top of page

Paper: "The theory of dominance - its history and assumptions. The refutation of the theory."

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

This is the public version of the academical paper I wrote during my COAPE certification process. It includes the history and assumptions of the theory of dominance. The refutation of the theory and the effects of applying this theory on the bond between dog and owner.

Photo by Eva Blue on Unsplash
wolf pack in action

The theory of dominance - its history and assumptions. The refutation of the theory. The theory of dominance and the bond between the dog and the owner.

The theory of dominance had many years ago the way of thinking and the concept of people associated with animals, and unfortunately it has not been completely removed until now. Its beginnings date back to the 1940s when young trainers (mainly from the military environment) no longer wanted to use methods using physical violence, aversion or so-called "Breaking" the dog. At that time, research began on captive wolves and their behavior was compared to dogs. In brief, this theory is based on the observation of wolves and an attempt to translate their lifestyle and behavioral system to today's dogs living in our family homes. Just as a hierarchy exists in the wolf pack, this phenomenon is also observed among dogs. The alpha individual leads the herd, while the other members are at the lower levels of the hierarchy. According to this theory, we are the herd of the dog and we should be the alpha individual who decides how the dog is raised and what we allow him to do. Therefore, the theory of dominance says first of all that dogs and people are constantly fighting each other over who will be the alpha, and the result of these struggles depends only on the consistent application of the so-called 6 main rules by which a dog must understand who is a leader in the herd, introduced by John Fisher:

  1. The dog does not sleep in our bed - it is unacceptable for the dog to sleep / lie on our bed, sofas or armchairs. For this, we, as alpha individuals, can sit on his bed.

  2. A dog cannot win - you should not allow strength play with your pet, and if that happens then you should never let him win (e.g. pulling a rope). All games should be under our supervision.

  3. The dog cannot eat first - you need to prepare food for the pet only in his presence. The alpha individual must eat anything alone in front of the dog before serving the bowl.

  4. A dog can never sit higher than the owner, e.g. higher on the stairs - a pet cannot overtake. The owner must always go first up the stairs because the dog must be lower. Also, entering the floor (eg at home) should not be allowed to the dog, because there is a "human nest".

  5. The dog cannot demand our attention - you should chase away or ignore your pet whenever the uninvited one gets in our way or tries to approach.

  6. A dog never goes through the door first and cannot pull on a leash - it gives the pet the feeling that he is leading his pack. Each attempt to exit the first through the door must be quickly shortened by hitting the door (not hard) with the dog's nose.

The formulated methods of reducing the dog's position in the "human herd" were aimed at achieving psychological superiority or leadership and achieving control over his behavior. It also probably helped to popularize this theory by simply explaining all unwanted dog behavior. Because [4] "the discovery that the hierarchy is in force in the wolf pack led to the fact that all dog behavior towards man is explained by the animal's alleged pursuit of a dominant position in the home hierarchy." According to Donaldson [4], the most common behaviors rated by their owners as dominant include:

  • Aggression or biting, especially towards family members

  • Pulling on a leash

  • Getting dirty at home, let alone in bed

  • Destroying valuable items

  • Welcome owner skipping

  • Refusal to come on call

  • Begging at the table

  • Overtaking at the door

  • Sleeping on furniture where it is not allowed

  • Theft of food and various items

It is also a very comfortable theory for people, because due to the fact that it is quite easy and simple, it gives him the feeling that he does not have to learn about other methods of training dogs, because it is the "medicine for all evil". In addition, this theory is a reinforces the position of a dog as guardian and justifies the use of violence. Because in order to prevent becoming dominated and keeping the dog "in control" to allegedly show him who rules at home, some owners may apply (if the techniques of reducing status do not work enough) in addition physical punishments such as pinching, grabbing the nape of the neck and crushing the pooch to the floor, or knocking him over his back, which wolves potentially used to dominate other individuals in the herd.

