The Dominance Controversy and Cesar Millan

Dr. Sophia Yin, besides being an incredible veterinarian and behaviorist, is a wonderful writer and educational resource. Her articles are so easily understood, and she has the ability to speak wisely to the training of days old and to that of the present day.

We’ve all heard advice that relates dog behavior to wolf social behavior: “Always eat before your dog and go through doorways first because that’s what a dominant wolf would do.” “If your dog growls or barks inappropriately or otherwise misbehaves, put him in his place by doing an alpha roll where you force him onto his back until he submits. That way you can be the boss.”

20 years ago when I started training, this is the type of advice I gave because it was all I knew. At that time, like everyone else, the choke chain and pinch collar and a well-timed correction formed the cornerstone of my methods. And I thought that dominance was the root of all behavior problems. Combined with a strong ability to read aggressive dogs, a lack of fear of being bitten, and fervor for trying to master the techniques of whomever I could, these methods and ideologies served me well. But I am always searching for something better.

Present Day: Since then, our understanding of dog behavior in relation to wolves, as well as our understanding of dominance and social hierarchies have advanced. Wolf biologists now rarely use the term alpha when referring to pack leaders in the wild. Ethologists have agreed that dominant wolves do not force subordinates into an alpha roll. And studies on the process of domestication and on canine communication are making it evermore clear that a dog is not wolf.

Dr. Yin’s HTML has created a one-stop page that effectively addresses The Dominance Controversy and Cesar Millan. I have not seen anyone else provide such a wonderful, thought out, video-enhanced, and educationally stimulating discussion. I only wish the Discovery Channel would listen to her words, or someone would get Dr. Yin and Cesar Millan together for a truly instructional program.

The Dominance Controversy and Cesar Millan page is an imperative MUST READ for anyone who interacts with dogs, such as: dog trainers, veterinarians, veterinary personnel, dog owners and lovers, rescue & shelter workers, groomers, dog walkers, puppy raisers, etc. The little video clip tests that she provides are simply perfect at communicating difficult concepts in an instructional and attention-grabbing fashion.

The page effectively takes you through the following sequence:

  1. Definition of Dominance
  2. Test Yourself on the Definition
  3. Other Facts about Dominance Hierarchies
  4. Science & Psychology of Behavior Modification
  5. Addressing the Underlying Emotional State
  6. Can Giving Treats Make an Animal Aggressive
  7. Positive Does not Mean Permissive
  8. What to Take out of Shows such as The Dog Whisperer
  9. Why some Dogs Improve When Punishment is Used

Please visit our Land of PureGold Foundation site for more on behavior training and management.