Documentary - Tough Love: A Mediation on Dominance and Dogs
It’s a commonly accepted idea that dogs are “man’s best friend”. We give them a special place in our lives and they are, in turn, loyal companions. At the same time, many modern dog owners also believe that they are supposed to establish themselves as the“alpha dog” in relation to their pets. This is a status supposedly achieved through attitudes and acts of domination, varying by emphasis on physical restraint and disciplinary“correction”.
Yet the notion that cherished “best friends” are meant to strictly obey our will is something of a paradox. How can we reconcile feelings of respect and even love with expectations ofsubmission and compliance? Is there a valid and compelling justification for establishing dominance over our dogs? Does our claim to that power follow from fixed biological facts? Is it warranted by the nature of dogs and what we are to them through a shared evolutionary history? Is dominance a “tough love,” something dogs actually want and need?
Since its advent in the 1940s, wildlife biologists have significantly revised the original“alpha wolf” theory and related ideas about wolf pack structure, including the claim that pack hierarchy rests on frequent aggressive displays. Likewise, they have dismissed the idea that dogs are merely domesticated wolves, so that to understand the one is to understand the other. This scientific shake-up seems to leave us on somewhat tenuous grounds for dealing with our dogs as if we were their alpha, gaining their obedience through domination. Still, millions of people continue using the “alpha dog” concept to order their relationships with their pets.
Tough Love confronts the current disconnect between science and popular practice by putting “alpha dog” in historical perspective. It begins with a look at the early wolf studies and the appropriation of that science by dog trainers and the general public. It ends with an assessment of contemporary dog training and rehabilitation, focusing particularly on disagreement between advocates of physical correction and proponents of exclusive reliance on food rewards and other “positive reinforcement.”
To all dog trainers, enthusiasts, owners and even horse and other animal handlers, whether you train traditionally or apply the learning theory, please watch this film. For a small $5 fee you can watch it online in HD, and it’s really worth it. Just click through the image above and find the option “Watch Movie Online Now” at the bottom left of the page.
It has some of the big names of dog training, such as Dr. Sophia Yin, Dr. Alexandra Horowitz and Karen Pryor, and it presents the scientific fact behind the dominance theory and the learning theory.
PART 1. I have two 9 year old boxers. We got them when I was 11 and so I was obviously not that knowledgeable or capable when it came to training. One of them has serious nervousness issues. On walks, she is very reactive when she sees other dogs and even in the home she will cower if people yell or even just sound annoyed (at each other - we have never yelled at her). I know it's late in her life but I would love to help her become more relaxed.
PART 2. I have decided to try clicker training both of them. I had a go today and they seemed to pick it up quite quickly. My trouble is, they already know basics like sit, down etc. and when I have a treat they sit down automatically - do you have tips on easy tricks to teach them to help introduce the clicker? Also, any tips of exercises to help her feel more relaxed and happy on walks? She is tense before we even get out of the door and will bark/growl/pull at the mere sight of another dog.
First off, that’s awesome you’ve decided to work with your older dogs! So many people just give up on training dogs once they’re passed a year or two. Your girl that is reactive sounds like she needs some confidence.
Here is a great video on introducing your dog to a clicker. Although Emily recommends muffling the clicker at first, I actually disagree with that unless you have a very noise sensitive dog (which I actually do, but for her I use a Karen Pryor i-Click). In this video she will explain how to charge the clicker. Now not all animal trainers charge the clicker, however I highly recommend it for first time clicker trainers who are still getting used to timing and the clicker in general.
Since your dogs already have the basics down, I would recommend starting target training which can be extremely helpful for reactive dogs, and it’s just kinda cool. I introducing targeting by teaching “touch”, or hand targeting. (For larger animals like horses and dogs, I use a flat palm, for smaller animals like cats and mice I use one or two fingers.) The first step of hand targeting is just placing your hand near your dog. Wait for them to touch your hand with their nose, and immediately click and treat. If it’s taking a long time, move your hand a little so it’s interesting. Repeat this until the dog clearly understands that touching your hand gets a click, then add the verbal cue. Extend your hand and say “touch” (or whatever you want the verbal cue to be.) After your dog has hand targeting down and will reliably hand target without reward after every touch, you can start having the animal target other things! Here is a good video that explains it better than me haha. Emily’s (kikopup) videos is a great online resource for clicker training. She has a lot of great how-to videos!
For your dog’s reactivity, you need to identify her triggers and her threshold, and it seems like you seem to know them pretty well. Since she is stressed by just the idea of walks, start associating her leash (and whatever equipment you might use to walk her with) with lots of treats and playtime. So she sees her leash? Click/treat.
For her reactivity to other dogs, you’re going to want to counter condition her to other dogs. Basically, if she sees another dog: click/treat and immediately remove her before she can react. Gradually build up her tolerance. This will take awhile, don’t push it too fast! Every time she reacts to another dog she self-reinforces herself. Here are some great tips on working with a leash reactive dog.
I hope this makes sense, if you need anything clarified feel free to ask.
Good luck and c/t to you for making the decision to work with your dogs!