Such claims are inconsistent with science and have nothing to do with the theory of wolf pack. It should be emphasized that the research on the basis of which the theory of dominance was based was performed on captive wolves, who were strangers with each other (in some studies they were random individuals from various zoos). It is known, therefore, that there is a significant difference between the animal's behavior in the wild and locked in a cage. Such an environment mainly caused stress, feelings of anger and even apathy, which eventually led to forceful attempts to define the hierarchy. In the wild, these animals live in groups (parents and several individuals related to this pair) in which they separate tasks and responsibilities and motivate young individuals to develop their social and hunting predispositions. Studies of wolves carried out in the wild show that packs are not dominated by the alpha pair. There is no rivalry or aggressive behavior here, which shows that their mutual relations are completely different than those of randomly related individuals living in captivity. Rather, wolves function as a family and support each other for survival. Many of the so-called rules of dominance are revoked, because wolves avoid physical confrontations and conflicts (they use a fairly rich language of signals and gestures to resolve any dispute), and real self-confident individuals behave rather gently [2].

Also, transferring the above observations of wolf behavior directly to pet dogs is erroneous. Because, as you know, a dog is not a wolf and I do not mean only the anatomical differences between them, which are many. Of course, they have common ancestors and they can interbreed with each other giving fertile offspring, but their behavior varies considerably. What's more, some patterns of behavior and organization of their dog structure differ depending on the breed they come from - what is important for one breed does not seem to matter to another. The differences in behavior (wolf and dog), as well as their social structure, result from the process of evolution (since the wolf was domesticated) [3]. Wolf and dog are two different species with common roots. These changes result from both natural and artificial selection. As demonstrated by a study on foxes by Professor Belayev, "changes in appearance are very much linked to behavioral changes (in addition, these changes occur very quickly)". So, returning to the dog / wolf difference - above all their pyramid of needs is different. The needs of wolves are mainly due to the need to survive (including eating and drinking, area of ​​life, allowing offspring), while dogs have a completely different case. As "their owners" we provide them water and food (so he does not have to look for himself or duel for it), his territory is in fact our home and the surrounding area. In addition, reproduction is also dependent on us humans whether we allow it or not. Therefore, it follows that the dog is totally subordinate to us and the most important for him are: food, toys, interaction with people, walks and many other things that have been implemented in his life. Also the difference between a dog and a wolf is visible in their structure of hunting behavior [2]:


Track -> lurk -> chase -> grab -> bite> kill -> tear -> eat


(in this case border coliie - shepherd dog grazing "by the head")

Gaze -> lurk -> chase -> (grab)

You can also notice a few significant changes occurring at separate stages of development (e.g. during the acquisition of anxiety behavior). Puppies can easily make contact with people, while wolf puppies are not confident towards other species. Dogs also strive to meet with individuals of other breeds or species, while similar encounters with wolves would often end in a fight (wolves from other groups generally try to avoid each other). In the book "Understanding a Dog" by John Bradshaw, an experiment was described that shows that dogs, unlike wolves, easily establish harmonious relationships with unrelated dogs with whom they met, being adults.

The concept of herd is another factor refuting the theory of dominance. Defining the word herd is a group of individuals of the same species living in a specific territory for the purpose of giving birth, obtaining food and mutual protection. So, the fact is, with a few exceptions, that dogs can only form a group with other dogs. To sum up - it cannot be said that we were creating one herd with dogs. It is not known why, therefore, if they do not treat us as members of the herd, they would compete with us, especially since we are the main source of everything that they need (food, movement, etc.). In addition, the results of the latest scientific research have shown that dogs are social animals, not herd, as always claimed. This was noted, among others, by Marc Bekoff, who observed wild dogs that did not form any groups. Each dog in the group could (and did) breed and no linear hierarchy was visible between these dogs. In addition, other studies [3] have shown that in large groups of domestic dogs, especially among some northern breeds, such as husky, manifestations of dominant behavior may appear when access to important resources is limited. However, these behaviors are variable, which is why a dog may be threatening when it has bones, and then after 30 minutes another dog may threaten others with a toy. It is a fluid system in which each member of the group has a chance for collision-free coexistence. This system is different from the strictly hierarchical structure necessary for the survival of the species, as is the case with wild wolves, which ultimately are concerned with controlling reproductive rights. Moreover, if dominance were an important factor in social interaction between dogs, breeders would complain that only one bitch from their kennel can have offspring.

