An article publish in the Kennel Club Accredited Instructors Scheme newsletter ‘The Standard’ talks about this years latest fad ‘Yellow ribbons’. The editor Annie writes as follows;
“The buzz words this year have certainly been ‘yellow’ and ‘ribbon’. Put them together and you get the latest fad of tying a yellow ribbon to the dog’s lead. Why? Because you, the owner, feel that your dog needs space. The yellow ribbon is supposedly for the dogs safety and well-being. You tie it on the lead to show the world the dog is post-op, unwell, in season, old and grumpy, nervous, a pup in training, etc. and i don’t deny these are all laudable reasons on paper. However yellow ribbons plus any one of the above reasons means you are placing the dogs welfare on the shoulders of the general public and this is neither fair nor is it right. The owner/handler is the person who is both morally and legally responsible for the welfare and behaviour of the dog at all times; well or unwell, young or old, in training or in season. And what about nervous dogs who gaily tie a yellow ribbon to the dogs lead or put a yellow bandana round the dog’s neck expecting the public to get out of the way, just in case their dog takes a pop at another dog or a passer-by? the man in the street is (a) probably not going to see the ribbon tied on the lead and (b) if he does, will almost certainly have no idea of its significance.
Suppose the nervous dog with his yellow ribbon is frightened of babies in push chairs or kids on bikes - are these human targets supposed to see the yellow ribbon and take evasive action, possibly putting themselves at risk, just in case? Some nervous dog’s bite first and ask questions later. And be advised a yellow ribbon won’t mean a thing in a court case.
The way I see it, promoting the use of a yellow ribbon for any reason is like giving the handler a free pass for less than responsible behaviour and if things go wrong it will be the dog that will suffer.”
Monday, 30 December 2013
The Pack Rules theory was created in order to prevent the domestic dog from becoming the ‘Alpha Leader’ of the pack in the home. The ‘Alpha Leader’ would dominate the rest of the pack by intimidation. But where did this theory of dominance come from?
According to Barry Eaton in his book “Dominance in Dogs”, Dominance theory comes about from the following steps.
- Wolf social structure is entirely explained by a linear dominace hierarchy in which there is a constant battle to be alpha dog and dominate the rest of the pack.
- Domestic dogs are descended from wolves so the same must apply to them.
- Domestic dogs are trying to dominate us.
- We should issue a preemptive strike and dominate dogs by enforcing strict rules harshly.
Lets look at number one from the list above. This idea of a linear hierarchy producing the ‘Alpha wolf’ came from studies published by Rudolph Schenkel a prominent Swiss Biologist and Behaviourist. These studies were based on a population of captive wolves in the 1930’s and 1940’s. What Schenkel observed was wolves fighting for dominance and position. The studies were published in a paper entitled ‘Expression Studies On Wolves’. Captivity Observations by R. Schenkel. The observation took place in the Basle Zoological Gardens in Switzerland. Beginning in 1934 and completing in 1942. Schenkel did recognise the impact on the wolves behaviour from being held captive and extended the studies in length of time and other venues and different canine species to try to make some sort of comaprison. However the studies were later pronounced to be flawed in that they were studying wolves in a captive situation and not in their natural environment. The studies involved watching wolves that had been caught from diferent areas and put together in a Zoo environment. There were a number of males and females and different ages. Male wolves were observed fighting to be top dog to give them the right to mate with the top female. This coming together took part at the same time once every year. It was thought from this that indeed wolves did fight for ‘Apha’ position and that presumably this occurred in the wild. Schenkel did state in his paper that observations of wild wolf packs were not yet available to confirm these findings. It was therefore safe to surmise that since, as was thought then, domestic dogs were descended from wolves that the dogs behaviour if left unchecked would reflect what the captive wolves behaviour showed i.e. this dominance behaviour to be top dog. The theory goes on in that it was resonable to hypothesise that since most domestic dogs came into the house as a single dog then it formed a pack with its human members of the house. This is because both humans and dogs are typically social species. So now that a pack was formed, which included a dog, then the ‘fight’ for top dog or ‘Alpha’ was inevitable.
Miya and Caleb enjoying the surf off the coast of Cheswick…Sep 2013
How the dog would try to dominate us was similar to how the Alpha pair expressed their dominance in the captive wolf pack. The captive wolf pack would eat the kill first, leaving the scraps for the rest of the pack. The Alpha would lead the way when moving about the area leading the pack deciding on where and when to go. The best spot in the den, high up over the rest of the den would be were the alpha pair lay, lording over the rest of the pack. This ‘theory’ was the basis of early training in obedience with many dog trainers and indeed it is still the preferred training method for many trainers. Traditional methods of training tell us that we must dominate our dogs before they dominate us. To make sure our dogs did not show these ‘Dominant’ behaviours a list of ‘Do’s and Don’t’s’ were created by early trainers for training the domestic dogs. This list is often referred to as ‘The Pack Rules’. Some training clubs actually passed out copies of these Pack rules to its members to help them. there are still training clubs today which still advocate the Pack rule theory of dog training. So what are the Pack rules.
The diagram above shows a list of some of the pack rules described in Barry Eaton's book.
The list above shows most of the pack rules that trainers use:
- Never feed the dog before the rest of the family.
