Dominance: Dog training’s dirty word

There may be no surer way to stir up a group of dog trainers than to bring up dominance training. Some see value in forcefully letting your dog know who’s boss, by pinning him on his back, among other tactics. Others believe the process can be ineffective, and even downright harmful. Regularly scare or physically force your dog into submission and you may well end up with one who’s timid or frustrated.

What’s flawed about the approach, say critics, is the assumption that your dog wants to dominate you. True, in the absence of obvious leadership, many dogs will step into the role. (Someone’s gotta set the rules, right?). But he certainly doesn’t sit up nights plotting a hostile takeover. Like people, dogs just want to know where they stand and what’s expected of them.

Try benevolent leadership

Many trainers believe there’s a much better way to frame your thinking around training–and by “better,” we mean humane, rational, and effective. Instead of attempting to dominate your dog, act as a benevolent leader. A benevolent leader uses positive reinforcement, sets clear boundaries, and remains consistent in his rules and expectations.

The result? A benevolent follower, a self-assured, happy dog who listens to and respects (rather than fears) her leader. As leader, it is your job to protect your pet from any form of physical or mental harm–both of which can happen in some types of dominance training. So don’t let her down.

See effective ways to train and correct your dog’s behavior.