Also the very difference in the definition of dominance is an example of the lack of application of dominance theory to dogs. According to the words [2] of Danish ethologist Roger Abrantes, wolf dominance "... is the pursuit of elimination of sexual rivals" and "hierarchy is a relationship based on dominance and submission, established and maintained through ritualized behavior." Considering everything described above and supervising everything that is related to our dog, along with reproductive capabilities, Abranters's definition has nothing to do with dogs. So, everything that is described in the given paragraph is an example of the fact that a dog no longer thinks like "his distant cousin", that is, he cannot be it. So, using the theory of dominance (which is based on wolves) towards the dog is wrong. Convinced that dogs have retained important wolf character traits, it is not only outdated, but also testifies to the deeply rooted misunderstanding of wolf behavior. Also, most of the rules, introduced by John Fisher and instilled for a long time, which say dog owners should control the dog and its bad behavior, really miss the goal and is worth discussing [2]:

  1. "The dog never eats first" - it was claimed that in the pack of wolves, the alpha male eats first. However, David Mech (expert in the field of wolf biology) observing wolves living in the natural environment believes that [2]: "If the prey is small, parents eat first, but when the food is too little, first puppies will be fed. If the prey is large enough, all herd members eat together, regardless of their position. " So, let's imagine - individuals standing at the top of the hierarchical ladder eat first. The prey is small. Would puppies and slightly older wolves at the very end of the hierarchy survive? It wouldn't take long for them, and older individuals would weaken after some time (speed problems etc. would arise when needed for hunting) and eventually they would die, so that there would be no one to help them and then replace them. A group of animals that relies heavily on teamwork, just like hunting and caring for the young, would be a community that would never survive if the young had to wait all the time for the 'leaders' to eat first. The situation is similar with wild African dogs, where the youngest puppies eat first, then yearly pooches and then adolescents. Such an organization ensures the survival of the whole group and hence - each of its members.

  2. "The dog does not sleep in our bed" - theoretically (according to the theory of dominance), when the dog "uses" our furniture, the animal is on a par with us (according to the herd hierarchy). And as you know - the pack leader will never share with a lower-ranking individual with the most comfortable place to rest. Which is total nonsense, because as I wrote earlier, the herd consists of individuals of the same species, and for the dog we are a completely different species. Also, the fact that all his needs, aimed at its survival, are provided by us - people, he does not have to create any herd with us. So to sum up - if he does not have to create a herd with people, then there is really no reason why we should dominate him to become an alpha. Dogs actually get on our sofas and beds for several reasons. Our beds are comfortable, soft, warm and most importantly - they smell us. The smell of the guardian makes the pooch feel safer, and when we are gone - makes the pet miss less. In addition, when it comes to couches, they are a good vantage point for dogs and that is why they are so eagerly chosen by our pets. And it can be just cold for pooch ...

  3. "A dog never passes through the door first and cannot pull on a leash" - generally, the alpha individual passes first and continues to carry its pack. However, David Mech claims that [2]: "wolves often follow riverbeds, animal tracks, or their old routes. There are episodes where you know where the herd is heading, so any wolf can lead the herd for some time. " So, wondering - when our dog passes and even pushes first through the door, does it immediately have in mind: "I will be a leader!"? I don't think so :) He is just curious / eager and wants to leave the house as soon as possible so that he can experience all the attractions associated with going out for a walk (e.g. after 8 hours alone at home). And pulling on a leash is not dominance but the effect of not training the dog. The animal pulls because it wants to get to the place / object it sees faster.

  4. "The dog can't win" - in my opinion this is a weak and at the same time funny argument that pulling the rope will make the dog a dominant. Joint games allow us to establish a bond with a pet, unload his energy and satisfy hunting instincts. Pulling a rope, for example, is focused on cooperation, not competition (it's like tearing the victim together). Besides, nobody would like to lose constantly. Dogs, like people, very often get discouraged and lose the desire for any fun.

  5. "A dog cannot demand our attention" - a pet demands our attention when he wants to "say" something to us, e.g. that he must urgently go out when he needs it or that there is no water in his bowl. If the dog's behavior becomes excessive or even pathological, this is important information, because something is probably happening to our pet, e.g. something hurts. Part of being a good guardian of a dog is establishing a mutual relationship with him. The guardian should want his dog to contact him and strengthen his every attempt to communicate, because such mutual social contact is very much needed by both.

