Dog Behaviour and Leadership by Nick Jones

I am often asked about the subject of leadership, because it does seem to be a current ‘buzz word’ at present. So, I would like to address some of the areas that may help if you are experiencing any difficulties with your dog.

My work is at the more pressurised end of what might be termed as dog training and people come to me when things are at a low ebb, having tried everything else. This is normally called behavioural work and I come across all sorts of job descriptions, anything from ‘dog behaviourist’ to ‘dog listener’ or ‘dog whisperer’. I don’t claim to be any of the above; call me what you like, but I do it every day, have a passion for my work and strive for excellence in all I do.

So, to dogs. I recall working with a chocolate Labrador not so long ago, which decided to ensconce itself against the dishwasher (dirty plates and food scraps!) that was at the far end of a narrow kitchen. Not initially aware of how much he prided himself on this secure location, I approached and calmly slipped a hand under his collar to remove him…at which point he gave a low guttural growl as if to say “you move me one more inch and I’ll have you”. The look in his eyes confirmed the growl and I decided that to move away was prudent. I soon returned with a slip lead and he walked away without aggression. We put in place some new rules to show him what was available to him in terms of movement about the home and prevented access to the kitchen later on. He is now doing well with a caring family.

The vast majority of dogs are just great, BUT they require from you leadership, consistency within the family and the best start possible in early life. What do I mean by these words exactly? Well, it’s impossible for me to go into depth for every aspect of dog training and problem resolution here, because it would turn into a book, but I would like to expand a little more…

Leadership is an on-going (birth to death even) approach that will protect, guide and reassure any dog. There is not a single thing that you do to show leadership, but a combination of setting reasonable boundaries for a dog that allows it to relax and enjoy a calm life as a part of your family. Some of the components to develop good positive leadership would include…

Obedience training
Classes can be good, but in my experience I see too many dogs that have been through the classes and found everything too stressful. Too many barking anxious dogs, anxious owners over-correcting and over issuing of commands. Too much food on the floor and generally a little bit chaotic.

This is not what we want our young dogs to experience in terms of relating to other dogs at an early age. Too stressful. As I say, classes can be good, but I urge you to check them out before hand and to even stop if your dog (or you) finds it all too much. Meeting well-balanced dogs in an open-air environment free from these pressures will be far better. A few hours with a respected local trainer in your local parks and streets would be far more valuable as it’s geared towards real life situations.

Managing your dog
By this I mean things you can do in the home in particular to ensure your dog is being watched (more the younger the dog is…a little like children) to ensure his actions are acceptable whilst in your home. A very young dog that has complete freedom to go where it likes (inside or out) is heading for trouble. As the dog matures and it gains your trust, you can then allow him more liberty. Too many owners start off the other way round and then have to work to pull things back. I see the first two years as crucial in shaping a dog’s behaviour and maintaining boundaries is essential. With slower maturing breeds you may need to add twelve months to that!

Good manners
Another area to maintain with any dog in the early years is ensuring that your dog is well mannered. Again, just like children, once you have a foundation of well-mannered behaviour, you can begin to enjoy what life has to offer more, because you know you can enter into almost any situation and come out the other side with your nerves in tact, your head held high. Aspects to address to ensure your dog is respectful and calm in the home and outside:

  • Calm homecomings – reward calm behaviour, not over excitability. Sit = Hello
  • Feeding manners – feed a good brand of food, a ‘Wait’ prior to allowing the dog to eat and respect around you when you are eating.
  • Sleep and rest areas – allow the dog on furniture only on your say so and ensure that the dog sleeps away from you to encourage an independent dog.
  • Doorways – calm and respectful leaving of the home at doorways and re entry. Train a simple ‘Sit and Wait’ for example. The same goes for car entry/exit.
  • Heelwork – an essential component to ensure the dog is exercising self-control and following you. Head and body harnesses should only be seen as a stepping-stone to walking on a relaxed lead and broad fixed collar. Seek one to one guidance if you are struggling with this aspect.

The recall – suffice to say that a dog that does not recall is a worry to you as an owner and a potential nuisance to other walkers when outside. Worst-case scenario is that your dog causes an accident on a public road. Poor recall can also lead to an exuberant dog getting embroiled with other dogs in conflict…possibly leading your own dog becoming reactive to others as time passes. Not wishing to place a negative slant on everything, but I see it so often, so I am keen to address things on a preventative level where possible.

