The idea of an “Alpha” pair originates from the 1947 “Expressions Studies on Wolves" by Schenkel and was further popularized by L. David Mech’s "The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species" written in1968 and published in 1970.
We now know this is not how wolves behave in nature, the aformentioned studies based on the observation of captive packs of unrelated wolves. Even Mech revoked his promotion of the “Alpha theory” as early as 1999 (alt. source).
The term ‘alpha’ suggests the winning of power through contest or battle, however the lead wolves in most wolf packs achieve their status by breeding, then their pups become part of their pack. More accurate descriptors for this lead, breeding pair are “breeding male/female,” “male/female parent,” or even “adult male/female.”
Dogs Aren’t Wolves
Dogs have diverged significantly from wolves in the last 15,000 years. Ancestral wolves evolved as hunters and now generally live in packs consisting most often of family members (Mech 2000). Pack members cooperate to hunt and to take care of offspring. In a given year, generally only the alpha male and alpha female mate, so that the resources of the entire pack can be focused on their one litter. Dogs, on the other hand, evolved as scavengers rather than hunters (Coppinger and Coppinger 2002). Those who were the least fearful, compared to their human-shy counterparts, were best able to survive off the trash and waste of humans and reproduce in this environment. Currently, free-roaming dogs live in small groups rather than cohesive packs, and in some cases spend much of their time alone (MacDonald and Carr 1995). They do not generally cooperate to hunt or to raise their offspring, and virtually all males and females have the opportunity to mate (Boitani et al. 1995)
Honestly, how can anyone think these two need to be treated the same?
Well, the logic was “dogs are descended from wolves, wolves live in packs with a hierarchy that’s kept in check by an aggressive alpha, therefore humans need to dominate their dogs if they want them to behave.”
Obviously, we know better now.
Dogs don’t want to fight with us for ‘dominance,’ they want to get along. The one causing adversity in the relationship would be the owner trying to push ‘dominance’ on their dog, would you enjoy a relationship that involved being bullied near constantly?
Neither would your dog.
To reiterate, dominance theory is the idea that humans need to force their dog into submission with the use of aggression in order to get them to behave.
Dominant-submissive relationships form to determine who has priority access to particular resources, these sort of relationships usually exist only when the dominant party is around to guard the desired resources.
Availability of resources isn’t something we have to worry about when raising a dog, at least not in the sense that we need to compete with our canine companions for them.
Why It Doesn’t Work
A huge flaw with dominance theory is that it fails to address the reasons for the problem behavior(s). Dominance training punishes the behavior without questioning why the dog is acting out in the first place.
Aggression, for example, is often a result of fear, anxiety, or insecurity. In situations like this in particular dominance training would be counterproductive, if your dog is fearful and you react with confrontational behavior (“alpha rolls,” hitting, staring down, etc) chances are you will only worsen the dogs fear and cause him/her to respond with defensive aggression.
Dangers of Dominance Theory
Dominance training can increase aggression, resulting in painful injury for you and an unhappy dog. Unsurprisingly, if you’re aggressive towards your dog your dog will be aggressive to you (“Treat people how you want to be treated.” not exactly the same, but still - kindergarten concept, people!).
It’s common knowledge among professionals that dominance theory is outdated and harmful.
But The Dog Whisperer said-
- Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs
- Comments on “Alpha” Dominance Theory
- De-Bunking the “Alpha Dog” Theory
- Forget About Being Alpha in Your Pack
- Misconceptions of the Mythical Alpha Do
- New Study Finds Popular “Alpha Dog” Training Techniques Can Cause More Harm than Good
- Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals
- Whatever Happened to the Term ALPHA Wolf?
bath count for the dogs: 7
there’s obviously something in the yard they’re trying to dig up (grubs? mole crickets? moles?) and they’re at the point where they’re getting a bath every day if not twice a day.
Is there any way to keep dogs from digging? We’ve temporarily covered the biggest holes with tarp and patio bricks, but we can’t leave them there forever.
I seriously need suggestions, because it’s to the point mom is so frustrated that she’s considering giving the dogs away.
