Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why doesn't the dominance model work?

By Carol Whitney

Over the last two decades, the traditional model of dominance and submission has been thoroughly and effectively debunked. A seminal work is the book _Dogs_ by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger (2001). But a strong basis lies in the study of calming signals by Turid Rugaas,
since 1982 or so. Then along came Alexandra Semyonova, with a really GRITTY book, _The 100 silliest things people say about dogs_.

That book requires some salt to go with it; I don't really need to
tell anybody where to salt it. Anybody may think what they like. I
agree with most of what Semyonova writes.

Her debunking of various of the dominance myths is absolutely
heart-rending at times. The truth of her descriptions is evident to
anybody who has lived with dogs for a long time, and observes with
care, without prejudice, on DOG terms.

THAT is where, historically, we humans have failed. Our observations
have incorporated far too much projection, and we have, therefore,
failed to see DOG terms.

Humans worry about rank, status, hierarchy - we live in a society full of power-struggles. Domestic dogs, as a rule, do all they can to avoid conflict, and probably can't imagine a struggle for power, though they may covet something another dog has. However, a dog whose real needs are consistently met in a timely way, shows not the slightest evidence of caring about anything like rank, status, or hierarchy. Those are artificial, human structural creations.

I went through a period of believing one should "support the dominant dog." That lasted maybe about six months, till I realized I had no idea WHICH dog was dominant - dominance seemed to be fluid - at one time, or in one situation, one dog was dominant, and at another time, or in a different situation, a different dog was dominant.

That was before I met Turid's work. When finally I did meet it, I
breathed large sighs of relief, along with saying to myself, Oh, so
THAT'S what my dog(s) meant - when they used certain body language.
Finally I realized that the dominance model simply fails because it
doesn't match dog-terms.

To find dog-terms, we have to ask the dogs, and that's precisely what
Turid Rugaas did - observing with meticulous care, documenting with

We do, though, have a VERY long history and a high percentage of
belief in the dominance model among dog-trainers and behavior
counselors. So probably, wherever we go, we can find counsel that
says, "Support the dominant dog."

Slowly, slowly, the percentage of those who are actually able to ask
the dogs is rising.

People who fear that their dogs might become the boss probably slows
human learning. A careful look shows that those of us who keep
companion dogs are neither the boss nor alpha. Our position is far
greater than that - it is that of Caretaker and Guide. OUR dogs would
not survive without our care. Very simple, really!

Carrol - if you want to, you may copy this post elsewhere. It's my
personal opinion, based on my 50-year experience with dogs, 30 0f
those with intensive self-study on behavior. During which time I made
PLENTY of mistakes, going through various sets of beliefs.

And there's plenty more besides the references I've mentioned that
support my position on this.

Tue, 8 Mar 2011 20:45:52
Carol Whitney, with Kwali (ndd, RB) and Kumbi (dd; dx 1 Sept 2006, RB)
Camellia Camelo, IFO (ndd), Havanese

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