Monday, October 29, 2012
A New Paradyme - Releasing Dominance Theory
Because it was a slip collar it went on easily and came off the same. But it was only there to contain a dog in it's initial training phase, not as a method of control. There were no, or very few, leash laws when I was growing up and going to college and even into the 80's and that's what I think of when I'm working with dogs. I still train as naked as possible and teach others to do the same.
Dog owners and trainers often use the “dominance” theory to explain and make excuses for a variety of unwanted canine behaviors. This concept is also used to justify the use of aversive tools and techniques designed to over-power a dog with the objective of intimidating the dog into submission in order to stop those behaviors. This type of “training” works because the dog becomes afraid to move in certain manners for fear of pain or the pressure of intimidation and challenge.
These methods teach avoidance but do nothing to address the root cause of the behavior issue - issues which are usually only issues because humans don't like them. It’s much like doctors who treat pain with pain killers as opposed to finding out what is causing the pain and curing that.
Things like spitting in the dog's food to handle food aggression, peeing on the wall higher then the dog is peeing to make a dog stop marking in the house, alpha roles that don't truly exist in nature, scruff shaking so hard it causes the same internal damage as a shaken baby, hanging the dog by it's collar until it passes out or vomits and a plethora of weird and wacky means to "put a dog in it's place".
You don't see much of the weirdest of these techniques, but they often made me wonder, in those days before the Internet and easy access to information, if the main techniques of harsh obedience training, alpha roles, poking the neck and kicking the abdomen are from the same trough as spitting in the food and peeing on the wall. I've seen it all, tried it all, discarded all of it after the first use. There were techniques that I did keep around for a long time however. But again, only with my clients, never with my own dogs.
I ask you, as a thinking reasoning being, to try and get the concept that culture and nurture play a huge role in how a creature views it's world, what it considers reinforcement and how it responds to danger and even what it considers dangerous. A human from the depths of the Amazon jungle would NOT pick up that $100 bill. A human born and raised in Los Angeles would not eat monkey brains. Dogs have been domesticated for a very long time, they are no longer, by environment, nurture or nature, wolves, just as we are no longer aborigines living by the spear in the jungle.
For example, I no longer teach the words “obedience” or “command” to clients. Obedience is not a natural thing for a dog, it's demeaning and was born from the need to quickly train dogs during war time to be messengers. It was never meant for pet dogs. The greatest percentage of my clients just want a pet that doesn't drive them nuts with behaviors (natural to dogs) that are dangerous, annoying or intimidating. In the past I would tell them to be the pack leader and give them a set of rules to live by. Then teach the dog to obey about six commands and this was all supposed to produce a dog that could be lived with. The Canine Good Citizen test is the epitome of this philosophy. It has 10 testing points, none of which actually address how humans and dogs can live together in harmony.
So, dominance theory in a small package. Myth topped off by seeing one situation and applying it to all. The same way dominance theory came into being for all trainers.