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Bad for dog to walk through door before me?

Monday May 25th, 2009

By Lee Charles Kelley

Question:

Why do I need to keep my dog from going through the door ahead of me?

answered by Lee Charles Kelley

Answer:

It used to be believed that a dog who goes through a door ahead of his owner "thinks" he's alpha. That's supposedly because in a wolf pack whenever there's an opening for the group to go through, the pack members exhibit a lot of snarling, posturing, and other aggressive behaviors, seemingly over who gets to go through first.

This was mistakenly interpreted by researchers as attempts by each aggressive wolf to rise in status in the pack's hierarchy. It turns out that this behavior was only observed in captive wolves, who were culled from various sources and who didn't really know one another before they were clumped together and expected to act like a real pack. So these animals were behaving more like members of rival packs than real packmates. This behavior is never seen in wild wolves, or even in the wolves at Wolf Park in Indiana.

So while it's not a bad idea to keep your dog from bolting through the door, if just for the sake of his own safety (not to mention the wear and tear it'll save on your arm!), it has nothing to do with showing him that you're alpha. Dogs simply don't think that way.

Lee Charles Kelley is a best-selling novelist and long-time dog trainer in New York City.

Read more about Lee Charles Kelley in the DogTime expert center...
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