A WOLF IN DOG'S CLOTHING?
DOG A TRUE PACK ANIMAL?
WHAT DOGS REALLY NEED
THE HUMAN-CANINE BOND
STRESS & COMPULSIVE
KONG STUFFING RECIPES
QUOTES & TESTIMONIALS
The human-canine bond is a dynamic balance of three very different
but complimentary types of social interaction between owner and
Dominant-subordinate interaction (rules)
Leader-follower interaction (leadership)
Nurturer-dependent interaction (affection)
Understanding how the bond works, how our behaviour towards our
dogs' behaviour affects the bond, and getting the balance right
and adjusting it when needs be, particularly when trying to prevent
and resolve problematic behaviour, is fundamental to developing
and maintaining an emotionally healthy and fulfilling relationship
with a dog as well as being vital to the dog's psychological well-being.
Dominant-subordinate interaction or 'rules' defines
what a dog may not do, e.g. jump up, bite on hands, chase the
cat, etc. Its purpose is to set social boundaries and limit behaviour.
Dominance-related interaction involves clear, non-hostile communication
from the owner that serves to reduce behaviour, e.g. stepping
towards a dog as it jumps up, while subordinate-related interaction
involves submissive acknowledgement or 'appeasement' by the dog,
e.g. licking, nudging or pawing (active submission), or lying
down to expose the belly (passive submission). I've used jumping
up as an example because while the first step to limiting this
behaviour utilises dominant-subordinate interaction, jumping up
in itself is actually an appeasement behaviour. Dominant-subordinate
interaction is not used to redress the balance between who is
dominant and who is subordinate when a dog jumps up, because the
dog is not trying to be dominant in the first place ~ he is simply
trying to reach our face so that he can lick it (appeasement/active-submission
behaviour). What dominant-subordinate interaction actually does
at this point is cause the dog to increase its efforts to appease
us, and whatever the dog gives us in return is what we need to
shape into acceptable greeting behaviour in order to allay any
anxiety, confusion or frustration that the dog may develop as
a result of having its initial efforts to appease us knocked back.
Dominance-related interaction has nothing to
do with 'dominance theory', or being the 'alpha' or 'pack leader',
all of which are based on unrelated theories about how to control
dogs. Dominance-related interaction absolutely does not involve
hostility, intimidation, challenge or threat, or physically forcing
a dog into 'submissive' body positions. Submissive behaviour from
a dog should always be a voluntary response. Dominance-related
interaction has nothing to do with eating before a dog eats, spitting
on a dog's food or mixing it by hand, or the ridiculous practice
of pretending to eat out of a dog's bowl before giving it the
'leftovers', which although does create consistency at mealtimes
and a ritual that the dog can rely on (which is at least a good
thing) it sends no message of 'higher status' whatsoever, and
just makes owners look and feel silly.
Dominant-subordinate interaction is an intrinsic
part of the human-canine bond. We naturally are in the dominant
role because we are human, and with many dogs, dominant-subordinate
interaction happens of its own accord as a part of normal, everyday
social interaction that involves the setting of various rules
and boundaries that serve to limit behavioural excesses. Dominant-subordinate
interaction, when understood and utilised correctly, actually
causes a dog paradoxically to seek more attention, affection and
closeness with its owner. Attention, affection and proximity seeking
reflect a highly submissive state of mind whereby the subordinate
dog is looking for friendly, social interaction, and must be guided
towards what it may do in order to gain this …
Leader-follower interaction or 'leadership' defines
what a dog may do, e.g. jump up on cue, play with a tug toy, move
forward when the lead is slack, etc. Leader-related interaction
involves prompting and coordinating social activities that bring
beneficial results to both owner (leader) and dog (follower).
Follower-related interaction simply involves a cooperative response
from the dog.
'Leadership' has become a popular, although often
misunderstood, doggy buzzword in recent years. To truly grasp
what leadership is, it's important to realise what it's not. It
isn't 'being the boss/alpha/pack leader', 'getting the upper hand'
or 'putting a dog in its place'. It isn't having control over
resources, neither is it challenging a dog yield to human authority,
for example, preventing a dog from having right of way through
doorways or from walking in front.
What leadership is, is giving a dog direction,
showing and teaching it what it is allowed to do, what it may
do instead of jumping up, biting on hands, pulling on the lead
or barging through doorways. Leadership builds confidence and
trust, and creates a mutual language between owner and dog. Leadership
requires us to communicate clearly and compassionately with our
dogs, to be patient and tolerant while our dogs are learning to
accept our direction, and above all, to always remember that we
are on the same team as our dogs.
Nurturer-dependent interaction or 'affection'
sees the owner (nurturer) providing the dog (dependent) with rewards
such as food, fuss, praise and play in return for its follower-related
cooperation. Along with trust gained via leadership, affection
is what cements the human-canine bond. Affection is the basis
for a loving relationship with a dog.
The dynamic interplay between these
three dimensions of the human-canine bond influences how well the
continuous, daily stream of social interaction flows. It defines
what mustn't be done, what may be done, and the kind of rewards
that may be enjoyed as a consequence of cooperative and harmonious
interaction. Through a better understanding of how these three different
types of social interaction affect the dog's mind, we come to realise
that attention-seeking behaviour such as persistent jumping up,
pawing, mouthing or constantly being underfoot, is not symptomatic
of over-attachment or dominance, but a reflection of a dog’s
submissive and dependent search for kind-hearted, human leadership.
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Lizi Angel 2007-2018