Unravelling dominance in dogs

Stephanie Hedges
Sunday, April 2, 2017

Aggression is the canine behaviour most likely to lead to relinquishment or euthanasia. Understanding how dogs socially interact and manage conflict is therefore of particular importance to veterinary professionals. Traditional approaches to the prevention and management of canine aggression advocated owners assert themselves as ‘pack leader’ through routine control of all resources and correction of any perceived challenge for them. At its most extreme this included physical punishment and steps to inhibit any initiative by the dog, including free movement and social interaction. The theory evolved from early to mid 20th century research into captive wolf behaviour, embellished by subsequent generations of dog trainers and behaviourists. However, more recent research into the behaviour of non-captive wolves and domesticated dogs, both in the home and living ferally, has brought the dominance theory into question. Perhaps more importantly, progress in the fields of animal welfare and training have highlighted ethical concerns and risks associated with the punitive methods of handling and training recommended by advocates. Modern approaches to modifying and managing the behaviour of the domestic dog use scientific principles to understand the motivation for their behaviour. Change is then facilitated through management of triggers, changing the dog's emotional response to them and manipulating things the dog wants, to encourage preferred behaviour.

Unravelling dominance in dogs
Unravelling dominance in dogs

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