How we care for and train our dogs is of paramount importance in their future success at forming relationships with us. My German Shepherd Deiter is now two. I filmed his upbringing in the first eighteen months for a new video production dealing with the dog’s mind and development. He was obedience-trained from seven weeks, in the main without a collar or lead, simply utilising verbal praise, signals and body language. Discipline was by voice when required. He is now a highly-trained dog and can be walked amongst deer, horses and any other natural prey object for a domestic dog without issue. Most of our dogs become well-mannered and that is why they are our favourite animal – their innate pack or wolf behaviour is what allows us to blend their behaviour into our life for an enjoyable relationship as we, too, are pack animals.
Most experts understand the dog’s pack and wolf antecedents and the research by Robert K Wayne PHD in essence finds that the DNA of dogs and wolves is virtually identical – though domestication has certainly altered the dog to being more malleable, otherwise ownership would be as difficult as that of keeping a tame wolf.
However, as a dog and cat behaviour practitioner of over 30 years’ experience I regularly see unattractive wolf behaviour in my clients’ dogs and the variety that can cause immense conflict between owner and dog and between dog and dog. My job is to first alter the behaviour so the client can keep their dog, or at least manage the behaviour that makes owning the dog easier.
Unfortunately, there has been a trend recently to try and convince us that pack behaviour (dominance) does not exist. Yes, once again, and despite claims that the very limited study of this nature should be used to attempt to overthrow the established and well-documented mainstream behavioural research. It is most untenable. The proponents now wish to transpose the same mad arguments used by other academic ‘experts’ as to how our children over the past 30 years are supposed to have produced enormous problems of extreme badly behaved children that terrorise society. The fact that there are other well-behaved children is noticeable to all of us and that they now wish to renew outpourings of so-called academic conclusions is deeply sad and troubling.
Thousands of dog owners going peaceably about their business are encountering increasing numbers of badly out of control dogs in public places because the owners have been indoctrinated to believe that any correction is bad so the problem is exacerbated daily. The rule I follow is simple, and based on having trained thousands of dogs successfully – in public places, not school halls. Always reward first but when rewards no longer work then discipline may be required even if only a tiny part of the entire training programme.
Well, welcome to a minor group of academics from Bristol University who are extolling similar parallel work that their child-destroying counterparts did. They desire to prevent trainers and behaviour practitioners from using any discipline on dogs and are campaigning in the media to label as ‘wrong’ the excellent non-conflictual methods of rehabilitation that I and others have successfully used to help thousands of owners take control of their dogs.
The dogs we deal with exhibit aggressive or other behavioural problems (like excessive attention-seeking, dangerously boisterous behaviour of diving at people in public places or the home or suffering from extreme anxieties because of this wave of feeble happy-clappy-yappy advice. Let’s kiss, hug and offer chicken to dogs and all will be fine despite the rising problems dogs exhibit. Dogs love chicken but if the motivation to chase other dogs is greater then unfortunately chicken will come second in their choice of attractions.
It is not arguable that dogs work on a rank structure (dominance). Those of you who own more than one dog or see your dog interact with others in the park see this daily. Dominance can be subtle and does not always mean confrontation. Rank and position maintain peace and order. When dogs step out of line they are admonished by a glare, teeth display or an attack, that’s dogs being dogs. Now, just how can these happy-clappy groups (mainly from academia) who have never worked in front-line behaviour state that dogs are not as I describe – replacing the word pack with attachment and believe there is a difference. Well there is – in words but only words.
They are now saying, despite the rising problematic dog count that we need to let them sleep on our beds and sit on our furniture in case we stress them by getting them off. If the dog shows aggression over food, feed them until they burst, they say. The dogs that attack children over toys? Oh, simply supply more toys, they say. The outcome of this irresponsible junk is dogs that do as they wish and are more likely to attack children through dominance aggression because we supply more toy targets for dispute and dominance. Now, you may think this is madness. You’re right. It is. These meddlers are purveying nonsense which, in my view, is also dangerous.
My Cairn Terrier Safie sits on my knee when invited and if people with dogs that are well behaved want them on their knee or couch then that’s their prerogative. However, the dogs that my fellow behaviourists and I deal with are not dogs that are obedient or well-behaved, but in 70% of cases are aggressive or downright dangerous. Of course the academics, having never worked in the industry, don’t even consider the families’ needs – whether you want a dog on your bed or furniture covered in wet mud never mind the hygiene issues, especially where children are concerned. They simply have not thought through what individual owners want as their standards in their home. Remember dear academics: people are important too .
The Canine & Feline Behaviour Association believes that more and more owners encountering problem behaviour is a direct result of the confusing counter information distributed. For owners, this makes decision-making confusing and, in time, their dogs become out of control and in hundreds of cases are euthanased because they did not form leadership rules or teach their dogs strict rules whether called pack , boundaries or other terms.
Brainwashed to ineffectiveness
In the last 12 months I have asked on my walks 22 people, whose dogs are very badly behaved and a plain nuisance in the park, why their dog is not trained – especially to come back. With only two exceptions all began to tell me what they don’t do . That comment is pertinent to my point. Whilst talking, they are either constantly clicking away or feeding their dog and trying to control it simply by endless food rewards as we are stood. I again ask what do you do – not what you don’t do . All I get is a blank look.