Ian Dunbar on dog-friendly dog training →
Speaking at the 2007 EG conference, trainer Ian Dunbar asks us to see the world through the eyes of our beloved dogs. By knowing our pets’ perspective, we can build their love and trust. It’s a message that resonates well beyond the animal world.
Veterinarian, dog trainer and animal behaviorist Ian Dunbar understands our pets’ point of view. By training dog owners in proper conduct (as much as he trains the dogs themselves), he hopes to encourage better relationships with dogs — not to mention their friends and children, too.
- Bitework without compulsion
Pictured above is Shade Whitesel with her dog (CD, BH, SchH3, FR 1) Reiki vom Aegis. Shade is a successful bitework trainer and competitor who trains bitework with the use of positive reinforcement and without the use of corrections/coercion. Her dog Reiki has his AKC Companion Dog title, his Schutzhund 3 title, and his French Ring 1 title. She has also competed with and titled other dogs.
- ‘08 Malinois SchH1 Champion
- ‘09 DVG SchH2 Nationals Champion
- ‘11 USA Northwest Regional Champion
- 7th place in the ‘12 AWDF Nationals with a score of 281
- 2nd place in the ‘12 DVG Regionals with a perfect score of 100 in obedience.
To the anti-clicker Anon
Literally the only difference between the training methods you outlined for working dogs, particularly drug and tracking dogs, is the use of a marker word rather than a clicker. Clicker training doesn’t mean just shoving food into your dog whenever he high fives and thinking that’s the case shows a fundamental misunderstanding of positive reinforcement/negative punishment training. The dog does not “look to the clicker” or food for guidance, the purpose of the clicker is that it’s a tool to precisely mark the exact second the dog performs the desired behavior. Also the food should always be out of sight when practicing a behavior the dog knows otherwise you are bribing the dog, not rewarding it. And while most clicker training resources tend to focus heavily on food because almost all dogs are food driven it’s not the only (or even best) reward for many dogs, especially sport and working dogs. Clicker training is about figuring out what your dog finds most reinforcing and utilizing that to reinforce the desired behaviors (read up on the Premack Principle for an excellent example of this).
I have a teenaged GSD and while he thinks food is pretty neat, nothing in the world is as rewarding to him as fetch. So I do Schutzhund-style ball reward training with him, using a clicker as a marker. I prefer to use toy rewards for certain behaviors like recalls and heeling because while food is calming, toys increase drive. He also responds perfectly to a marker word (mine is “Ja!”) but marker words are less precise so when teaching a complex behavior I use the clicker. Read a single book on Schutzhund, or tracking, or French Ring and you’ll find that they ALL use food and toy rewards constantly, especially for complex behaviors. The only difference between those types of training and pure clicker training is the type of corrections they use (positive punishment for the former, negative punishment for the latter). You’ll be incredibly hard pressed to find top performance and working dogs that have been trained only using praise because it’s not a very effective way to train a dog.
I also think it’s incredibly foolish to differentiate between “trick” training and “obedience” training. The only supposed difference is that tricks are fun and obedience isn’t but that’s simply a failure of the dog’s handler.
Sure, clicker training is fine for tricks, but not for overall obedience and manners. It also limits dog-human interaction and communication. The dog should be looking to you for direction first and foremost, not the clicker or a treat. And don't try and tell my that clicker training is the way to go when training a working dog. Drug dogs are trained using their favorite toy, attack dogs with words, treats, and praise reward. I say praise reward is the way to go. Not a damn clicker.
Sweetie drug dogs are trained using a clicker.
“Attack dogs”, hm? I’m sure you know SO MUCH about bitework.
It does not limit interaction because it’s a MARKER it does not replace the reward.
The top IPO, french ring, personal protection, tracking dogs, obedience, herding, etc dogs are all clicker trained. Even Ed Frawley and Mike Ellis clicker train every dog, and I’m certainly no Leerburg kennel fan, but they are damn good with the clicker.
If you use praise as the primary reinforcer, I bet you use +P. Tell me, what kind of collars do you use?
#trolls get old after awhile
Because, why would anyone waste their time with a "clicking" noise to train a dog when you only need your voice? And the whole Operant Conditioning is completely bullshit. Dogs aren't like machines, they definitely have a mind of their own - but the people that use clicker training and O.C. seem to disregard that. Plus, the clicker isn't even necessary. It's really just a marker for the human, that's all it is. Try to train an aggressive dog with a clicker, see how far that gets you...
Oh sweetie pie. Science is bullshit, eh? You are aware ALL animals learn by operant conditioning, yes? Even humans. There is a science behind learning. It’s psychology 101 my dear.
Of course they have a mind of their own, that’s why you find out what motivates them. Find out what they find reinforcing and punishing.
The clicker isn’t necessary, however it IS a marker for the dog. Everyone uses a marker. Clickers work great because they’re consistent and always sound the same. Training with a clicker is far less sloppy, quicker, and less frustrating to the animal. Verbal markers are not nearly as accurate, although all my animals respond to both verbal, visual, and click markers.
And I actually HAVE trained more than one aggressive dog with a clicker. I’ve also trained aggressive cats with a clicker and worked with aggressive horses and a clicker! Maybe you should try learning about actual animal behavior and give it a shot?
#aww anon is misinformed