Exercise – a well-exercised dog is a relaxed dog and a relaxed dog is far less likely to spend that same energy on being destructive, dominant or indulging in any other unwanted behaviours. Work on finding the right level of exercise for your dog’s breed and age. This alone can save you a great deal of trouble.

This means that you are doing your best within the family at all times to ensure that you are all singing from the same song sheet. Children will need constant supervision and gentle guidance to begin with (age depending) to ensure that they too are doing their bit to show calm behaviour with the dog. Consistency between the man and woman in the home can be harder to achieve at times, as both can have their own ideas on how something should be dealt with. Suffice to say, that it is worthwhile to sit down early on and agree the way things are going to be done around the areas I describe under “good manners” for example; this needs to be extended across the dog’s routine.

Best start
With a rescue dog, much of this early training time may have passed already and you will be working with this in mind. However, should you obtain a puppy at 8 weeks of age, then you have a huge responsibility to go out of your way to socialise your dog. This single-minded approach can in itself take away most future problems, as you will be removing the element of risk of developing fear. Even though you dog may not receive the ‘all clear’ to mix with other dogs after it’s injections at about 12 weeks, it is essential that you are creative in introducing your dog to as many things as possible (dogs included!) to make them seem normal and acceptable right from day one in your care. This period closes down at approximately 16 weeks of age; so you can see that you only have a couple of months to go about this process. It doesn’t close completely, so intend to maintain positive meetings with all sorts for the first two years at least.

Prior to the ‘all clear’ of the second injection, you can allow the dog to mix with other calm, healthy dogs in friends’ and neighbours’ gardens for example. Keep your pup on a lead or long line to allow intervention if needed. To avoid this can be a mistake, as you will then only have approximately 4 weeks to socialise your new dog, this is simply not enough for some. Introduce as much variety as possible: Dogs and people of all ages, shapes and sizes etc.

Some keywords for you to consider: Dogs, people, cars, buses, livestock, pubs, towns, traffic, your local vet…simply drop in for a pleasant hello and leave again!

I am well aware that it’s easy to talk theory and that no single article or book will resolve the concerns you may be experiencing. It’s not unusual for me to visit a home and to see they have a number of popular books, they watch all the programmes (not always a good thing!) and they have done their level best to resolve things on their own. What can often make a difference is a trained eye can that see what particularly need addressing and to work with what we have in front of us. Dogs have a super ability to change and adapt in a very short space of time; this often leaves me both touched and impressed.

There is help available out there folks, you just need to make a number of phone calls, ask some direct questions to find out how the trainer works and handles dogs, then to make a well balanced decision that will benefit both you and the dog. I hope this article prompts some thoughts in you regarding leadership in particular, because all dogs require this as a foundation to leading a balanced life.

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Nick Jones, for the CFBA, the CIDBT and their students of Dog Behaviour & Training

Intelligent Leadership Programmes by Colin Tennant

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.

Commonsense, really
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.

Questionable Science
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.

Intelligent Science
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.

Leadership – Fact or Fiction? by Ross McCarthy

The issue of whether a dog should be described as dominant is yet again a hot topic in the dog world at present. Not particularly for pet owners, trainers and behaviour practitioners who observe dogs daily, but a tiny group of behaviour counsellors or academics who speculate that there is not such thing. It is a long and complex discussion, that there simply is not enough space for in this magazine, but I will describe some of the points.

Dog professionals are always seeking to further understand the dog, what makes it tick, its behaviour and of course to develop new methods of behaviour reformation and training. Those of us who own more than one dog and who observe their dogs interacting on a daily basis are left with no uncertainty that our domestic dogs are pack animals derived from the wolf.

Asserting Dominance
My own male German Shepherds display ritualised threats in many situations throughout the day, each and every day. The older, more dominant dog will growl and bare his teeth frequently at the younger dog. The younger dog is very deferential (so far) and therefore fights do not occur – an innate pack order is maintained. My elderly dog takes possession of the food bowls, the back of the car, his sleeping space, my attention, toys, old bits of wood and he also dominates the younger dog whenever he feels like it, with no obvious reason evident to the human onlooker. My younger dog clearly understands the rules of the house and knows where he stands in relation to the other dog. If for example, my older dog is laying by the back door, the younger dog will not pass him, but if the situation is reversed, the older dog will simply walk towards him and make him move out of the way. A clear example of dominance and deference in action and it maintains the peace. This is of course fact, not theory and I have observed this in hundreds of other dogs through my work.

