|10-21-2013 10:04 PM|
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|10-18-2013 10:24 PM|
I don't use the term in reference to myself. My dogs know that I maintain the resources, they aren't stupid. They listen to me, and show no aggression to me.
On the other hand, I am not a pack member at all. I am neither a leader-dog or a follower-dog. I am the coach and they are the players, only the players will never become the coach. I am the boss, and they are the employees, only the employee will never become the boss. I am god with a small g (like in Greek or Roman gods), and they are the people. We are different species. They will never reach the level of human. And good. If they were humans I would probably have to kick them all out because I wouldn't be able to live with them.
I think the people who studied the feral dogs just got it wrong. They studied wolves in captivity, and when the food is regular, pack members can spend their time squabbling about who lays where. But in the wild, the alpha dog and the alpha bitch cannot afford to have serious injuries all the time. They do not constantly fight or there would be no wolves.
Dogs in packs do not follow the dog that is constantly attacking members -- that dog isn't going to make it. They follow the alpha dog. This actually was recognised as the dog with the most friends. But in fact, it is the dog that carries itself so alpha to the others, that exudes alpha in its body language that the lower ranking dogs flock to it, and in some cases a lower ranking dog will fight other dogs. But the alphas usually do not have to fight much at all. Not the true alpha. If they do, they settle a dispute with finality and it is done. Everyone understands where they are, and there is peace, or what looks like the friendly dog being followed.
I truly believe there is an alpha/top dog hierarchy in dog packs. But I really give my dogs more credit and I don't lower myself to the level of canine to ensure their obedience. I do not bark at them to communicate. I do not howl with them at the train. (Well, ok, not all the time though). I do not order them off couches and beds, but I do draw the line at tables. I do not pee over top of every place they go to prove I am the top critter on the place -- and YES, bitches DO mark over other bitches pee.
Dogs, very much like children, will follow someone who gives the overall essense of being in control. Even with collegues at work, if you go over there, and say:
"Hmmm well, I think we should probably check the wiring first, or maybe the component orientation. Let's not just turn it on. But wait, uh, maybe we could look for some preliminary tests we should run."
Your collegues are going to start saying what they think the group should do first, and maybe start arguing about it.
If instead, you go over and say, "I am going to run some preliminary checks on the new machine, and then we'll fire it up." People will step out of your way and be ready to do something if you ask them.
There are leaders and followers, and dogs for the most part are happy to follow us. This doesn't mean they wait for us at doorways, unless we train them to do so. It has nothing to do with that. If a dog senses that you are in control, he will relax and go along with you. If a dog senses that you are nervous, putting off bad vibes, afriad, uncertain, the dog is going to be reflecting that nervousness and uncertainty -- that dog is much more likely to act on its own and make some bad choices. An incident of uncertainty or fearful behavior on the human won't make a difference, but general nervouseness, high strung, worried around people, angry and shouting -- these are the behaviors that dogs will be less likely to relax and follow.
Every thing that the old-school trainers did, that Cesar does isn't necessarily wrong. I think it is over-done, often misunderstood and ineffectively applied, and often totally unnecessary.
|10-18-2013 08:58 PM|
|llombardo||I agree that I'm Alpha, but not in a mean way. They also have a structure amongst themselves. By far my oldest female is it in my house, the female GSD will eventually take that role and the males? They let the girls take charge|
|10-18-2013 05:59 PM|
I know that my own reflexive response is to assume that a person using that term is subscribing to old-school thinking and a Cartman-esque "RESPECT MAH AUTHORITAH!" belligerence in asserting "dominance" over their dogs.
But that isn't always right, and on those occasions, my leaping to the assumption doesn't help facilitate understanding.
So I just don't use it. In general I've come to the view that leaping to labels is never really helpful in these discussions. I'm much less interested in what people think they are doing (they're too often wrong) than what they are in fact actually doing, i.e., I'm not interested in whether someone thinks they are "positively reinforcing" their dog, I'm more interested in a granular, factual description of the actual actions that they are undertaking (delivering a piece of smelly cheese via the left hand to the dog in Heel position after the dog has been clicker marked for making eye contact in Heel).
I think that those discussions -- specific, factual descriptions scrubbed of as many value judgments as possible -- are worth having. I don't think label exchanges are useful anymore. YMMV, of course; I'm in a phase of being a little burned out with Internet discussions and it shows.
|10-18-2013 11:54 AM|
I absolutely consider myself "Alpha" of my pack, because I provide food, care for the needs of my dogs, I am in charge in and outside of the house, I offer commands and expectations when we are out as a working team or training, and I establish the rules of my pack and home. That makes me Alpha, not rolling and pinning and forcing and abusing or any of the things the media states are part of being the 'Negative Alpha'. Yes, I spoil my dogs ROTTEN and they are cherished and loved dearly in my life, but I am their leader and caretaker - first to defend, do everything necessary to provide love and care, I make the rules and expectations.
We can't change the basic nature of dogs. Of canines. Remove human influence at this point, watch the dog in its natural way of life, and you will see the primitive animal with primitive instincts at the core of its being. Domesticated or not, they are still animals. (And I love them for that, calling them animals in no way degrades them or lessens their importance in life.)
|10-18-2013 11:33 AM|
|Suka||Wild Wolf, it's a frustrating topic for sure. I too, strongly consider a misuse and misunderstanding of the term and it's 'tarnishment' as you put it. I really like the way you stated that. I have been training and observing dogs for decades, am in the animal care business myself, and was an undergrad in animal science pre-vet track and over the years have gone from compulsion training to training with a positive influence, using minimal aversives; I am what has been labeled a "crossover trainer" and I really struggle with a few issues that have more recently come to light, especially since attending a "dominance debunked" seminar by Dr. Dunbar, certainly a man of distinction in the animal behavior and training field. The most educated and experienced observers of behavior have rallied to debunk the Alpha dog and I'm listening. I myself am rolling these (not new) ideas around in my mind and working to understand another way of looking at things that is different than what I have been taught and interpreted for years. I am not judging anyone's response in this thread; rather I wanted to hear reactions and responses as well as others' feelings on this topic that has been set out to us by some of the most esteemed people in the field.|
|10-18-2013 11:20 AM|
No matter what ideals humans have, and how hard they try to make dogs fit their ideals, there will always be dominance and submission in canine behaviour and social structure. That is nature, that is how animals have lived for thousands upon thousands of years, and no amount of wishful thinking will change that. To be honest, I can't stand these "dominance debunked" articles. After spending a little under 10 years observing wolf behaviour and an entire career in animal care, which included a few years working with large packs of dogs, I firmly stand by the fact that dogs indeed use dominance, submission and rank amongst each other.
Do I think many people misuse the term Alpha and do not properly understand what it means? Absolutely. It's a term that has been tarnished by the media, and by trendy trainers.
|10-18-2013 11:20 AM|
|10-18-2013 11:00 AM|
I had hoped to elicit some discussion as well as see some responses. Here is another article debunking the "alpha" idea by yet another behavior and training expert, Dr. Ian Dunbar:
The Macho Myth | Dog Star Daily
This article does attempt to identify and link the disparities and years of connections in our minds in regards to our ideas of what is "alpha" and interpretation.
|10-18-2013 10:55 AM|
|Whiteshepherds||No alpha's in our house...just three dogs, two cats and two humans fighting for the last burger off the grill.|
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