+R or not to +R

While I personally chose not to use dominance reduction techniques or alpha training in my dogs or with clients, I am not concerned if this is what you chose. Your dog, your choice. I simply believe it to be outdated and have had better, more consistent long term results using non dominance methods than I ever did with alpha. Yes I have tried alpha and dominance reduction in the past but I found it ruined my relationship with my dogs and did not feel natural.

I might have a learning disability but I am mature enough to understand that we are all entitled to our opinion. Some think theirs is the only correct one while others may prefer to sit on the fence. There are some trainers, canine professionals, organisations and individuals who dismiss all positive reinforcement (+R) trainers and indeed some +R trainers who do the same with alpha trainers. It boils down to preference, need and what’s best for the situation.

So what does that mean when applied to behaviour modification? Often when assessing a dog and its family, I’m looking for the family and dog interactions. It becomes obvious if there are mitigating circumstances within the family dynamics and their treatment of the dog and how it relates to any problem behaviour they are having. To +R or not to +R? Sometimes the owners need to say NO to their dog. Yes sometimes it’s ok to point out to a dog it has made an erroneous decision. You don’t have to spank or threaten your dog or bully it into submission. That’s not going to accomplish much more than making it afraid of you which often leads to defensive fearful behaviour. If you do say no, don’t be ashamed but also don’t forget to teach your dog positively what you want instead. The family pet sometimes gets spoiled by well meaning owners and they forget that even in this enlightened non dominance age we have to set some sort of limit to how much fun the dog can have at their expense. It’s about realistic dog training.

When asked my opinion on dominance etc I like to say this: dominance is between two consenting adults. It’s sometimes met with mixed reviews but frankly I feel that yes in context of a situation dominance may play a role but not to blanket the whole lifestyle of a particular dog.

My own view is that alpha and dominance can and is often, taken too far, often by individuals who have no idea what they are doing and abuse dogs in the process. I have seen some sickening acts performed in the name of dominance and alpha training which have led me to the conclusion of leaving alpha and dominance out of modern dog training and behaviour. +R has revolutionised the dog training industry but any trainer worth their salt will tell you that they do very occasionally use their outside voice and give corrections. We are human beings, we have moods as well as desires and you show me anyone who hasn’t felt frustrated at their dog at one time or another, whether it’s trainer error or the dog being a dog. That’s what I mean by realistic dog training, I try to ease the pressure a lot of owners feel when dealing with a problematic dog or training their puppy.

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  1. #1 by Janet (TTouchtrainer) on May 18, 2011 - 6:02 pm

    Good reminder. I think this is a message that we need to keep getting out there – there are ways of training dogs that are effective and respectful of them – we don’t need to dominate or force any animal.

  2. #2 by Ashley on May 19, 2011 - 3:06 pm

    Very well said!!

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