Why the question of dominance
The problem is, that some questionable minor research is done, published and swallowed without question by some people.

Often this is misinterpreted and regurgitated to pet owners as fact causing confusion. Although I keep myself abreast of recent research and the opinions of others, I always base my knowledge on the dogs that I handle and deal with on a daily basis by observing their interactions within the family group which often contains adults, children and other animals. I observe the dog behaviour patterns and how that dog interacts with each family member, other dogs, the family cat and visitors into the home.

There is no equality in dog society; you lead or you are led. This does not negate the fact that we can develop a trusting enjoyable relationship with our pet dogs. On the contrary, a dog that knows its position in the family pack is without doubt a happy and contented dog and moreover, a less anxious and more confident animal. We lead in most situations by default. We decide when the dog eats, goes for a walk and such like.

The word ‘dominance’ seems to be a contentious issue in the dog behavioural world. The word simply means “ more important, strong or noticeable than anything else of the same type” and “the relative position of an individual in a social hierarchy”.

People who wish to demote the word dominance, state that it now means when a dog wants to take over the family group – to lead in all situations and eventually to take over the world – the latter of course is written somewhat facetiously by people wishing to make a point or to perhaps make an issue where none exists. They prefix the argument with “new, modern” its no such thing, it is spin and reinvention to sell a prejudicial view.

A dominant dog has no desire to take over the family or to lead in all areas of life, just to protect its possessions and positions that it feels are important to him and in relation to his intrinsic pack rules. There is no malice, simply a normal innate drive lesser or greater in an individual dog or breed of dog.

When dogs interact with each other displaying ritualised aggression and dominance over each other which obviously they do, why would a dog not treat us in the same way? I am not suggesting that dogs view us as dogs, but what I am suggesting is that dogs have a complex blueprint of behaviours that prepare them for life in a pack and that they do not have the thought processes to accommodate other species behaviours. Dogs can only behave like dogs and we have to make the effort to work with and manipulate these behaviours to make the relationship work for our complex society.

I see many dogs of different breeds that one may describe as dominant. They are quite happy to ignore their owners and do as they like with whatever punishment their owners deliver being like water off a ducks back. They are pushy, in your face, in your way, causing mischief, attention seeking and demanding. They often mouth their owners, steal articles like tea towels, socks etc, pull on clothes and generally dominate the lives of their owners for most of the time. Of course, the result is masses of attention on their terms.

Dominance is not aggression. I know some dominant people, always pushing for their own way, always deciding where their group of friends should meet and at what time, who will drive, dominating the conversation over dinner and not listening to the opinions of others, but believing their view is correct. They are not aggressive people, just dominant and somewhat forceful. One could describe them as natural leaders in certain circumstances.

Dominance Aggression
Most puppies from the outset accept people as leaders, a source of food, warmth, fun, support, protection etc and simply rarely challenge us and on the whole are quite deferential. However, there are many dogs that I see that show no hesitation in challenging owners over possession of an item or position in a bed, on a sofa and the like. This behaviour often begins during puppy-hood. It is not uncommon in my line of work to meet eight or nine week old puppies that display vocalised aggression, snapping and biting at their owners over what the puppy deems as another trying to get what it now has. This behaviour is innate – an instinctual drive to preserve resources. This is dominance aggression. The foundation is set, but it is how we handle these early challenges and general interaction that either compounds the problem and increases the aggression or eliminates it.

Some of the current speculative ideas state that dominance aggression does not exist. The crux of the issue is that these same writers don’t tell you what does exist in their view, but simply use jargon to disguise their lack of real knowledge. Recently people have been describing dominance aggression as ‘control-complex aggression’ – bizarre. It really is just down to semantics, the behaviour is the same. Some people may inform you that when a dog growls at a person – it’s owner, it is simply because it has never been presented with a reason not to or has learnt that this is rewarding or more recently to avoid a perceived ‘punishment’. Of course the use of aggression generally is rewarding if people recoil and that is what usually increases such displays at a rapid rate. There is a large learnt component in dominance aggression, but the dominance is innate. An intrinsic behaviour that ensures survival of the fittest.

