Balanced Trainers Logo

Community driven site dedicated to intelligent exchange of ideas and experiences between both dog training professionals and enthusiasts. We apply principles of critical thinking and peer review to the often controversial and provocative topics on dog training.



About Dominance Theory

The two radical extremes of dog training love to debate whether or not dominance exists in domestic dogs. The discussion usually devolves into debating about wolf packs. The similarities and differences are passionately debated to support their side of the argument. I say they are both wrong. I believe that the original theory that describes one Alpha wolf is highly flawed.

I also believe that anyone who thinks that dominance doesn’t exist really needs to open up their eyes and actually watch dogs instead of reading books by some crackpot author trying to sell you on “Her System”. If you don't own a dog, a trip to the local dog park, combined with an open mind and eyes will quickly reveal what I am talking about.

I think part of the problem is that the English language is somewhat lacking in its ability to describe all the different types of dog behavior.

Dominace does not always equate to violence. It often occurs via posturing and body language.

The word dominance definitely gets way overused by all of these TV style trainers. It seems that everything is dominance to them. It gets very tiring after awhile. A dog darting through a doorway in front of you is not dominance. A dog jumping on a bed is not dominance. The TV style trainers love to call everything dominance so that way they can shut down the behavior with dominance. For their next trick they will walk on water.

Click here to read the rest...

The pure positive trainers love the word dominance because it is yet another opportunity for them to tell the world how “scientific” they are. They climb up on their soap box to deliver their sermon on how dominance has been “debunked”. You know immediately that zero thought went into this because they are simply regurgitating what they heard. Just look at their choice of words. Most of these people probably never use the word “debunk” anywhere else in their lives other than on this topic. They use the word in this case because it is the word their pure positive god dispenses like pez candy.

Dominance does exist but it is very dynamic and situatonal.

I say situational because it often varies depending on the exact set of circumstances. If a weaker dog has a bone, the stronger / more dominant dog might choose to leave the dog alone. The more dominant dog has decided that the less dominant dog might choose to fight because the bone has value. The more dominant dog also decides that reward to risk ratio just isn't worth it. The original wolf dominance theory would have you believe that the Alpha always eats first and takes what he wants.

Those that claim dominance doesn't exist would celebrate the above example as a victory, to their argument. That isn't true either. If you take the same two dogs, you might note that one will always go out the door ahead of the other one. You might even see the less dominant dog stop and wait for the more dominant dog to go first. You will also see the more dominant dog push the weaker dog away from his owner when the owner begins to dole out affection. Both of these examples, occur because the weaker dog decides that a fight with a potential loss doesn't warrant the value of the reward.