They have been brainwashed into becoming ineffective owners by advisors who believe in fantasy moralising. Often these owners have also not let their dog off the lead for over 6 or 12 months because they can’t get the dog back thereby ruining its critical socialisation and temperament development period with dogs and causing more aggression problems to other dogs they encounter.
I state the obvious: your dog does not come back despite following the advice for half a year or so – the methods you use don’t work – I have observed you. Tell the trainer. They say they have but the trainer will not alter the methods due to inculcated belief systems of non-discipline or being negative being the ‘in’ word. To me it’s inconceivable that a trainer would not show these people what to do by example in public place. The truth is that the trainer cannot achieve a result either and that’s the real reason. Of course, there is also the criminal offence under the Trading Standards Act of not doing what you say you can do and charging a fee for it. Not one owner told me how to get the dog back in a way that actually works and they can’t reward the dog because it does not come back. All is you hear is No Negative, No Negative, or if you prefer, discipline. No instruction in my view is tantamount to recklessness at some owners’ poor dogs’ expense.
I point out the actual negative behaviour in their dog they have taught: like upsetting daily most of the people walking their dogs, their dog running off and being hit by a car because it won’t recall, or causing a fight by piling on dogs without control. Now, that’s what I call negative and can lead, through endless frustration, to their dog developing serious aggression to other dogs. Of course, I am in no way blaming these unfortunate owners. They thought they were taking their beautiful puppy to an expert – they were wrong. I am not referring to lazy owners – these people are dedicated and work hard but are using a belief system that is defective and certainly not positive by result.
Intelligent Leadership Programmes (ILP)
I have personally on record instigated some 10,000 programmes on dogs which we have referred to for the last seven years as Intelligent Leadership programmes (ILP) in dogs in the UK. These programmes teach the dog psychologically that you are in charge and moreover link all the attention and praise dogs so enjoy to behaviour you wish to encourage – it’s simple and has an outstanding and unequalled success rate.
Members of the CFBA could probably add many thousands more which have been placed on their own variation programmes sometimes called Alpha, Leadership or other title. Of the 10,000 dogs presented to this centre approximately 7,000 were already aggressive to their owners or dogs or both. The majority of owners were considering placing them in rescue or, alternatively, considering euthanasia. The human psychological crisis in the majority of these cases was critical and emotionally catastrophic. The result has been spectacular and only last week a little terrier dog that was due to be put down is now being kept because of the programme above. And, yes, the owner had the dog sleeping on her bed, attacking her visitors and husband over food and it bit people who sat on the couch next to her. Strange that.
Bristol University did an assessment of 19 neutered males all kept in prison-like conditions at rescue centres and after 6 months declared, having visited them with their clipboards, that dogs have little dominance pack behaviour as described by me and other worldwide experts but are simply attached. In other words: don’t use rank programmes to alter behaviour, they state. My findings from my own extensive experience with large numbers of dogs are totally supported by virtually all dog behaviour studies where dominance has been investigated, and by the practical experience of the vast majority of dog trainers and behaviour practitioners who have worked in the field for any length of time.
Now if they were to produce quantitative evidence and programmes they do use that work on the dogs I have previously described and that we can inspect – then I would look intelligently at their speculations. They don’t. They simply wheel out this irrelevant trial and deliver it as science. Well, if I took 19 male prisoners and neutered them and then drew the parallel that the behaviour in prison they were exhibiting was somehow a correlation of the behaviour of 19 non-castrated males living in normal homes in society and their dominant behaviour one would laugh mockingly at such absurd results. The fact is that this type of minor study is deeply flawed by its study group and environment but, as I said, wheeled out as science we are expected simply to accept.
Where safety can be an issue it is unfortunate if an interpretation arising from a study with few animals damages the long-standing practical experience arising from the handling and training of vast numbers of animals and well-established mainstream research from around the world. One such recent and the largest scale study led by world-renowned Dr Perez-Guisado and Munoz-Serrano of the University of Cordoba, using a sample of 711 dogs (354 males and 357 females of which 594 were pure-bred and 117 mixed breed) has, without equivocation, fully supported my and other experienced practitioners’ views about the dog as pack animal within our families. It simply overwhelms the Bristol findings and kicks it not just into touch but way out of the field.
Dr Perez further stated that significant factors that contribute to aggression in the dog are: a lack of basic training, first-time dog ownership, failure to subject the dog to basic obedience training, spoiling or pampering the dog (i.e. having it on the bed/furniture), not using physical punishment when it is required, spaying female dogs, leaving the dog with a constant supply of food. Now I don’t know Mr Perez but much of what he states is in my Intelligent Leadership Programmes (with the exception of punishment).
He says “failure to observe all of these modifiable factors will encourage this type of aggressiveness and would conform to what we would colloquially call ‘giving our dog a bad education'” He classically refers to the aggression as dominance which, of course, it is.
Dr Perez adds: “to correct the animal’s behaviour, the owner should handle it appropriately and re-establish dominance over the dog”. Need I say more?
The Canine & Feline Behavioural Association, and other mainstream bodies whose members are practically involved with dealing directly with dogs in real environments, are appropriately concerned when inferences are too lightly taken from small scale studies and whose findings are not in accordance with well established research and experience.
Colin Tennant – Chairman of the Canine and Feline Behaviour Association.