Dog Whispering or Dog Training


By Josiah Neuman CMT, CDT
In Dogs We Trust, LLC. / Wir Vertrauen


In this day and age, we are surrounded by T.V. shows and celebrity dog trainers claiming to "whisper" their way up to the 'head of the pack'. Much of the pack related comparisons we hear or read about, are based on how wolves or wild packs of dogs live and interact. In the last twenty years, our understanding of dog behavior in relation to wolf behavior has changed. Also, our understanding of dominance and hierarchies in wild animals, has become clearer.

So what is the difference between these wild animals and our pet dogs? Does the bad behavior really mean your dog is trying to run the pack? Domesticated dogs have a tempered drive to gain rank compared to that of the average wolf, therefore this comparison is not accurate. Dominance only exists once one individual (dog or human) submits or defers. In most cases, the problem is that pets are unruly or misbehaved because of reasons other than pack leadership. I.e. they need training!

In reality, dogs do not see us humans as dogs. We walk on two legs, speak English, and interact within the family, in ways very different from the way canines do. In this article, I am going address some of the pack leader issues that celebrity dog trainers claim, will make you head of the pack.

A common myth states; that allowing your dog to walk in front, or pull on leash is a sign of dominance, or pack leadership. Dogs pull on leash and walk in front because they are excited, and motivated by environmental stimulus. When your dog is pulling you to the next fire hydrant to pee, or goes after a squirrel in the distance, do you really think they are asserting themselves as pack leader? Or is it a competing motivation they want access to, at the point in time? Teaching a dog to walk at your side or behind you, is a training exercise that has nothing to do with dominance, or pack leadership.

Still don't believe me? I can hand you the leash of a fully trained dog, that on command will walk behind you, and at no point in this dog's mind, does it see you as the pack leader. Teaching your dog to walk on leash serves many benefits, however it is a trained behavior.

Josiah Neuman with pack of boot camp training dogs at state park

What about a dog that likes to jump up on people? Is this an example of dominance, aggression, or is the dog status seeking? None of the above. Dogs jump up on people to seek attention or initiate play, and usually this behavior has been rewarded, thus encouraging it further. Regardless of the status in a pack (alpha, submissive, etc), all dogs play, jump, and romp. This has nothing to do with either accepting a submissive role, or taking the alpha dog position.

Leadership is established when a human sets clear rules for behavior, effectively communicates those rules by rewarding the correct behaviors, and prevents bad behavior from happening. He/or she immediately removes rewards for undesirable behaviors. This is the formula for good training and a healthy relationship, between you and your canine companion.

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