Many behaviour advisors now refer to dominance or ‘pack theory’ as being outdated along with dominance reduction programmes being unkind and when applied – causing the dog stress. They are wrong and these people produce no evidence to support these fatuous claims, it is simply read and regurgitated and that is what is dangerous and confusing for good pet owners who want the best for their dog. More bizarrely, they offer no alternative programme that we can see works, which is the Achilles-heel of their argument.

Dominance Reduction Programmes
If one brings up a puppy with fair leadership, correct socialisation, rules, control, obedience training to a high standard, mental stimulation and correct exercise there is likely to be few problems when the dog develops into adult-hood. However, these dogs are not the type of dogs that Frontline Behaviour Practitioners deal with. We deal with dogs that have not had such a good start and whose aggression is well embedded and has resulted in serious attacks on people. Even when there is a history of many bites upon an owner when I deploy a dominance reduction programme (leadership plan), the results are quite amazing. This of course is in conjunction with other re-training advice. I do not believe that a leadership programme is a ‘cure all’, but the results do speak for themselves. In my experience, the leadership programme has the opposite of causing stress, dogs become calmer, more malleable to training, listen to their owners more and are more content with life. That information is not taken from a book or a theory, that’s as it happens weekly in my office and from the words of the owners who are the final judges and who of course want contentment and happiness for their dogs.

In general within ten days of placing a dog on a leadership programme, in most cases the main conflict, trauma, and distress of the dog and owner had been dramatically reduced or in about half of the cases actually removed. Thereafter, relationships were so improved within a few months and further education and training could commence to get a good all-round result.

What causes real stress for dogs is confusion and conflict. I have seen so many people that are made to feel like failures because they are unable to follow bizarre behavioural advice that operates on a misguided system which begins with empty words like kind, gentle, reward bordering on mystical wishful thinking and time. Dogs that have bitten people do not have time – they need to quickly be brought under control to remain in that home and not another statistic in the dog rescue home or on the vets euthanasia list. Clients need advice, training and methods that work and show results and combine training knowledge and behaviour. That’s what I describe as kind.

A leadership programme is simply looking at the dogs innate drives and adjusting its routines accordingly. For example, when a dog seeks and receives attention endlessly, this is removed so that attention is given at the owners behest and not the dogs. No less attention, just a reallocation. We always link the attention to good behaviour. Many people implement this type of training – because it works. They simply do not have it under the heading of dominance, but attention control. Same issue; different words.

I do not advocate that all dog owners follow a dominance reduction programme, but when a dogs behaviour is seriously aberrant, I will do all I can to ensure that the dog stops biting people, stays alive and living with his family, safely and has an improved quality of life.

An example
Only last week, a rescued dog was presented to me by her third owner and if I could not solve the dogs’ problems quickly, she was being returned to the rescue home to be euthanased.

The very responsible and patient owner was critically torn between the love of her little dog and her lifestyle being compromised to such an extent that her husband could not go in to the kitchen without being attacked and virtually all visitors had ceased – this little dog has attacked and bitten over 150 times in the six months that her current owner had her.

The dog was already sleeping on the woman’s bed and the couch from where it had launched attacks on visitors and stopped her husband going near her. In one week, having put the dog on an intelligent leadership programme, all of the aggression had ceased. The owner was ecstatic with the result and her words were that this dog had never been so happy, relaxed and content – fact, not theory.

What we are talking about overall is a word game. We all need to make sure that we create a fair, balanced, communicative and symbiotic relationship with our dogs. Dogs are opportunists and extremely adaptive – they are not trying to take over the world, just take opportunities as they are presented to them. We must respect our dogs and give them the best quality of life we possibly can. Dogs need to be happy and controlled. Dogs are not people, they are dogs and to treat a dog like a dog is the kindest thing one can do. Allow your dogs to live in a consistent world with black and white rules, plenty of love, praise and attention, but always to encourage the positive behaviour. Dogs are very special and they deserve proper understanding and care – not mythical ideals.

Whether or not you feel dominance exits, it is only a word with a number of interpretations. Call it bullish, call it over-confident, superior, arrogant, overriding or even ‘control-complex’ if you must. It makes no difference which words we use to describe the same thing. Rather than be ‘blinded by pseudo science’ and some academics who wish to confuse you with jargon to promote their own vague ideas, just make your own mind up by observing your own dogs and those that you meet. Thankfully the more we study and understand the dog the more our knowledge grows and the more training methods evolve and change. Dogs are what they always have been and that won’t alter – their ancestry can not be changed. It is us who change through knowledge, not the dogs.

By Ross McCarthy