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SkySoaringMagpie

Debunking Dominance

46 posts in this topic

corvus   

I would love to read the full article. The thing that annoys me about these studies is that they are always out to prove a point and so seem to pick the most blindingly obvious things like "Oh, hitting at or shouting a dog makes them afraid of you" or "Pinning a dog is dangerous".... Uh huh. Come on guys, catch up. I bet they use that stuff because it's about the only thing they can get a uniform response from the dogs with.

Nonetheless, this one sure makes me feel smug!

As someone who doesn't see social hierarchies in dogs, and doesn't think anyone needs to worry much about dominance as such, I have to say I'm not very interested in "debunking" dominance. Whatever words I may see as more accurate, dominant and submissive behaviours exist in any social animal and are very important in keeping the peace. However, the attachment of all these emotions to "dominance" is a problem, I think. You only have to look at how keen certain people on this board are to discredit the study to see that. It happens on both sides, folks. I'd be happier if we did start to use different words if that was likely to flick the emotional connotations.

Yes, there are clearly problems with their selection of dogs to use in the study, but the thing is, you are NEVER going to get a sample that accurately represents all of dogdom. There is way too much variation. However, if I were looking for dominance in dogs, I would start looking in shelters on the assumption that dominant dogs are problematic to their human caretakers and might be more likely to find themselves in a shelter. I'd want to include old breeds, breeds bred to run in large groups, and guard breeds at the least.

They're a "welfare charity". Do they really know the proper history of the dogs' experiences in life to be able to attest that the dogs' behaviour (which I am assuming by the context of their sentence means those with problem behaviours) is the result of misguided training (which they see "all the time")? And is "misguided training" supposed to mean "training by those who recognise and/or believe that heirarchy order amongst dogs/humans does exist? I mean, I frequently see problematic behaviour in dogs which has come about due to "misguided training". But conversely, for me most of the time it is for the exact opposite reason ..... ie because the human treated the dog as some sort of 'equal' and in doing so set no boundaries, guidelines etc. and was generally therefore quite confusing for the dog.

I don't think you necessarily need to know a history of the dog's experiences to be able to nut out what they are doing and why. As I haven't read the full article, I can't really comment on the methods other than to say that you don't need to know a dog's history to be able to say how he is behaving right now with dogs he has a known history with and think about what in that known history might be influencing the observed behaviour. With wild animals you almost never get the luxury of knowing their full history. You take the behaviour as a snapshot and concentrate on what you see over and over within your sample of the population.

What "academics"? And do these "academics" not know or see what I have seen as far as strategies that ARE aimed at (using their words) "dominance reduction" yet are very effective and beneficial to the dogs' welfare; are structured so as to not only not be dangerous but also reduce the danger that perhaps existed due to the dog having no structure, no understanding of expectations or boundaries?

I assume you are talking about things like NILIF? I personally think that stuff works brilliantly because it does introduce structure and predictable outcomes for the dog. Structure and dominance are two unrelated things as far as I'm concerned. They are not inherently linked. Structure, expectations and boundaries are things dogs like because they create a predictable environment. ANY animal likes predictable environments.

I agree with you, Erny, in that it is a lot of semantics, but the thing is, there are connotations attached to the notion of "dominance" in dogs, and that is thanks to a barrage of trainers over the years that have advocated aggressive methods in order to show that dog who is boss. Personally, I still cringe a little whenever a trainer starts spouting stuff about dominance because I don't know when they might suddenly tell me I should be doing something heinous to my dog so that they don't think they are boss. So what if they think they are boss? As long as they know when I mean something I bloody well mean it and I will harangue them until they do it then they can think whatever the hell they like. Whenever I see this come up it's the same old dance. Apparently either you're a softy that gives your dog no structure or boundaries and end up with a dog with problems or you are an over-bearing control freak that beats your dog into submission and thus also end up with a dog with problems. You know, a lot of people don't do either and don't end up with dogs with problems....