- Never let your dog up on the furniture or bed.
- Never let the dog lie in doorways between rooms
- Never step over a dog thats lying down always make the dog move
- Always go through a door or gate first before the dog
- Never let the dog pull on the lead
- Don't respond to a dog that comes looking for attention.
- Never play tug games with your dog and never let them win
- Stand in your dogs bed to show them your are top dog
- Force the dog into a down position
- Make the dog do an ‘Alpha’ roll (Force the dog down and roll it onto its back in a submissive position)
All of these rules are meant to instil in the dog that you are top dog and they are further down the pecking order. There is another issue regarding the theory and application of Pack Rules. The theory does not take into consideration the condition of the dog, the age of the dog or any health conditions. All of which will have an impact on it’s behaviour and at different times.
The above is based on the theory that domestic dogs behave like wolves when in a pack situation i.e. the home. But recent evidence refutes this theory and suggests that in fact wolves do not behave anything like what is described above. In a book edited by David Mech a world renowned Wolf expert, He writes that wolf packs in the wild are generally made up of families. the adult breeding pair male and female and usually their siblings and their siblings offspring (sometimes known as an extended pack). Within this unit the adult pair don't always eat first, they don't always decide the best route to take, nor are they the only ones that initiate play or take the best places in the den. Mech L.D. (2003) Leadership in Wolf, Canis Lupus, Packs. Canadian Field-Naturalist.”
Having said that, the domestic dog will try to steal food, pull on the lead, try to get through the door first, find the best spot to lie down and may grumble when approached or asked to move. So if not dominance then what other reasons could there be for these behaviours.
Barry Eaton offers us an answer in his book Dominance Fact or fiction. “Dominance is a concept found in traditional ethology that pertains to an individuals ability to maintain or regulate access to some resources. It is not to do with status”.
What this means is that dogs will do ‘whatever’ they can get away with in order to get access to or keep something that they desire. That could be wanting to get out the door for a walk, or not giving up a shoe or sock when told, or wanting to get to the park as quickly as possible because its exciting. Not because of status.
The following are some examples of were this ability to regulate or maintain access to resources might be the explanation to certain behaviours rather than status building.
Always eat before feeding your dog.
This rule is based on the idea that the ‘alpha’ wolf always eats first in the pack in the wild. traditional training methods therefore tell us that to enforce our position as pack leader in our human/dog pack, we must eat first. There are however a few issues with this particular ‘rule’. Firstly, not in any TV programmes I have watched on Discovery or National Geographic channels or in any of the many books I have read on the subject have I ever seen or read where a pack of wild animals line up behind the ‘Alpha pair’ eating a fresh kill in the middle of the desert waiting their turn in hierarchal order to feast on the kill. David Mech a senior scientist with the Biological Resources division in the US has studied wolves in the wild since 1958 and has written that in fact if kills were small then the breeding pair of wolves would eat first, but if food were scarce then the pups would eat first. If the kill was big enough then all the pack members would feed together regardless of rank. Indeed in times of scarcity pups are fed first to ensure their survival as a species. Mech L.D. (1999) “Alpha, status, dominance, and division of labor in wolf packs.” Canadian journal of Zoology.
Closer to home, logistically, if we were to adopt the method above of eating first then we would need to ensure all the family members were present to feed before the dog were fed to ensure the dog knew that all family members were above it in the rank order. This would need to happen ‘every time’ the dog was fed. As a puppy the dog could be fed up to four times a day and night. How would your children take to being woke up in the early hours of the morning to have something to eat just to reinforce their rank in the pups eyes. In my house the family members tend to be either spread out in many rooms watching TV or playing games consuls and most times we don’t even get home at the same time so synchronise feeding times and would be almost impossible in our house.
Keep the dog off the furniture.
Early research suggested that the ‘Alpha wolf’ maintained the highest spot in the den as a sign of its status. It is there fore vital to an owners rank that they never let the dog sit higher than them, for example on the sofa or bed. As this will raise their status. One of my dogs is a 10 year old Lab called Ben. He loves to sit up on the sofa at night with me watching the telly. Why, because his old bones are sore and he likes the warmth and soft bedding the sofa gives him. does he think he is higher than me? No. does he do it because its better than lying on the laminate flooring? Yes. But most importantly does he get down off the sofa when I tell him to? Yes. Individual owners will differ in their views on this. Some will not want their dogs up on the leather sofa and or their beds. Some will be quite happy to have their best buds sitting up next to them or sharing their beds. This is largely down to personal preference. I allow my dogs up on the sofa but they are not allowed up on the bed. The most important thing is that they are not allowed to refuse to get down when told, any attempt on the dogs part to guard the sofa or bed as a resource should be strongly discouraged through proper training. Most of these problems can be avoided by training the dog to come up only on invitation.
Never let your dog pull on the leash.
