Training and Welfare

I'm very keen to encourage people to interact with their dogs in a way which enriches the dogs life. But I don't consider training in isolation- every single interaction you have with your dog will either increase or decrease the likelihood of a particular behaviour recurring. This is the science we work with when reshaping problematic behaviours, just as a good dog trainer will use. But not all are up to date with the latest canine behavioural science.

It's been very popular in recent years to use the pack theory, based on wolf behaviour, and to use terms like dominance and submission. This often goes hand in hand with the 'teach them manners' school of thought, and anthropomorphic approaches like 'eagerness to please' and 'loyalty'. We know now much of this theory to be flawed, and although some of the techniques can have the desired effect, not often for the reasons suggested. This means when we try to apply the theory to all situations, we end up in trouble. This is really well covered on the following site:

A really good training text about dogs and how they learn is 'The Culture Clash' by Jean Donaldson.

Domestic dogs are not wolves, or humans. There is a real welfare danger in applying the biology of one species to another. You probably see this every time you take your dog for a walk. Many people interpret normal dog behaviour as something problematic, which they must intervene in. People frequently cite fear of dog bites as a reason for doing this, and there are some who deprive their dog of all social contact after one bad experience. In general, the more opportunity a dog has to practice its social skills, the safer it will be. Of course, humans have bred dogs to such extremes that individuals within a species can be as different as, for example, a miniature Yorkie and a Great Dane. This means that the consequences of dog bites can be more severe than if dogs were of a more uniform size and shape. But if you can allow your dog to be a dog as much as possible, it will be happier, healthier and safer. This is easier said than done though, when all the dog walkers out there are following different ideas, using different behaviours and carrying different levels of anxiety and pre-conceived ideas about dogs.