I don't think dominance is a bad word, but the way that it is bandied about in dog training circles is wrong and creates these emotional connotations, which in turn creates this "us versus them" rubbish that doesn't need to exist. The dogs would be better off without that, and so would people. I'm reasonably happy for everyone to emulate CM if they feel the need to emulate someone because at least then the dogs will have exercise, discipline and affection and that's near enough good enough for me. At least it creates some predictability for the poor pups.

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Kelpie-i   

Hmmmm, me thinks all these seminars and articles debunking the "dominance" word may be occurring for a reason.........:thumbsup:

Edited by Kelpie-i

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Erny   
Hmmmm, me thinks all these seminars and articles debunking the "dominance" word may be occurring for a reason.........:cheer:

Tsssshht! (:thumbsup: .... not sure how to spell that sound)

I even thought that (amongst other things), Kelpie-i, when I was reading through the article extract.

Edited by Erny

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corvus   

It's obvious this is aimed at one person in particular however they might avoid naming him, but I think the revolt against the dominance theory is just as much about all his predecessors. Okay, maybe not "just as much". His fame seems to really irk some people!

ETA I think you'll find there's no 'h', Erny. :thumbsup:

Edited by corvus

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Erny   
It's obvious this is aimed at one person in particular however they might avoid naming him ...

This article doesn't name him.

But the seminar that Kelpie-i and I attended did. Their disdain for him and his reference to "dominance" was very obvious.

Oh .... and thanks for the spelling tip :wink:

I'll Whisper it to you Erny..... :champagne:

:cheer: No!!!!! I might end up being obedient! :champagne:

Edited by Erny

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Yes, I should have been studying but couldn't resist. :champagne:

It was ok. It was mostly just a review paper of work other people have done with wolves and feral dogs, though they also briefly described their own work with a group of 19 male neutered dogs. They observed and recorded interactions between pairs of dogs within the group. Instead of a clear dominance hierarchy within the group, they only found submissive-dominant relationships between different pairs of dogs.

When observing, they defined a dominant behaviour as growling, biting, standing over, mounting, staring at, chasing, or barking at another dog, and submissive behaviour as crouching, avoiding, displacement behaviour such as licking or yawning, or running away.

They then suggested the concept of RHP (resource holding potential) as one alternative to the traditional concept of "dominance". RHP states that the outcome of any altercation depends on both the animal's chance of winning an all-out fight, and "V", the subjective value of the resource to each individual animal (how much each dog wants the resource, compared to how much he thinks the other dog wants the resource). They suggest that dogs are pretty bad at estimating how likely they are to win a fight, but think that "V" is a useful concept when discussing relationships between dogs.

They also think that learned behaviour plays a huge part in dominance relationships between dogs, with a dog that wins an initial altercation becoming more confident and more likely to win another altercation with the same dog next time. I think most trainers would agree that learning is an important component of dominance relationships between dogs, but these authors seem to want to emphasise how small random events can influence this learning. The initial meeting between two dogs could be affected by any number of random factors, and the authors think that this explains why putting the same individuals into groups repeatedly can result in different dominance hierachies (which apparently has been shown to happen, although I didn't follow up the paper).

I found the paper interesting, but did have a few quibbles with their methodology. For example, it seems to me that a truly "dominant" dog won't necessarily continuously be engaging in the types of aggressive behaviours towards other dogs that the authors were measuring. The "dominance" of a truly dominant dog would presumably be understood by both parties and not need to be continuously demonstrated. For example, a submissive dog might not even bother to compete with a dominant dog for a resource, since it knows it won't get anywhere. The authors would have completely missed that as an "interaction", since there were no snarls and stares. So I'm not sure the researchers were actually measuring dominance, as we would understand it - I would suggest that they were simply measuring aggressive behaviour.

However, I do think they have made a good case that wolf (and dog) packs don't form a rigid linear hierarchy, that "dominance" is sometimes less important in altercations than which dog desires the resource more at that particular time, that not all pairs of dogs have a conventional dominant-submissive type relationship, and that even in pairs of dogs that do, which dog will become "dominant" can be unpredictable and may rely heavily on chance events.