“The Alpha always leads from the front.” At least that is what early observers wrote when studying captive wolves. When going on a hunt the alpha would dictate the route and speed at which the rest of the pack went. By allowing our dogs to walk out in front of us pulling us along on the lead we are therefore allowing the dog to elevate its status deciding on where we should be going. In reality it is not always the ‘Alpha’ wolf that dictates the direction or pace. Within the family unit Mech has observed many occasions were a sibling has taken the lead in a hunt. As for the dog pulling on the lead. the reason is most likely to be because he wants to get were he is going as quickly as possible because its rewarding to him. But more importantly he probably hasn't been taught any different. By proper training we can encourage our dog to walk beside us by making the behaviour rewarding to them and praising them when they do. To get my dog to walk to heel I adopted the method of stopping and standing still whenever he got to the end of the lead whilst we were walking. and only after he came towards me giving me a slack lead would we proceed. In this way I removed the reward of moving forward whenever he pulled and replaced the reward with a reward of my own for walking on a loose lead, (Not necessarily right at my side). Never let your dog pull on the lead is correct, the last thing we want is to be dragged down the street possible pulling us over and injuring us. This especially true with elderly and younger handlers. There are times however when we want the dog to pull us on the lead. for example during recreational sports like sledging, Canicross and Scootering.
Never play tug with your dog and never let it win.
The theory suggest that wolves in the wild wold tug on a piece of meat and the higher ranked wolf would always win. In actual fact what the wolves are doing is tugging on a particularly tough piece of meat in order to break it up. Each wolf will eat what it ends up with. Playing tug with your dog is a good way of bonding with it. However to avoid any potential conflict through resource guarding of the toy, the dog should be taught a good ‘leave it’ or ‘drop it command’. If the handler keeps winning and never lets the dog win, how long would it be before the dog decided this game is no fun.
Never let a dog initiate play or seek attention.
According to Mech (2003) in his book ‘The Wolf. The ecology and behaviour of an endangered species. He writes “The psychological tendency to form strong bonds results from a mere desire for physical contact.” If a dog and its owner are to co-habit in a harmonious environment they have to form a strong bond. This will often result in the dog seeking attention from its owner. either for contact or to initiate some playtime. Like every other behaviour some thought has to be put into ensuring that this behaviour doesn't become too demanding. And through proper training and consistency the dog can be taught when its ok to initiate play and when to go and lie down for a few minutes.
In summary ‘Pack Rules’ as a training theory were devised from flawed research which was carried out on captive wolf packs which did not represent the true behaviour of wild wolf packs. The captive wolf packs were mostly made up of wolves from different parts of the world, different sexes, different ages and different families. Within these packs there were often skirmishes to establish a leading pack member. In the wild however I have shown that wolf packs were made up of a family unit, which existed in a much more harmonious environment. Studying the behaviour of wolves in captivity and suggesting this is normal wolf behaviour is like studying the behaviour of prisoners in a maximum security prison and claiming that this is how behaviour is exhibited in normal society. Its not. Its also said that if dogs were cast out into the wild they would soon resort back to their wolf like behaviours since they are evolved from wolves. They would no more do this than humans would act like monkeys if left out in the wild. I have tried to show here that rather than status being the reason why the domestic dog behaves in a certain way it is more likely that it is their desire to ‘maintain and or regulate access to valuable resources’ that will be behind these behaviours. And if we are to reduce these unwanted behaviours we must do it through proper training like redirection and encourage them to offer an alternative behaviour which we then provide a much more rewarding outcome for.
Tuesday, 10 September 2013
This is a piece written by Andy Weir.
By: Andy Weir
You were on your way home when you died.
It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.
And that’s when you met me.
“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”
“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.
“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”
“Yup,” I said.
“I… I died?”
“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.
You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”
“More or less,” I said.
“Are you god?” You asked.
“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”
“My kids… my wife,” you said.
“What about them?”
“Will they be all right?”
“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”
You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”
“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”
“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”
“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”
“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”
You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”
“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”
“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”
“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”
I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.
“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”
“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”
“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”
“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”
“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”
“Where you come from?” You said.
“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”
“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”
“So what’s the point of it all?”
“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”
“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.
I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”
“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”
“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”
“Just me? What about everyone else?”
“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”
You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”
“All you. Different incarnations of you.”
“Wait. I’m everyone!?”
“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.
“I’m every human being who ever lived?”
“Or who will ever live, yes.”
“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”
“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.
“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.
“And you’re the millions he killed.”
“And you’re everyone who followed him.”
You fell silent.
“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”
You thought for a long time.
“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”
“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”
“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”
“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”
“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”
“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”
And I sent you on your way.
Saturday, 3 August 2013
Our house has been blessed with a new arrival in the last few months. My new grandson has moved in just as he’s starting to move around. Its been some 20 odd years since our house had a wee one crawling around the floor, getting into everything, picking things up etc. We had let our house become child unfriendly. Despite knowing he was coming we hadn't really prepared properly. So I was intrigued when an article appeared in the August issue of Your Dog about how owners go about preparing, selecting and bringing in a new puppy to their house.
The emphasis of the article was more related to what research owners put in prior to getting a puppy. the article was written based on research carried out by Adaptil - The pheromone calming product range for dogs. The research took the form of a survey of 2000 puppy owners and some of the questions and answers were very interesting.
- 1 in 10 people thought that getting a new puppy was just like raising a child.
- 59% admitted that they were not completely prepared and that the experience was more stressful than they had anticipated.
- 76% of owners said they waited less than 2 months between deciding to get a puppy and actually buying or picking it up.
- Two fifths did no research, and among those that did, the majority only researched costs such as vet fees, insurance premiums and cost per breed.
