I think I must be really different than other dog people, because I actually listen to and seek out opinions from veterinarians and behaviorists. And, trust me, if I acted the following way in my vet’s office (and these incidents are 100% true), he’d throw me out in a heartbeat. How veterinarian, Dr. Jessica Volgelsang (Dr. V of Pawcurious fame), keeps her cool is just beyond me.
The ALWAYS fabulous Dr. Ian Dunbar (veterinarian, behaviorist & writer) speaks to dog trainers never actually listening …. and he is actually spot on. Just listen to him detail 3 simple strategies to successfully training a dog, which so many folks typically disregard.
We love the honesty in this recent video from Dr. Dunbar on binary feedback. We find that there is too much black and white in the training world, instead of realizing that a common sense eclectic approach that embraces the realistic grays of life is crucial.
The force and fear-based training of old is sadly still very much present today, with the utilization of positive and motivational approaches very much in the minority. And, it may be due to such training being given continuing voice in the media, such as we see in the strangely named, and in our opinion, horrid Dog Whisperer (Cesar Millan’s) show on the National Geographic Channel.
Dr. Sophia Yin speaks to this in her article: Experts Say Dominance-Based Dog Training Techniques Made Popular by Television Shows Can Contribute to Dog Bites.
According to a recent veterinary study published in The Journal of Applied Animal Behavior (2009), if you’re aggressive to your dog, your dog will be aggressive, too.
Says Meghan Herron, DVM, lead author of the study, “Our study demonstrated that many confrontational training methods, whether staring down dogs, striking them, or intimidating them with physical manipulation such as alpha rolls [holding dogs on their back], do little to correct improper behavior and can elicit aggressive responses.”
These techniques are pervasive in many T.V. shows and some popular books. For instance, The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan routinely demonstrates alpha rolls, dominance downs and forced exposure to things that cause fear or aggression, and has depicted Millan restraining dogs or performing physical corrections in order to take valued possessions away from them.
And like their previous bestselling books, Divine Canine by the Monks of New Skete focuses on correcting bad behaviors using choke chain and pinch collar corrections rather than proven non-aversive techniques.
These sources attribute undesirable or aggressive behavior in dogs to the dog’s striving to gain 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.
But according to the AVSAB position statement on The Use of Dominance Theory in Animal Behavior Modification, undesirable behaviors are most frequently due to inadvertent rewarding of undesirable behaviors and lack of consistent rewarding of desirable behaviors.
Learn lots more about dog training here. You will be glad you did.