Edited by Staranais

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Erny   

I haven't had a chance to read it and not sure that I'll manage to get to it properly this week. But thanks for your summary and 'take' on it, Staranais (:laugh:).

Something from what you have written up that I think could prove to be an issue that would have influenced their 'dominance study' is the PRIOR learning the dogs who were chosen for the exercise would have had.

They also think that learned behaviour plays a huge part in dominance relationships between dogs, with a dog that wins an initial altercation becoming more confident and more likely to win another altercation with the same dog next time.

And the above had me going "Ummmmmm .... yeah - that's the way it works". So I don't see how this actually "debunks" the dominance concept.

... the authors think that this explains why putting the same individuals into groups repeatedly can result in different dominance hierachies ...

I don't fully understand the above (although I might, if I would read the paper :)). For their study of the 19 neutered dogs, were they repeatedly removing the dogs and when they put them back into groups, was it the same group or a different group? I can see both of these things as representing a continuous disruption to the establishment of relationships amongst the dogs involved.

I found the paper interesting, but did have a few quibbles with their methodology. For example, it seems to me that a truly "dominant" dog won't necessarily continuously be engaging in the types of aggressive behaviours towards other dogs that the authors were measuring. The "dominance" of a truly dominant dog would presumably be understood by both parties and not need to be continuously demonstrated. For example, a submissive dog might not even bother to compete with a dominant dog for a resource, since it knows it won't get anywhere. The authors would have completely missed that as an "interaction", since there were no snarls and stares. So I'm not sure the researchers were actually measuring dominance, as we would understand it - I would suggest that they were simply measuring aggressive behaviour.

I think the above is a very good point and well expressed, Staranais.

I also think I should go read the paper LOL.

Edited by Erny

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I don't fully understand the above (although I might, if I would read the paper :)). For their study of the 19 neutered dogs, were they repeatedly removing the dogs and when they put them back into groups, was it the same group or a different group? I can see both of these things as representing a continuous disruption to the establishment of relationships amongst the dogs involved.

Thanks Erny. :eek:

The above was regarding a different study that the authors were discussing: Chase, I.D., Tovey, C., Spangler-Martin, D., Manfredonia, M., 2002. Individual differences versus social dynamics in the formation of animal dominance hierarchies. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 99, 5744-5749.

The 19 dogs these authors actually looked at were just kept in one group, and they were passively observing their behaviour. But they also talked about studies that other people had done, and the above was one of those.

I haven't had time to take a look at it, might do so later, right now I'm supposed to be studying for a pathology test not playing on DOL :laugh:

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Nekhbet   

wow 19 desexed male dogs debunks the dominance theory *palm - forehead - faint*

Honestly. Dominance is a word TOO thrown about these days after it became fashionable to blame ones lack of skill in managing their pet on 'dominance' .. everything was because the dog was too dominant. It pees on the carpet from dominance, it pulls on the lead from dominance etc etc

Now we're swinging the other way and suddenly its all fairy wings, daisy fields and sunny days frolicking with out furry kin, our equals ... eeeeep no.

Give dogs something to fight over and see dominance rear its ugly head. Also what breeds were these dogs? Were 19 CKCS put in together? Or was it something like 19 big entire molosser breeds?

The blanket assumption that every dog is motivated by some innate desire to control people and other dogs is frankly ridiculous. It hugely underestimates the complex communicative and learning abilities of dogs.

No the blanket assumption is that a dog will do what it can in order to get what it wants - this it learns from a pup what that reaction is. That can be through training the owner with cute little tricks or staring, or it could be through more controlling mechanisms. A dog that learns to scream, roll over and piss all over itself can be doing what it thinks is the easiest way to get what it wants (left alone) or a dog can growl, bare its teeth and have the hackles up to make you go away too...

