A detour from our cross-country journey

We interrupt this recounting of the trip for a post about dog behavior.

I just re-read an article showing the flaws in the alpha-dog theory. It’s from the December 2011 issue of the Whole Dog Journal, written by Patricia Miller, one of my favorite writers on the relationship between people and dogs. And it’s so concise, I want everyone interested in dogs to read it. If you do think this way, it will give you words to describe why you do what you do. If you subscribe to the alpha-dog theory, I ask you to read the article with an open mind.

“De-bunking the Alpha-Dog Theory” is a short, clear explanation of why positive reinforcement training is more appropriate and effective than the alpha-dog approach. I present to you the summary paragraph:

“Today, educated trainers are aware that canine-human interactions are not driven by social rank, but rather by reinforcement. Behaviors that are reinforced repeat and strengthen. If your dog repeats an inappropriate behavior such as counter surfing or getting on the sofa, it’s not because he’s trying to take over the world; it’s just because he’s been reinforced by finding food on the counter, or by being comfortable on the sofa. He’s a scavenger and an opportunist, and the goods are there for the taking. Figure out how to prevent him from being reinforced for the behaviors you don’t want, and reinforce him liberally for the ones you do, and you’re well on your way to having the relationship of mutual love, respect, communication, and communion that we all want to have with our dogs.”



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