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Why Modern Dog Trainers Reject Dominance Theory

One of these days I plan to write a post on dominance theory and force-based training. Until then, I recommend that you read the Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals put out by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB)

"Dominance is defined as a relationship between individual animals that is established by force/aggression and submission, to determine who has priority access to multiple resources such as food, preferred resting spots, and mates (Bernstein 1981; Drews 1993). . . In our relationship with our pets, priority access to resources is not the major concern. The majority of behaviors owners want to modify, such as excessive vocalization, unruly greetings, and failure to come when called, are not related to valued resources and may not even involve aggression. Rather, these behaviors occur because they have been inadvertently rewarded and because alternate appropriate behaviors have not been trained instead. Consequently, what owners really want is not to gain dominance, but to obtain the ability to influence their pets to perform behaviors willingly —which is one accepted definition of leadership (Knowles and Saxberg 1970; Yin 2009)." AVSAB

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