- Less than half of people looked into potential behavior problems.
- Two fifths investigated which breed were best with children.
- Three fifths of those who did no research said they either thought they knew enough or felt they didn’t need to.
- One in six new owners said they just didn’t have the time.
Sarah Endersby, vet advisor for Adaptil, said “It’s clear from the research that owners are simply not equipping themselves with all the information necessary to bring up a puppy in a healthy harmonious environment.”
A really good piece that highlights the need to carry out as much research as possible and be as prepared as possible before bringing in a new puppy to the house. The one thing that struck me though after reading this was that new owners can only really research breed specific traits. But what about rescue dogs, and I mean cross breeds. I know a lot of breed dogs end up in rescue like Staffies and Huskies to name a couple, and where this is the case research on these dogs can be done. But how do you research behavioral traits of a cross breed? What if you could tell what breeds made up your little scruff.
In 2011 the Kennel Club announced a new partnership with a company called Mars Veterinary who make a test kit called Wisdom Panel Insights dog DNA test kit. This test kit can determine the ancestry of a mixed breed dog by testing for more than 185 breeds. Just from a simple swipe of a cheek swab. By carrying out this test you can find out what the dominant breed is and then research what the breed traits are which in turn will help you manage those traits and prevent them becoming a behavior problem. Really useful, prevention is always better than cure.
Waggy tails to all.......:)
Tuesday, 23 July 2013
Dogs CAN see in colour: Scientists dispel the myth that canines can only see in black and white
· Russian scientists found that dogs have a limited colour range in their vision
· Canines use these colours to distinguish between items
PUBLISHED: 10:25, 23 July 2013 | UPDATED: 11:15, 23 July 2013
There's a common misconception that dogs can only see in monochrome and use varying brightness levels to identify the outlines of items.
Yet Russian scientists have now proved not only do dogs have a limited colour range, they use this visual spectrum to distinguish between objects and select certain items from a line-up.
Previously, dog trainers would avoid using coloured objects when training pets to do certain tasks, but these findings could improve how animals are trained and what they are capable of learning.
For decades, scientists believed dogs could only see in monochrome and used brightness levels - whether something looked lighter or darker next to another object - to identify outlines of items. However, last year scientist Jay Neitz from the university of washington, carried out experiments on dogs to test this theory.
Human eyes have three cones that detect colour and can identify red, blue, green and yellow wavelengths created by light entering the eye.
Neitz discovered that dogs only have two cones - this means they can distinguish blue and yellow but not red and green.
This is the same spectrum seen by humans when they have colour blindness.
A team of researchers from the Laboratory of Sensory Processing at the
tested the sight of eight dogs of varying sizes and breeds. Russian
They wanted to expand on the work from the
last year. University of Washington
Scientist Jay Neitz from the American university carried out experiments on dogs to test whether they could see in colour or not.
He discovered that while human eyes have three 'cones' that detect colour and can identify red, blue, green and yellow light; dogs only have two.
This means dogs can distinguish blue and yellow, but not red and green.
The Russian scientists therefore printed four pieces of paper in different colours; dark yellow, dark blue, light yellow and light blue.
The dark and light hues were used to test the theory that dogs use brightness levels to distinguish between items.
In the first test, researchers took a dark yellow and light blue sheet of paper, as well as a dark blue and light yellow combination and put them in front of food bowls placed inside locked boxes.
They then unlocked one of the boxes and put the dark yellow piece of paper in front of the box containing a piece of raw meat in each trial.
Each test involved the dogs being allowed to try to open one box before being taken away.
It only took three trials for the dogs to learn which colour paper was sat in front of the box containing the raw meat.
Once the dogs could identify that a piece of dark yellow paper meant meat was nearby, the researchers wanted to check whether the animals were choosing this paper because of its brightness or its colour.
To do this they put the dark blue paper in front of one box and light yellow in front of another.
If the dogs chose the dark blue paper, the scientists could rule that the animals were making choices based on brightness.
However, if they chose the light yellow paper, the choices were based on colour.
Each dog chose the light yellow paper - meaning they were making choices based on colour - more than 70 per cent of the time.
Six out of the eight dogs made the colour choice between 90 and 100 per cent of the time.
In conclusion, the researchers said: 'We show that for eight previously untrained dogs colour proved to be more informative than brightness when choosing between visual stimuli differing both in brightness and chromaticity.
'Although brightness could have been used by the dogs in our experiments, it was not.
'Our results demonstrate that under natural photopic lighting conditions colour information may be predominant even for animals that possess only two spectral types of cone photoreceptors.'
This article was published in the Daily Mail on 23rd July 2013.
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Miya – My Northern Inuit.
For more than 14’000 years dogs have been living with man. For the most part it has been a harmonious coexistence. In fact it has been the most successful multi species integration of any other type. From even those early encounters when wolves first ventured into the camp fires of men, we have struggled to fully understand and communicate with them. We still dont really know what they are thinking. We have however made some assumptions of what they are communicating through their behaviours. This study looks at how those assumptions have gone through an incarnation of understanding what really motivates the wolf in our living room.