Some of these principles were even scientifically tested, but none could be supported by evidence [5]: "During one of the studies, dogs were allowed to constantly win in drag games with a person. Naturally, thanks to this, dogs were more likely to play it than when they had to lose every time, and yet there were no signs that as a result of these winnings they became "dominant". Another study showed that the dogs that always won with the owners were not less obedient than the animals of people who never let them win. What's more, dogs that belonged to people who liked contact games with their pets, such as all sorts of wrestling, were noticeably more related to them than those kept at a distance. Dogs allowed to break these rules not only did not control the behavior of their owners, moreover, they were not more aggressive, and they should, if their owners unwittingly gave them the green light to take control at home. "

In my opinion, most of the principles of this theory are absurd as explained above. Some of the tips logically resulting from this misunderstanding of the dog's nature are harmless. Instead, others that are used rigorously can destroy the dog's bond with the owner. Personally, if I had to "support" this theory, I could somehow understand and agree with only two principles: the dog does not sleep in our bed - which is really an individual matter, due to hygiene. In fact, one is disturbed by the pet's hair to a greater or lesser extent, while the other is not completely meaningful and the dog does not go through the door first - taking into account the dog's safety. You can imagine different situations that can happen when a dog (even on a leash) runs out of the staircase ... Allowing or disabling dogs depends on us and the rules prevailing in our home and whether we want it or not. It does not depend on our relationship / closeness with the pet.

Finally, I would like to add a sentence on the strength methods used by supporters of the theory of dominance, especially turning dogs over to the back. This method also came from a bad perception and understanding of typical behavior of wolves in a pack [4]. According to Donaldson: The fact that it happens that one wolf "takes on its own" a position showing its abdomen vis-à-vis the other wolf to certify its and its social position cannot be a reason for the owner to force the dog to roll back (so-called alpha flip) to show him that he is the "boss". Because neither of these two animal species ever compel each other to take such positions.

Despite the refutation of this theory some time ago, a large part of the population, including dog trainers and behaviorists, still wholeheartedly supports this theory and believes that its application is the only way to control the dog. What's worse (not everyone, however, you can still meet many of them), trainers still believe in the old, supposedly "proven methods”. They do not want to learn or check what is new. They don't even think about such things as: proper training conditions and proper conditioning of the dog. Therefore, at the end, we "receive" dogs that are inaccurate and insufficiently trained and can still be a great proof of the theory of dominance. And in fact we are constantly coming back to the starting point. Also one of the books (published in 1990 "Eye of a dog"), mentioned at the beginning of the most famous supporter of the theory of dominance, John Fisher is considered by many people as the best book on raising a dog (it is worth mentioning that at the end of his life the author withdrew his views on the theory of dominance). Also books by Cesar Millan propagating this theory, will become "alpha leader / boss / male" and the use of methods based on corrections, jerks, and turning sideways / backs are for many people a "dog bible." It is also worth mentioning his words here as evidence [7]: "Dogs have a deeply rooted herd mentality. If you don't secure a leadership position for your dog, he will compensate for it through dominant or unbalanced behavior. " Other famous trainers / behaviorists who approve of this theory include: Victoria Stilwell running the program: "Me or my dog" and Colin Tennant (dog trainer and behaviorist). The theory of the wolf pack is so deeply rooted in the minds of many owners that even behaviors showing submission, such as licking the face or even resting the paw or a fake on the owner's knee, are considered by them as the first signs of dominance and adequately treated. However, the falsely understood theory of dominance, and with it the attempt to subordinate the dog, gives the effect completely opposite to the intended one. Most of the rules aimed at lowering our quadruped's position are based on [2] taking his prize away, be it by impeding access to food or contact with our pet. Preparing a portion of food for a dog, and then not giving it to him until we have eaten himself, is really a very strong punishment. Among dogs for whom food is a very important part of the day (such as golden retrievers or labradors), waiting and watching how its owner eats causes stress, frustration and unnecessary suffering (in the case of non-shih-tzu dogs, whoever eats the meal first, it won't matter). According to Barry Eaton [2], "the result of receiving the expected reward, or unexpected punishment, may be a conflict with the owner or apathy. As a result, the dog may get deep depression, and what's worse, despite receiving so many psychological penalties associated with lowering status, it will turn out that the dog's problem has not gone away at all. " In addition, if, in addition to introducing explicit rules, we also use physical violence (force methods) towards a pet, we act through intimidation (these techniques cause pain and confusion for the dog), which results in the fact that more submissive dogs usually learn to avoid and even fear guardians in potentially difficult situations, while in others the problem of aggression is more or less increasing or (even in a "sweet dog") is just beginning to appear (as a defense effect to protect against a harsh approach). Problems with transferred aggression may appear (e.g. a dog may translate aggressive behavior from another dog into its owner). Random punishment can also cause suppression of reactions or excessive fearfulness or withdrawal (so-called learned helplessness). Also, the bond with the dog, which is the key to communication and success in working together, is broken. The violence-based relationship means that the dog's trust is lost and his sense of security is diminished, so it's worth considering if it sounds like the relationship you want to have with your dog? Also, followers of the theory of dominance, based on its principles, without playing with such pets at all, such as dragging, deprive themselves and of course the dog not only super fun, but above all a quick, healthy and pleasant opportunity to "take away" the dog's energy (dogs because of lack of fun, they become bored, frustrated and suppressed.) Such fun also increases the bond with the caregiver, so avoiding such games is not possible to build any or even better bonds. It is also worth noting here, especially with regard to hunting dogs that the lack of such games may become a reason for problems with the dog's behavior (such as racing cars etc.). Because games such as e.g. hunting are not only great fun but give the opportunity to escape (controlled) for hunting behavior [2, 4].