I hear great things about designated dig zones. Basically you just get a cheapy sandbox and fill it with sand, bury some of their favorite toys in it, and encourage them to dig there instead of in the yard. It may not make them cleaner, but it’ll make for less holes in your yard. It also might help to supervise them constantly and redirect them to a toy (or the sandbox, if you can get one) if they start digging, then reward them with some play time or food when they leave their hole alone.
I would use baby wipes or a damp towel to wipe them down, too many baths can dry out the skin. The most you can do to keep them clean right now is to stay outside with them (or take them out one at a time so it’s easier to manage) and make sure they don’t dig.
Jayne loves playing with her flirt pole, but she’s never actively went up to it and say “Yo, mom, I wanna play with this right now!”. Today I was trying to initiate fetch with her glove, but she wasn’t having it. Instead she went up and started pawing at her flirt pole. For some reason this made me very happy.
I really hate when people don’t actively train their dog because they’re going through adolescence and they “won’t listen anyway”. If anything, that’s the time when you should be working with them MORE. Do you really think once they grow up, they’ll magically retain the behaviors you taught them when they were a puppy?
Basically if you believe that using positive punishment and negative reinforcement are the only ways to train animals we literally cannot be friends
I hate this weird culture that horses (or any animal for that matter) should just do as we say and shouldn’t be rewarded for doing what is “expected” of them. Like what a load of bs. You are mean mean poophead animal parents.
Imagine you have a child and you’re trying to teach them how to behave. You want to teach them that they need to tidy their room. You have two options:
1. Tell them to tidy their room, shout at them or otherwise punish them if they don’t. Don’t reward them, thank them or compliment them on a job well done afterward because it is expected of them.
2. Tell them that if they tidy their room, they can get extra pocket money/pick a dessert for after dinner/have a friend over/whatever.
Both options result in the child tidying their room. But the first one results in an unhappy child doing a job begrudgingly and most likely rebelling whenever they get the chance (unless you emotionally/physically abuse them so they are too hopeless to consider arguing). The second one results in a happy child, doing a job willingly and eventually learning that tidying their room is an easy and satisfying job that makes their life better as well as yours. Eventually they will do it willingly without being asked let alone offered a reward.
Apparently people don’t want animals/children who enjoy doing jobs and get paid for doing the right thing. Because nO THEY CAN’T ENJOY THEMSELVES BECAUSE LIFE IS TOUGH AND WE HAVE TO TEACH THEM THAT OUR WAY IS THE ONLY WAY BLAH BLAH BLAH
does anyone have experience with older dogs? I adopted an 8 year old dog back in october. she was really good, well behaved only problem she gave me was she snapped at my cat a few times.
I really don’t understand she pees and poops all over. she eats my cats food and poop out of the cat litter.
nothing has changed, she gets taken out 3 times a day same as when I first got her. Still gets the same amount of attention. when I can, I still bring her places with me.
what can I do to get her to cut the shit? I refuse to take her back to the AC&C and I refuse to rehome her.
Since she’s older and the behavior appeared suddenly, it’s best to take the problem to a vet first. There could be an underlying medical issue that’s causing her to eliminate in the house.
Do you know her history? Adopting an older dog does not always mean they’ll be fully potty trained. After a vet check, you’ll have to start from step one and treat her as if she’s an 8 week old puppy instead of an 8 year old dog. Let her out every hour (as possible) and treat her the second she finishes going to the bathroom outside. Assuming there’s no medical concerns, she should learn fairly quickly to go potty outside. 3 times a day also seems like it’s not nearly enough, even for an adult dog. I think even just letting her out more often could solve this problem, but I’d stil work on rewarding her for going outside.
As for the cat food, invest in a high place to put it. This is one of those self-rewarding behaviors (behaviors that are rewarded each time she manages to sneak a bite, increasing the chance that it’ll happen again), so moving the cat food to a cat tree, shelf, or counter will help. It also makes the cats have a safe, high place to go if the dog stresses them out at all.
The litterbox is another self-rewarding behavior. This can be avoided by training near the litter box and rewarding her every time she walks by without looking or sniffing it. Again, this will be very hard to maintain while you’re not home. Is there any way you can get a baby gate to separate the room with the litter box in it from the other rooms while you’re gone? You can get ones with cat doors (though they can usually jump right over) so the cats can still go to the bathroom and the dog can’t get to them.