I work for what is now a small to medium sized manufacturing company as the Operations Manager. I have been with the company now for approxiamtely five years. The company has been in existence for more than 60 years and in its heyday employed something like 2000 people. Now the company employs just over 50. Of those 50 people, around 30 of them have been with the company for around 25 years or more, mostly on the shop floor. When I came into the company I learned that the culture and the way we did things was very much steeped in the past. The way it was when the company was 2000 members strong. But times have changed, methods of work has changed and attitudes to work have changed. Part of my job then was to challenge the culture and practises that were going on in the company to see if they were still applicable to todays market and environment. In most cases I found it wasn’t, and embarked on a process of bringing upto date the skills and attitudes of the workforce to more modern thinking. It wasn’t an easy task taking the people concerned with me. Prof. Ray Coppingher says “Learning is best done by challenging the old methodoligies”.
When I started out training my first dog (More than 10 years ago), I went to the local training school and there I learned how to train my dog in the ‘traditional’ way. It was there and then I learned how to ‘dominate’ my dog and show him ‘who was pack leader’. I was taught how to grab him either side of his head about the neck and give him a ‘good shake’, and say ‘NO’ in a really stern and loud voice if he dared break his stay. Which by the way was only the second time I had asked him to perform such a behaviour. The very first time I was told how to make him sit went something like this. “Ok, give your dog the command ‘sit’, then place your left hand on top of the dogs back side and shove him down into the sit position”. “Then tell him he’s a good boy”. Seemed reasonable to me at the time. Little did I know then. This method of ‘shaking’ him and forcing into either a sit or lie position was, I was told, how to “show the dog who was boss”. Unfortunately it took me six years to learn that this ‘dominance’ theory was not what it was cracked up to be, and actually there was a different more kind way to teach my dog. More importantly this ‘new’ method of training was based around how the dog thinks and reacts to its environment and its basic needs, which surely has to be a more productive method of training. Thankfully my dog, Ben, was very forgiving and did not hold a grudge and we now have a very happy outlook to training, and he shows real excitment when i bring out the clicker. Today there are still clubs out there that train the traditional domince theory methods of training. But why do these clubs still insist on training this way and where does this notion of dominance come from?
According to Barry Eaton in his book “Dominance in Dogs”, Dominance theory comes about from the following steps.
1. Wolf social structure is entirely explained by a linear dominace hierarchy in which there is a constant battle to be alpha dog and dominate the rest of the pack.
2. Domestic dogs are descended from wolves so the same must apply to them.
3. Domestic dogs are trying to dominate us.
4. We should issue a preemptive strike and dominate dogs by enforcing strict rules harshly.
Lets look at number one from the list above. This idea of a linear hierarchy producing the ‘Alpha wolf’ came from studies published by Rudolph Schenkel a prominent Swiss Biologist and Behaviourist. These studies were based on a population of captive wolves in the 1930’s and 1940’s. What Schenkel observed was wolves fighting for dominance and position. The studies were published in a paper entitled ‘Expression Studies On Wolves’. Captivity Observations by R. Schenkel. The observation took place in the Basle Zoological Gardens in Switzerland. Beginning in 1934 and completing in 1942. Schenkel did recognise the impact on the wolves behaviour from being held captive and extended the studies in length of time and other venues and different canine species to try to make some sort of comaprison. However the studies were later pronounced to be flawed in that they were studying wolves in a captive situation and not in their natural environment. The studies involved watching wolves that had been caught from diferent areas and put together in a Zoo environment. There wete a number of males and females and different ages. Male wolves were observed fighting to be top dog to give them the right to mate with the top female. This coming together took part at the same time once every year. It was thought from this that indeed wolves did fight for ‘Apha’ position and that presumably this occurred in the wild. Schenkel did state in his paper that observations of wild wolf packs were not yet available to confirm these findings. It was therefore safe to surmise that since, as was thought then, domestic dogs were descended from wolves that the dogs behaviour if left unchecked would reflect what the captive wolves behaviour showed i.e. this dominance behaviour to be top dog. The theory goes on in that it was resonable to hypothesise that since most domestic dogs came into the house as a single dog then it formed a pack with its human members of the house. This is because both humans and dogs are typically social species. So now that a pack was formed, which included a dog, then the ‘fight’ for top dog or ‘Alpha’ was inevitable. How the dog would try to dominate us was similar to how the Alpha pair expressed their dominance in the captive wolf pack. The captive wolf pack would eat the kill first, leaving the scraps for the rest of the pack. The Alpha would lead the way when moving about the area leading the pack deciding on where and when to go. The best spot in the den, high up over the rest of the den would be were the alpha pair lay, lording over the rest of the pack. This ‘theory’ was the basis of early training in obedience with many dog trainiers and indeed it is still the preferred training method for many trainers. Traditional methods of training tell us that we must dominate our dogs before they dominate us. For example, in the text above the captive wolves had some dominant traits like eating first before the rest of the pack. As human alpha leaders traditional training tells us that we should show the dog whos the alpha by eating first. So when we are putting out their food, and if we are not ready for ours quite yet, we should at least get a biscuit and stand over the dogs bowl and eat the biscuit simulating that we are eating out the dogs bowl. Once finished the biscuit we can put the bowl done and the dog gets ‘leftovers’. If we take this to its logical conclusion then the rest of the human pack should be higher up the rankings than the dog, therefore everytime we feed fido all of the family members need to be present to ‘eat a biscuit’ over the bowl before the dog gets his. In the captive pack the alpha always led the way. So in the domestic pack the alpha also has to lead the way. That means going through doors first. When walking on the lead the dog needs to walk behind the alpha human. Its also importnat according to traditional training methods that the dog is not allowed up on furniture including chairs, sofa, or beds. He is also not allowed to lie at the top of the stairs or across doorways. This is clearly a strategy for raising its status in the human pack. Traditional training methods of obedience is very much a hands on method. Teaching the dog to sit involves giving the dog the sit command and then placing your hand on top of the dogs rear hind quarters and gently pushing their back end down untill the dog is in a sit position. Similarly with the down command the dog would start off in a sit as directed above and then the down command would be given. The handler would then place a hand between the shoulder blades of the dig and push the dog down into a down position. After which you tell the dog good dog. Whilst in the down position it might also be useful to roll the dog onto its back into the Alpha roll position, exposing the dogs neck and underbelly. This is because that is what the wolves do in the wild to a subordinate, once again cementing your place as the alpha leader. This method of teaching and behaviour modification still happens today.