I would also like to pay special attention to how the theory of dominance and especially strength methods can transform a cute pooch into an aggressive dog. Owners to "teach a dog the rules" often grab him by the skin and shake him. Often you can also notice (owners with a bitch or just breeders know it) that the bitch, having to teach her energetic manners in some situations, also grabs his neck, but lets go as soon as he gives a signal that he knows what's going on. And here is a significant difference. Because, the owner, not knowing the signals the pet sends him in the same situation, never stops holding his neck or pressing to the floor. The puppy quickly sees that sending the first (of a whole series) calming signals (such as yawning) does not help because the guide keeps holding, goes to the next level and therefore uses another stronger sign - a snarl. If the owner turns out to be a fanatical follower of the theory, he will consider the pooch as "extremely dominant character" and begin to push the pooch even harder. Such a dog may be seriously afraid of the owner or even begin to use aggression. In such a situation, immediately after the dog snarled, if the guardian released him immediately, the pooch will learn that this behavior works, so as the theory claims: "every behavior will be rewarded." So such a man, through his own fault, thoughtlessness and being a crazy follower of this theory, begins to raise a dog himself, who, step by step, develops aggressive behavior more and more. To confirm these words, I would like to quote here a fragment of the story described in the book [6], in which the golden retriever Scooter is presented, which was put to sleep as a result of an incompetent trainer council - followers of the theory of dominance. "The 4 month old Scooter (...) was obsessed with toys (like any retriever). The owners, during a visit to a dog school, asked what to do if a pooch steals socks or a TV remote control. "You have to do what the wolves do! Grab him by the neck, pull him to your face, shake him and shout straight in the nose - you mustn't! The sooner he learns who rules here the better. " The owners followed the advice. At first Scooter was terrified, he assumed a serf attitude, he waited but he did not let the toys go. All he understood was that the owner was attacking him for no reason. Every day the owner shouted and jerked the dog more and more. The scooter turned from a scared dog into a dog threatening to growl. And in the last stage he threw himself at the owner when he approached him even a step. So dominant aggression was found and the dog was put to sleep. " I described this story very briefly, only to show that the dog's strong subordination and the use of methods based on comparing dogs to wolves is wrong and can cause a lot of trouble and even tragic consequences. Let's also imagine such a story that we have a labrador or a poodle (usually dogs that love people, looking for intimacy with them) "after crossing" or just shy, unable to find a new place. If such a dog went to the family - followers of the theory, who would apply the principle that the dog should be ignored when he demands our attention or even cuddling with the guardians on the sofa or in bed, they would most likely deprive him of perhaps the only method to build a bond and trust new family. Also controlled play and constantly winning the owner would not help the dog. Such a dog in order to feel better and safer in a new place must be surrounded by love, be petted and even should win games many times to feel more confident. And if we take into account the breed considered to be aggressive. He deliberately writes here 'supposedly', because in my opinion dogs are not born aggressive and everything is a matter of upbringing etc. But returning to the subject - e.g. akita or pitbull, if we assume somewhat aggressive behavior. Such dogs should not be conducted aggressively (the wolf pack theory allows the use of violence) because they can also respond with aggression (tipping over or pinching can quickly upset them). Also for these dogs, food is not an indifferent part of the day, and as I mentioned earlier, observing the eating owner with an empty stomach is simply frustrating and therefore by arousing negative emotions it can increase the problem with aggression. Therefore, the application of dominance theory in this case could result in a dog attack on the owner.

