Dominant dog theory will soon be but a whisper

muzzled aggressive dog
The recent and huge popularity of TV shows such as Cesar Millan's Dog Whisperer has led to many believing in the outmoded theory of 'dominance' in dogs. The dogs' behaviour is often dealt on these shows by using harsh punishment techniques which are regularly copied by viewers. The results can be disastrous. As this recent case study shows, choosing kind methods, with expert help, can improve situations almost immediately and with little risk to families.
Yesterday I saw a case of a dog that had become extremely aggressive when anyone tried to put its lead on in the house. It belongs to a chap whose family and friends all have a part in caring for the dog. One of the friends is a very forthright lady who told me in no uncertain terms that she was a fan of one of those 'dog whisperers' and had applied all kinds of techniques because the dog was supposedly 'dominant'.  She felt that the family were all acting as 'pack leaders' in this way.
I would love to have taken a photo of the assembled people. One of them (the father) is still receiving hospital treatment for the dog's bite injuries to both his hands. The other three people all had smaller plasters/bandages and/or a lot of scarring to their hands and arms, all inflicted when attempting to deal with the dog using the TV show techniques recommended by the family friend.
The dog's situation was extremely serious. These repeated biting incidents had driven the family to the very edge. They loved their dog but could no longer tolerate its behaviour. Was there any chance of saving this dog?
The lady friend argued with everything I said because it contradicted the 'dominance' theory in which she firmly believed. Luckily the family are all very bright and have scientific backgrounds so when I explained the alternative view and backed it up with science, they started to listen. The dog was in fact afraid and was showing classic signs of fearful reaction. Confrontation of the kind the family had used so far had driven the dog to bite, repeatedly, in its efforts to avoid further punishment.
The icing on the cake was the work I did with the dog and a lead. I used a lead with integral collar and lots of cheese and within minutes the dog was offering to put his head in the collar.  The forthright lady went very quiet for a very long time. I then got each of the family members to do it, plus teaching some other self-control exercises for the dog, and it was highly successful.
I then asked the lady friend if she wanted a go.  She hesitated and then said, 'I am SO impressed.  I never thought the dog could behave that well. Yes, I'd love to have a go at that method'.
One by one, we change perceptions...
Sally Jones
Full Member, APBC