David Mech is a Senior Scientist with the Biological Resources Division, U.S. Geological Survey and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, and Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota. He has studied wolves and their prey since 1958, as well as several other species of wildlife. http://www.davemech.org/index.html Mech is also the co-founder of the Internation Wolf Centre in Ely, Minnesotta U.S. The IWC is situated in the middle of one of the worlds largest populations of wolves living in the wild in the U.S. He has argued and campaiged against the concept of alpha. His reasoning is that Wolves in captivity are different species than wolves in the wild and as such act differently in terms of age structure and lifestyles. It is Mech’s studies of wolves actually living in the wild that have thrown up new information which contradict what Schenkler had observed with the captive pack. Studies of the wild wolf pack concluded that first and foremost a pack was no more than a family. In actual fact the pack consisted of a male and female adult and usually one or two generations of pups. The first generation was about 1 or 2 years old and then the second generation were pups. As this ‘pack’ was a family then there was no struggle for status. Nature does not let fathers mate with daughters or sons mate with mothers. So there was no competition. In fact when the mother came into season once a year the daughters never came into season, whilst they lived with the family pack. They would when they left to form their own pack. The first generation young wolves would up and leave the family when they were 2 or 3 years of age, in search of other young wolves to mate and form their own families. Mech also observed that it wasnt always the alpha male or female that fed first. Mech observed on many occassions the entire family feasting on a kill if it was big enough altogether. It was often the case that when the prey was small and scarce it would be brought back to the den and the pups were given it. This makes sense in that if at times of few prey only the alphas ate then the pups would quickly die and their existance as a species would end. So assuming this is true and that dogs are descended from wolves then it makes no sense to stand over the dogs bowl eating a biscuit, because it doesnt happen like that in the wild. I recently attended a seminar at the Kennel Club’s Accredited Instructors Career Zone at Crufts 2013. The seminar was in two parts Dominance part one and part two. Dominance part one was given by Professor Peter Neville a Companion Animal Behaviour Therapist who has been in practise for over 20 years. He has been a Clinical Professor at the Department of Veterinary Medicine, Faculty of Agriculture, Miyazaki University,
Japan since April
2008, and was appointed Adjunct Professor at the Dept of Animal Sciences at The
Ohio State University, USA in May 2009. He established the first companion
animal behavior referral clinic at a UK
veterinary school at the Dept of Veterinary Medicine,
in 1990. Professor Neville agreed with Mech in that he said “When we watch
wildlife documentaries on wolves, do we see two wolves lying eating a kill,
whilst an orderly queue forms behind them in ranking order waiting their turn”.
He went onto make the comparison, “When carrying out behavioral studies on people,
do we study prisoners in a jail”? University of Bristol
If the domestic dog is a direct descendant from the wolf then surely the domestic dog is already ‘hard wired’ with all the wolf traits mentioned above and if left to fend for themselves would quickly revert back to being wolves. Early research suggested that dogs evolved from wolves through a process of early humans capturiing wolf cubs and through selective breeding of the best temprements of successive generations of captive bred wolves we got the domestic dog. This was over some 15’000 years. Professor Neville suggests that in fact “Knowing about wolf behavior is relevant to knowing about dog behavior, however if dogs were to be let to roam free and fend for themselves they wouldnt revert back to being wolves. Dogs and wolves share a common ancestory but dogs are more likely to resemble the village wild dogs which evolved from the smaller brown eurasian wolves rather than the more recognised northern wolf that we know best”.
Ray Coppingher has a different theory. His theory in summary suggests that when man switched from being hunter gatherers to farmers and crop planters they began to stay in the one place and create settlements, which in turn became villages, towns and ultimately cities. Having settled in one place they created a lot of waste which they ‘dumped’ just outside the village. Coppingher’s theory surmises that within all wolves and off course dogs there is a flight reaction. That is, when something comes along that they are unsure about they flee. He goes onto to suggest that a dogs flight response can be measured by how far they run away and for how long they stay away. The theory goes on that wolves with a low flight response i.e. those that dont run away so far or stay away for long gradually become less afraid of humans and more inclined to stay around the dumps scavenging for food. More and more they become willing to be near the humans and less and less afraid. Over the centuries these less afraid wolves evolved in size, shape and colour to look like the village dogs that roam about the villages in europe, living of the waste food that humans discard. It is these Canids that eventually become what we know today as dogs. Wolves changed into dogs when they moved into villages to suit their environment, they changed their diets, their roles and their behaviours.