"The most common and harmful view that has penetrated into dog training techniques is the belief that wherever they are, dogs try to build a hierarchy based on dominance. This idea led to an extremely misunderstanding of the social relations of dogs, both between animals in one home, and between dogs and their owner. The prevailing view of dogs is that every individual of this species feels an irresistible need to dominate and control their social partners. In fact, the word 'dominance' often appears in this context. About dogs attacking people they know, they are often referred to as "aggressive related to dominance." This term is also sometimes mistakenly used to describe a dog's personality. The book has a quote from the American Dog Training Network website: "The dominant dog knows what he wants and decides to get it in every available way. Has grace, even a lot. When it does not work, he is stubborn because of the big U. And when everything else fails, he adopts a certain attitude. " This can be considered as a description of an unruly and untrained dog. However, he says nothing about his relationship with other dogs, dominant or not. Another inaccurate or misleading use of the word "dominant" when referring to dog training is the statement by Cesar Millan, who was mentioned earlier, about dogs trying to "dominate" cats and about a dog chasing laser light to dominate them. A biologist would consider such behavior of the animal without hesitation as predatory and not social. The word "dominance", used correctly, means something completely different from what dog trainers and others attribute to it. The term simply describes the relationship between two individuals at a particular moment. It doesn't give any clues as to how this situation happened or how long it will last. Nothing is known about the personalities of these two individuals. The biologist would probably say that by placing the dominant individual in a different social situation, he might as well stop being dominant. In addition, the term is only a description, not stating whether these two animals are aware that their relationship is dominated "[5]. You can read more about this in John Bradshaw's book “Dog Sense”.

Many owners of their dogs claim that after the introduction of dominance theory, their pets' behavior improved significantly. However, this does not mean that the theory of dominance is "a cure for all evil," but the fact that determining the dog of any clear rules and consistent compliance with them had an impact on this. Similarly, these principles can be applied the other way around and the effect would be the same. The dog feels best in a world where everything is ordered, there are rules. If they are not there, the dog has a so-called "self-will" and can behave as he wants, because he does not know what is good and what is bad. So to sum up briefly - introducing them to him makes the pooch simply behave better. It is also worth considering whether the same principles cannot be implemented in a more humane way. For example: walking right next to the leg can be taught by continuous adjustments, i.e. immediate and unexpected jerk of the spike or clamp chain, in other words: punishing the dog as soon as it starts to move away from us or we can teach the pooch in a more humane way, i.e. using the positive method strengthen and reward him, for example, with a treat when the pooch is walking next to us. Trained with such methods (it is worth mentioning here the supporters of these methods - Karen Pryor, Patricia McConell and Jean Donaldson) dogs are not afraid to try to present different behaviors in order to find the one that we "mean". In addition, they show them eagerly because they know that if they show us appropriate behavior they will be rewarded with taste or caress. So let's think if it's better to have and train a pooch who focuses on us (or even at the beginning on a treat) and tries to please us by trying to understand and do what we mean or focusing only on avoiding punishment? How does the dog feel then and how does this affect confidence in its guide? Does he want to keep learning or is he completely demotivated?

Finally, it is also worth emphasizing that there is no single perfect solution for every problem with dog behavior. There are many, because every man and dog is different. For example, hunting dogs, sled dogs or companion dogs have completely different expectations and needs and show different natural predispositions. In addition, the previous experience as well as the time and intensity of socialization of each dog are radically different. Therefore, the use of a universal dog repair pattern (I deliberately use such words here, because people often forget that a dog is a living creature - thinking, feeling pain and various emotions - and do not always want to go to the trouble and wonder why their pet behaves they want it only the universal and fastest method for all troubles) in all cases is simply impossible. The way of upbringing / therapy / training must be adapted to the specific case, based on positive motivation and adequate to the breed, using its natural abilities without harming the pet we deal with as little as possible. A proper understanding of individual characteristics associated with the type of dog is definitely more important than assessing his "dominance". Therefore, if you have a problem pooch, you should think carefully about his behavior (and also go before what good and obviously have current behaviorist knowledge) and be aware of all the consequences of your behavior instead of blaming your behavioral mistakes on the dog and attach the label "dominant ". Instead of repeating "why my pooch behaves like this?" And making dominance theories all the time, it would be much better to think if this is due to any of the following reasons for incorrect behavior:

