Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.
~Francis Bacon - 1620
Dominance has become the core issue, rallying position, and stumbling stone for many when it comes to creating harmony and balance within the dog and human relationship. This critical issue has been ignored and dismissed by many even while nature has been providing us with many clues and warnings that something is wrong with how we are connecting with our dogs. Behaviorists have exploited conditioning by giving it a free pass and using it as a bridge to meet the needs of the dog owner rather than the nature needs of the dog. This exploitation of conditioning happens by those who use behavioral science instead of nature as their foundation. How a dog's mind is influenced ,as it aligns with conditioning, is not questioned by many beyond what is seen from the surface. Goodness of fit has taken priority over unanswered questions, inconsistent results, conflict, unresolved behavior issues and failure. The answer to what dominance really represents, as it connects to strength or weakness, is not found on the surface of the relationship. It is discovered with the unveiling of the intertwined connection dogs share with us through Nature and the pack relationship. Insight into the depth of this mind and body connection comes through intense and direct interaction between dog and owner. Only when the dog owner or trainer begins to challenge, confront and face off on the issues associated with conditioning and what is seen from the surface does nature fully reveal itself. It is exposed through the willingness to allow ones own agenda and beliefs to implode. Only by surrendering fully to nature, both mind and body, is truth revealed. For me this happened by pushing beyond what was seen and connecting the dots with what was not seen. As I took on case after case of what were labeled as hopeless failures within conditioning focused models of training I began to look at how owners connected with their dogs at the psychological level for the answers. The same patterns began to appear over and over again with how owners thought about and connected with their dogs. Strength and weakness took on new depth and meaning within this shared mind and body connection. Devices and conditioning began to fade into the background as this cognitive interplay and dynamic began to firm up towards connecting the final dots between dog and owner. While many are starting to make the connection from behavioral science to ongoing issues between dogs and owners the psychology itself, as it links to the mind and body connection, is the real issue and problem.
By seeing dogs as either sophisticated lab rats or as 4-legged mini-me's (or both), the behavioral science approach to dog training seems to be failing our furry friends. (Lee -2009)
To better understand what is really causing conflict and issues for dogs and owners one has to look a little closer at the type of psychology that behaviorists align with. Those who lean heavily on behavioral science also humanize dogs at a level which follows a path of weakness via emotional psychology and connection through nature and the pack relationship. Without qualifying the type of influence happening between dogs and owners through conditioning many behaviorists fail to connect any dots beyond the positive at all costs agenda. This critical dot established between meaningful influence and the diminishing of unwanted behavior is lost on those who do not understand what dominance represents as it connects to both mind and body. Behaviorist ideas and concepts, terms and conditions hold back and restrain the mind from expanding to understand what dominance represents as it connects to nature. This restrictive way of thinking is contaminated further with the merging of an agenda which is fueled by feelings and emotions. This owner focused agenda aligns with the type of emotion and connection which is perceived as weakness. When unwanted behaviors fail to diminish than meaningful influence has failed to take hold. This is the true standard and litmus test which behaviorists continue to dismiss and ignore. While many behaviorists express concern regarding the recent re-emergence of dominance theory the same concern has not been shown regarding the many serious issues linked to the behaviorist model of training. Continuing questions remain unanswered regarding the consistency of this model of training as well as a objective audit of the actual failure rates. While some behaviorists admit to owners becoming frustrated with lack of success and so, seek help elsewhere they appear unwilling to seek out the underlying issues and causation (Dunbar 2010).
The voices calling out to look beyond behavioral science has come up against stiff resistance from an aggressive campaign to sell this model of training “as is” onto the public. The reasons behind this resistance by behaviorists is directly connected to the positions they have taken regarding dominance.
The “pack” and “dominance” theory of domestic dogs is a harmful meme. It prevents many owners understanding their dogs, causes untold misery for both and is perpetuated by well-meaning but uninformed dog trainers around the world. It is proving extremely resistant to extinction. (Ryan 2010)
This ongoing and aggressive push for unconditional validation by many does not meet even the minimum standard one would expect from the academic community. While misrepresenting what dominance represents this issue is colored up and used as fuel by many to appeal to the emotions and feelings of dog owners.
People who rely on dominance theory to train their pets may need to regularly threaten them with aggressive displays or repeatedly use physical force. Conversely, pets subjected to threats or force may not offer submissive behaviors. Instead, they may react with aggression, not because they are trying to be dominant but because the human threatening them makes them afraid. (AVSAB – 2008)
This emotional hijacking crosses over to reveal another agenda at work which plays off the feelings of dog owners. Behaviorists have become the dealer of choice for those seeking to keep this emotional high going as long as possible. They have aligned with the type of psychological connection which feeds this emotional addiction. The mission statements of those who align with these views use the anti dominance message to propel this emotional agenda beyond the reach of ongoing issues and questions which will not go away.
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior is concerned with the recent re-emergence of dominance theory and forcing dogs and other animals into submission as a means of preventing and correcting behavior problems. For decades, some traditional animal training has relied on dominance theory and has assumed that animals misbehave primarily because they are striving for higher rank. This idea often leads trainers to believe that force or coercion must be used to modify these undesirable behaviors. (AVSAB – 2008)
By ignoring, dismissing or denying the already established forces of nature it changes nothing except our ability to direct, control and influence the path we take and role we adopt within the pack relationship. The type of psychology the model and method of training aligns itself with matters more than people realize. While the owner may be really happy based on first impressions and what is seen from the surface they may ultimately fail based on the amount of psychological change needed to break them out of the follower role.