• Emma Johnston

Dont fall for the Dominance Theory

Updated: Nov 26, 2019

By reading a dated book, or by internet searches or watching the more recent “Dog Whisperer” by Cesar Millan it’s easy to see how you’re under the impression that your dog needs to be told who’s in charge and that the best way to do that, is to effectively establish yourself as the “pack leader”, and the dog will be content now knowing it’s proper place in the “pack hierarchy”.

Firstly I want to point out that your dog knows very well that you are not a dog, so let’s start by saying goodbye to the “pack leader” name tag.

Now let’s be very clear, our dogs need guidance and leadership but how we deliver that to our dogs is the difference between a dog that is trusting of humans and enjoys learning and dog that is ruled and responds due to fear, hearing phrases like “ the dog should be submissive to humans” is a very sad and dangerous statement indeed.

The History of Pack Behaviour

Put in short without boring you all, wolves were taken from random natural wild packs and placed together in captivity. What was concluded from these early studies was that there was a rigid hierarchy in which 'alphas' (leaders) had priority access to valuable resources, the “Alpha” maintained the group structure through displays of aggression to others.

It was therefore believed that this is how wolves and dogs (as dogs were descended from wolves) also ruled the social structure they lived in.

It was the scientists who mistakenly thought that the wolves were driven by the need to dominate the other wolves in order to gain access to the wrong could they be?

The scientists involved in the study later published data explaining that the experiment was floored as they had taken non blood related wolves and made them live in captivity forcing them to behave differently from how they would naturally.

A wolf pack actually consists of a mother, father and siblings very much like you a human family, parents take the leadership roles and the children follow these rules, sound familiar?

In the natural pack, aggression and dominance is not how they live instead the youngsters continually offer behaviours to show respect to their parents so aggression is very rarely used or needed.

The Consequence

Because of these original floored studies the “ dominance theory” was embraced by many dog trainers, believing that we are superior it made sense to many that dogs should submit to us and show respect that WE are in charge and WE are their pack leaders.....sigh!

Methods such as the “alpha roll” and in the case of people like Ceaser Millan who sadly promote using methods that actually intimidate the dog was born and sadly have glamorised such techniques making them seem to work like magic, I mean after all the dogs ends up rehabilitated right?


These techniques may suppress some of the dog’s behaviours that you may not like but they are suppressed through fear, pinning your dog to the floor causes your dog a huge amount of stress and fear and believe me they lose a whole lot of trust and respect for you...their carer.

The Truth

Dogs feeling deserve respect and understanding and it has now been proved without shadow of doubt that kind methods to change your dogs unwanted behaviour will not only work effectively but they have long lasting effects unlike the punitive techniques used by people who are outdated and quite honestly noting but bullies to dogs.

So the next time someone tells you your dog is being dominate for jumping up at you or wanting to lie higher than you, or pushing past you at the door, may I suggest you smile, give them the link to this blog and hope they learn that no matter what breed, drive, behaviour issue or background the dogs has we must guide them using non violent methods that will intimidate them, think about it nobody likes a bully and our dogs are absolutely no different.

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