited very few aggressive responses.

“Nationwide, the No. 1 reason why dog owners take their pet to a veterinary behaviorist is to manage aggressive behavior,” Meghan E. Herron, lead author of the study, said. “Our study demonstrated that many confrontational training methods, whether staring down dogs, striking them or intimidating them with physical manipulation does little to correct improper behavior and can elicit aggressive responses.”

The team from the School of Veterinary Medicine at Penn suggest that primary-care veterinarians advise owners of the risks associated with such training methods and provide guidance and resources for safe management of behavior problems. Herron, Frances S. Shofer and Ilana R. Reisner, veterinarians with the Department of Clinical Studies at Penn Vet, produced a 30-item survey for dog owners who made behavioral service appointments at Penn Vet. In the questionnaire, dog owners were asked how they had previously treated aggressive behavior, whether there was a positive, negative or neutral effect on the dogs’ behavior and whether aggressive responses resulted from the method they used. Owners were also asked where they learned of the training technique they employed.

Of the 140 surveys completed, the most frequently listed recommendation sources were “self” and “trainers.” Several confrontational methods such as “hit or kick dog for undesirable behavior” (43 percent), “growl at dog” (41 percent), “physically force the release of an item from a dog’s mouth” (39 percent), “alpha roll”physically — rolling the dog onto its back and holding it (31 percent), “stare at or stare down” (30 percent), “dominance down” —- physically forcing the dog down onto its side (29 percent) and “grab dog by jowls and shake” (26 percent) elicited an aggressive response from at least 25 percent of the dogs on which they were attempted. In addition, dogs brought to the hospital for aggressive behavior towards familiar people were more likely to respond aggressively to some confrontational techniques than dogs brought in for other behavioral reasons.

“This study highlights the risk of dominance-based training, which has been made popular by TV, books and punishment-based training advocates,”Herron said. “These techniques are fear-eliciting and may lead to owner-directed aggression.”

Prior to seeking the counsel of a veterinary behaviorist, many dog owners attempt behavior-modification techniques suggested by a variety of sources.

Recommendations often include the aversive-training techniques listed in the survey, all of which may provoke fearful or defensively aggressive behavior. Their common use may have grown from the idea that canine aggression is rooted in the need for social dominance or to a lack of dominance displayed by the owner. Advocates of this theory therefore suggest owners establish an “alpha” or pack-leader role.

The purpose of the Penn Vet study was to assess the behavioral effects and safety risks of techniques used historically by owners of dogs with behavior problems.

Dog whispering is a definite alternative to traditional training.

Posted:  Just One More Pet

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July 1, 2009 Posted by | Animal Rights And Awareness, animals, Just One More Pet, Pet and Animal Training, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dog Training – Train Your Dog From Barking

Barking is the most important way of communicating for a dog and is natural… like talking for humans.  Some say it is the essence of a dog.  Can you even imagine a dog that has lost its ability to bark?  But at times barking may be annoying and even unacceptable. So, sometimes you’d probably like to stop the barking completely, but that would be impossible and counter productive. What you want to do is to train away the useless barking.

Training your dog not to bark, however, is not a simple task since you are trying to control the inherent nature of the species. For this reason there is the need for a lot of perseverance and also patience on your part. But, if you have the sufficient grit, you will definitely succeed. But always keep in mind that there are several reasons that a dog may and even should bark. It may be hungry, jealous of another dog, have pointed out an interloper in your territory… or you or your dog may be in danger. If you can identify any such reason, you can solve the barking without any further delay. But if your dog continues to bark for no reason it is time for you to put fido in check and enforce the appropriate training techniques you’ve been working on.

Your first step should be to identify the breed of your dog and its strengths and weaknesses. It should be noted that dogs belonging to some particular breeds bark more than others and perhaps will need a little extra leeway.  (For this reason it is suggested, if possible, to research breeds before choosing a pet, especially if you are going to be living in an apartment, condo or restricted area.) And then the first step in the actual training process is for you to establish your own leadership as the alpha dog. Dogs, being wild animals who live in packs under the guardianship of a leader, by nature react to the supremacy of a leader that makes others surrender to him. It may be that your dog doesn’t see you as the leader or doesn’t trust you and is therefore barking. So, you will have to establish yourself as the leader to help stop this menace.  And if you have more than one dog, the pack phenomenon, will make the dynamics even more difficult.

You should also concentrate on your dog’s need for exercise and diversion. Try to take all measures possible to ensure your dog gets the exercise and diversion it needs on a regular basis. This is a proven way to keep the dogs under control.  Scarcity of exercise results in an increase of negative behaviors, of which barking is the most prominent and generally the biggest nuisance; chewing is probably the second.

Simply walking is not enough, especially for most large dogs and active breeds like greyhounds.  Knowing your breed is a huge factor in training and controlling your dog’s behavior. Regular walks, a chance to run of the leash, playing fetch or ball, and training will help in curbing your dogs need to bark.  Dog obedience training and precisely command training is a good activity for your dog. Command training helps challenge your dog. You should begin with the simplest commands that your dog can comprehend quickly, and be generous with rewards and praise.  Never conduct the command training for long periods; 15 minutes every day will be enough. And never forget to make the training sessions lively. 

A healthy diet, with some variety, is also an added plus to good behavior.

And if you have a dog that is cooped up all day with nobody home, the barking issue is on you.  Hire a dog walker, play music or the TV while you are gone… and learn to live with a little barking or chewing.

And if all fails, a professional dog training center remains your next option.

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Just One More Pet, Pets | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments