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Dominance: Dog Training’s Dirty Word


There may be no surer way to stir up a group of dog trainers than to bring up dominance training. Luckily, dominance training is an outdated training tactic — and one many trainers are leaving behind in favor of more humane, and more fun, ways to teach your dog new tricks. 

The theory behind dominance training

In the last 20 years, dog training has seen rapid change in how we understand dog behavior and work with our dogs to train them. Dominance theory came about as a result of early studies about canine — namely captive wolf — behavior. The theory was that you had to be the “pack leader” in order for your dog to understand and respect you. This training method often employed techniques such as alpha rolling, using choke or prong collars, or holding down your dog until they “submitted” to you.

However, with progress in understanding canine behavior, it’s been shown that this theory is both wrong and ineffective. The techniques used can be harmful, causing your dog to become fearful of you, and in the worst cases, lash out.

Use positive reinforcement training instead

Luckily, most trainers believe in a much better way to train your dog — through positive reinforcement training. This training technique encourages your dog to work with you, rather than in fear of you. Positive reinforcement works through the use of praise, treats, and time spent together. It’s a great way to help your dog bond and build trust. And, it’s also a great way to turn problematic behaviors into positive ones, without instilling fear or punishment.

Dogs that are trained with positive reinforcement are often happier, more confident, and more trusting. By building up the bond you have with your dog, you can make sure your dog has a safe, happy spot in your family. You can easily start on positive methods at home. All you’ll need is a treat your dog enjoys (or a toy if they’re not food motivated) and a positive attitude. When your dog does something you like, such as sitting politely when guests are over or lying down on command, give a treat, some praise, and a few extra pets.

Consider other positive training methods

There are many other training methods available that also avoid dominance training. These are effectively used without harm to your dog. Training techniques such as Behavioral Adjustment Training (BAT) can be used for dogs that have fear, aversion, or aggression triggers. It works by gradually getting your dog comfortable with them — on their own terms.

Working with a trainer or behaviorist is another great way to help change bad behaviors into positive ones. When looking for a trainer to help, make sure the trainer uses techniques you’re comfortable with. Positive reinforcement trainers avoid the use of products such as choke collars or sprays. Instead, they focus on positive reinforcement, distraction techniques, and desensitization.

Dominance training is going the way of the dodo — and that’s a good thing. Looking for more ways to train your dog in a positive, fun environment? Check out these top tricks you can teach at home. Or, learn about the differences between trainers and behaviorists to find one right for you.

The post Dominance: Dog Training’s Dirty Word appeared first on DogTime.


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