Professor Neville suggests that the behaviour of the domestic dog cannot be likened to that of the behaviour of the wolf, in fact he says they are two different species much the same as man is a different species to apes. If man were to lose everything house, family, work, any and all technology, he wouldnt revert to becoming an ape.
So if we believe what Mech, Neville, Coppingher et al say that our dogs are not infact trying to gain a higher status in the human pack by displaying dominance behaviour then what can be the explanation for some of their behaviours. There is no doubt my dogs will jump up on the sofa at the least opportunity they get. They always try to get out the door first, if I were to let them. And there are many reports of dogs taking an aggressive stance when someone approaches them whilst the dog is eating it’s dinner or a bone or even chewing or holding a toy. If not dominat behaviour then what?
TOUGH LOVE is described as a film about “A Meditation on Dominance and Dogs”. It is produced by Anchorhold films and Tower Hill Films Production. The film charts the ‘Historical Perspective’ of the alpha dog, It explores the differences between the science and the popular practice of dog behaviour. The film has many notable contributors like Karen Pryor, Dr. Ian Dunbar, Nicole Wilde, Dr. Alexander Horowitz, Paul Owens and many more including Dr. Sophia Yin.
Dr. Sophia Yin is an internationally renowned Veterinarian and Animal Behviourist.
There are two approaches to behavioral training.
Dogs have to be put in their place, You have to set them to fail in order to correct them. They are basically always trying to gain a higher rank status than their human handler. They misbehave because of that desire to obtain the higher rank.
The other approach says that dogs misbehave, probably because on some level they have been previously rewarded for that behavior.
Dogs learn by Operant Conditioning: trial and error learning. If they perform a behavior that works then they will repeat it. If it doesn’t work then they will stop doing it and try something else. What this suggests is that a dog’s misbehavior is down to the fact that it has learned that this behavior is rewarding. The film also goes onto suggest that displays of aggression may not be status related but more resource related. A Resource Holding Potential model was developed by biologist Geff Parker in the 1970's which predicted the likelihood of an animal engaging in conflict with another over a resource.
Wolves and indeed dogs will compete for resources. They will compete with each other and in the case of the dog it will compete with the human. For example a wolf will make for the best spot in the den. If another wolf comes over to try to take this spot, then the wolf already there may snarl, now if the wolf wanting the spot backs down then the first wolf has learned that this behaviour works, at least with this wolf and will repeat it everytime this situation occurs. Now if we look at the dog, a dog may go up on the couch, it does so because its warm and comfy, not because its higher up and increases its status. When the human goes to make it come down the dog may show teeth or even growl. If at this point the human backs away, the dog learns that this behaviour worked. It had the desired effect of making the human go away and leave it on the couch. This is not status driven just a desire to be left on the nice comfy couch, which is a resource the dog desires. The same example could be used for toy possession or food guarding. Both of which are resources that the dog may show an unwillingness to share. If allowed to keep these resources unchallenged then the dog learns from the reactions of the owner/human if they move away and leave the dog. This is called Operant conditioning. Which Dr. Sophia Yin describes as ‘trial and error’ learning. The dog will try the behaviour, the growl or teeth showing, and if the handler backs off then the dog learns that this behavior will get it what it wants. The other thing to consider is this, dogs do not always display dominant aggression in every situation. I have five dogs and I would say that Miya the Northern Inuit is the most dominant. She has attacked three of the rest of the ‘Pack’ shortly after coming into the house. However, star is the oungest member of the household and the last dog to join us. She is very clearly toy dominant and will take a toy from Miya who may be holding it in her mouth at the time. And Miya will give it up eventually.
Contemporary training methods use Operant conditioning to eliminate unwanted behaviours in dogs and replace them with more desired behaviours. In the case of the dog up on the couch that is showing resistance clearly trying to take the dog by the collar, assuming its wearing one in the house, is going to be problematic. For that reason I would reccommend a house lead is worn by the dog until the dog has been taught to come off the couch on command. Taking the house lead and gently easing the dog off the couch and then rewarding the fact that the dog is now off. If an individual wishes they can then at a later time invite the dog back up on the couch, but the difference is that this time the dog is invited. By repeating this behaviour modification the dog will learn that it can get up on the couch if it asks. They do this by coming and laying their heads on your knee or by standing in front of you staring intently. I know this from experience, my Black Lab does this after tea at night. When we settle down to watch a bit of telly he comes over and asks to get up. He also goes up himself when we are out the room, but if I ask him to get off he does. Miya, in the photo above, is a rescue dog and when she first came to the house she very quickly went up on the couch. We saw this as a security position. The couch provides unsure dogs with a place of security. They can see all infront of them and they are covered on both sides and the back by the couch. When I first went to get Miya off she showed me the same resistance albeit no teeth or curled lip. But her head snapped round when I went to take her collar. As soon as I snapped a lead on her and guided her off she completely relaxed and come off no problem. The reason I say its a place of security is because Miya is not a fan of the heat and needs to keep herself cool all the time. Even now when I invite her up on the couch she barely stays there for more than ten minutes then goes down herself because its too hot for her with the close body heat.