  • There is a stronger stimulus around the pooch

  • The dog has never been shown / taught how to behave in given situations

It is worth noting that many of our dogs' unacceptable behaviors, mentioned among others in the first part of the work, are the result of the fact that they are strengthened by us with more or less awareness. Quite often, we never taught our dog to respect the rules of the human world. As I wrote earlier, dogs feel best in places where some rules are set, thanks to which they know how they can and should behave. When they are gone, the pooch will probably be lost and thus use "self-will" or presenting many behaviors in order to find "right in his eyes" the right one. So, hence: if the pet has not been taught that e.g. taking and eating anything from the table is unacceptable, how can he know that? It is natural for a dog to take advantage of every 'free food' opportunity. Be the problem of not returning a pooch on a call - it turns out many times that the owner never practiced with him this activity among the distractions .. So remember that if we take a dog to our home, it is our duty to show him what is good and what is not and hence - to help the pooch move in a new world for him. The dog-human relationship is a two-way relationship, which means that your dog's behavior is a reaction to our behavior as a guide / guardian and not as a male alpha. Our pet can faultlessly recognize and understand our moods, moods and behaviors. It is worth remembering and working not only on the behavior of the dog but also on your own. Because the owner who, instead of being calm and confident, is emotionally unstable, impulsive, applying punishments and corrections, frustrated and not believing in himself or his dog, is doomed to failure.

For many years, concepts emphasizing the similarities between dogs and wolves and the theory of dominance caused a lot of damage, both for dogs and owners (although it should be remembered that, unfortunately, dogs are still commonly trained based on old stereotypes - despite their overthrow). I am referring to unnecessary and harsh (especially psychological - stress and frustration) treatment of innocent animals. The dominant behavior presented by wolves is completely different from similar-looking behavior of dogs, which is why programs for reducing position in the pack and blaming any negative behavior in the eyes of the owner on wolf habits of dogs do not provide adequate help to caregivers with problem dogs. It is worth quoting a fragment of the book devoted to the differences between the two species [1]: "Dogs may be closely related to wolves, but that does not mean that they behave like wolves. Humans are closely related to chimpanzees, but they neither behave like chimps, nor do anyone treat them as a subspecies of chimpanzees. " Raising a dog means establishing lasting bonds, communication and using training methods based on mutual understanding and respect. Paying attention to what motivates a pet and what rewards him most in everyday situations, what are the needs, predispositions and needs of a given breed, what were his previous experiences and how he went through the first critical period of socialization, and what he has learned so far will help effectively the owner in gaining control over the behavior of the pet and strengthening the relationship and cooperation between him and the dog. For a dog, we should be a calm, consistent and confident guide and safety guardian, not an opponent with whom he must fight a position in the ranks. What a dog desires and needs for a happy life (apart from food, love, etc.), is stupid and consistently applied rules and showing him what choices will be better for him and for us. Using the principles described in the theory of dominance, which force owners to constantly fight for status, you can very easily lose the joy of living together with a dog, which is an animal that is unique in many respects. The dog is the only one for which the human environment is the natural environment. Therefore, as the only animal, it is always everywhere where man reaches and lives from the equator to the Arctic regions. According to Coppinger [1], the dog is a kind of wolf stuck in the adolescent phase, who has kept his will to play all his life and got rid of the neophobia proper to all adult animals (a drug against previously unknown situations). Thanks to this, it easily adapts to all human conditions and changes like traveling or contact with various people or animals. The dog is also the only such faithful animal that we can punish, and it will come back to us anyway. Therefore, it should be remembered that if the partner bond between the guardian and such a wonderful pet cannot be repaired, the victim will always be the dog.

Magda Tobiaszewska Vandepitte

Maddie's Dog Academy


1. „Dogs” – Ray and Lorna Coppinger

2. „Dominance in Dogs: Fact or Fiction” – Barry Eaton

3. Course COAPE „Dog school”

4. „The Culture Clash” – Jean Donaldson

5. „Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet” – John Bradshaw

6. „The Other End of the Leash” – Patricia McConnell

7. „Be the Pack Leader” – Cesar Millan, Melissa Jo Peltier

183 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page