If we now believe that rather than dogs trying to dominate us they are merely competing for resources, and we now have a way of turning that around on them and using it to train them positively, then questions remain as to why we still use dominance theory in training today. If dogs are a different species and I am certainly not a dog then why would they want to be my pack leader? We also know that wolves form packs to survive and continue their existance. They need each other to have puppies, bring down prey, protect each other against predators. Dogs dont need any of that. We provide their food, security and exercise. And quite a lot are neutered so there is no need for finding a mate. Things like eating a biscuit before feeding the dog does not teach the dog anything other than he has to wait another five minutes before he gets his dinner. It doesn’t tell him we are higher up the family rankings than him. Lying on the top stairs is merely the best place to watch us come and go and per chance if we make a move for the front door he is perfectly placed to run down and remind us to take him. A desire to get out the door first is just that a desire to go for a walk because its nice and they enjoy it and the sooner they get out there the better for them. When we rush out the office door at 5 o’clock at night are we dominating our boss because we are out the door first. No, we want to get home and play with the dog because its fun, more fun than working (unless your lucky enough to be working with dogs).
In summary then this study has hopefully shown that dogs are not wolves, they are different, as man is different to apes. I have also shown that even wolves dont have dominance confrontations to establish the alpha pair. What I have shown is an alternative reason why our dogs behave the way they do and by using Operant conditioning and shaping techniques we can re-educate our dogs to give us the behaviours that are much more socially acceptable. This does not that mean we dont provide rules and boundaries? I believe dominance has a place in our relationship with our dogs. In the second seminar on dominace held in the Kennel Club Accredited Instructors Career Zone during Crufts 2013, the guest speaker was Rob Elaine of among other things Dog Borstal fame. Which was my favourite dog training program of them all. Rob raised the question of dominance and suggested that there was room for dominace in contemporary training. However what he suggested was that rather than trying to Dominate your dog we should try to BE dominant with our dog. What he means is that we should make sure we give the dog rules and boundaries. Let them know what is acceptable and what is not. Its ok to tell your dog ‘No’. Its ok to tell your dog ‘leave it’. And if you have to change your tone when giving the command then so be it. That doesnt mean rolling up a newspaper and smacking them on the nose with it, nor does it mean taking them by the collar and rubbing their noses in what ever mess they have made. No, a simple ‘no, or ‘leave it’ can be very effective in certain situations. Especially in an emergency situation where the dog is about to come to some harm like running out on the road or about to pick up something potentially harmful to them. Any of these commands in a short sharp tone if taught can be very effective and potentially life saving.
Traditional training methods were the way things were done particularly after the last war when ex police or military people were the main trainers of domestic dogs in the country. As science continues to evolve so does our ability to create new technologies. These technologies are used to enhance our lives on a daily basis. It is true also that the science of Psychology and Behavioour has similarly evolved and has resulted in new ways to communicate with the different species with which we share the planet. None more so than dogs. We therefore owe it to them to make sure that our training methods are as up to date as possible using the information that science has provided us with. Why then are we still using outdated methods of training? As I said in my introduction, getting people to change to something new, when they have been using tried and trusted methods for years is very difficult. The only way this can be done is through communication and education. We need more of both if we are to put an end to some of the more disturbing newspaper headlines that are becoming all to familiar on the subject of dogs showing unaccpetable and sometime dangerous behaviours. The UK has a large population of dogs. According to a PDSA report compiled and issued in 2012, some intersting statistics were thrown up.
53 % of UK households have pets including dogs.
23% of UK households have dogs as pets. Thats 8.3 million dogs.
Around 5.3 million dogs have never attended training classes.
The actual lifetime cost of owning a dog can be between £16k – £31k depending upon size.
5.3 million dogs have never attended training classes, which means the chances of them being socialised properly are slim. Given the cost associated with keeping these dogs we owe it to ourselves to bring them up and train them properly. Only by prevention will we eliminate the bad behaviours our dogs show. The first step to that is understanding what makes them misbehave.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes said – “It is a truism to say that the dog is largely what his master makes of him: he can be savage and dangerous, untrustworthy, cringing and fearful; or he can be faithful and loyal, courageous and the best of companions and allies”. Quoted by APDT on FaceBook 29/3/2013
Today 9th April 2013 the Governemt has issued an amendment to the Dangerous Dog Act stipulating that it is now an ofence for a dog to be dangerously out of control in any place including private property.
Peter Jones, President of the British Veterinary Association, said
“The Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Bill is a welcome move that will ensure owners take responsibility for their dogs’ behavior in all situations. Too many postal workers, nurses, social workers, and family members have been injured on private property with no protection under the law.
“The Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Bill is a welcome move that will ensure owners take responsibility for their dogs’ behavior in all situations. Too many postal workers, nurses, social workers, and family members have been injured on private property with no protection under the law.
Whilst this is a positive move it still is only a reactionary policy. Prevention has to be the way to ensure another child doesn’t end up on the receiving end of an attack from a dog competing for a resource like a meat pie.