You can have dominant reactions, you can have overall dominant dogs that try and control you. To say all dogs do it? No. TO say some are difficult arses of dogs that are dominant - Yup. Honestly I think we are treading into complete over-analysis of dogs and turning them into something that they are not. It seems ALL this research is doing nothing more then confusing and confounding and really, dogs are not that hard to work out but we seem to want to make them that way.

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Erny   

Hey - don't hold back, Nekhbet! :)

In essence, I agree with what you say to a good extent though. However, I don't think there's anything wrong with a group of people wanting to discuss and analyse, provided the results of their analysis is not put over to "debunk" anything unless it is well founded and actually prescribes to something that IS different to what they are 'arguing' against and not just more of the same said differently but made to appear as though it is some new theory.

IMO and generalising, the whole thing (ie subject/topic/theory) was skewed by the skewed interpretations of many and now those who skewed it or learnt from those who skewed it are making out as though their forebears (who hadn't skewed it) got it all wrong. And yet these same more recent ones who pronounce to a supposed different view are really only claiming the same (or at best, similar) things but putting it into words in a 'new' way.

If that makes sense. :rofl:

LOL

ETA: I still need to read the whole paper, but I'm basing my comments above on other things/reports/articles/seminar I've read and heard in more recent times.

Edited by Erny

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Nekhbet   

told you I was hormonal ... poor RACV bloke scuttled off in a hurry

scientific studies should never be set out with the conclusion in mind - thats putting the cart before the horse and then you start seeing what you want to see in the results.

The group itself is not a viable scientific study to debunk anything at all. 19 dogs? Desexed? *bin* thats manipulating the experiment to get what you want frankly.

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The group itself is not a viable scientific study to debunk anything at all. 19 dogs? Desexed? *bin* thats manipulating the experiment to get what you want frankly.

Your average pet person is dealing with neuters. Yes there are pet people who have entire dogs, but there are more neuters out there and I think there is also a lot of misinformation about neuter behaviour. I wouldn't bin a study for looking at neuters for that reason.

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Kelpie-i   

I am agreeing with Nekhbet wholeheartedly in that we are over-analysing and over-complicating dogs.

Seriously, if only we could ask dogs what they thought....they'd probably say something like....

"Pfft, if I want it and there's an opportunity I can have it, then I'll take it. Once I have it, I will protect it and may feel the need to fight for it, but there are days when I might not want it, so I'll gladly give it away. If I'm scared of it, I will try to make it go away, if it works I will do it again, if it doesn't I will use another tactic. If I am used to having my way, I will demand it....what does this make me? Dominant, submissive, somewhere in-between... sometimes all of the above, but more accurately, OPPORTUNISTIC in every way!"

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Miranda   
I am agreeing with Nekhbet wholeheartedly in that we are over-analysing and over-complicating dogs.

Seriously, if only we could ask dogs what they thought....they'd probably say something like....

"Pfft, if I want it and there's an opportunity I can have it, then I'll take it. Once I have it, I will protect it and may feel the need to fight for it, but there are days when I might not want it, so I'll gladly give it away. If I'm scared of it, I will try to make it go away, if it works I will do it again, if it doesn't I will use another tactic. If I am used to having my way, I will demand it....what does this make me? Dominant, submissive, somewhere in-between... sometimes all of the above, but more accurately, OPPORTUNISTIC in every way!"

:birthday:

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Nekhbet   
Your average pet person is dealing with neuters. Yes there are pet people who have entire dogs, but there are more neuters out there and I think there is also a lot of misinformation about neuter behaviour. I wouldn't bin a study for looking at neuters for that reason.

so having a set of testicles now denotes whether a dog is capable of dominance ...

meet my rottweiler. A dominant sh*t with other male dogs that challenge him especially entire ones. Someone forgot to mention to him it doesnt exist in neuters and he was done before 12 months of age.

A dog is a dog - there are entire dogs that have no dominant behavior and there are neutered ones that are pushy, difficult and just have that 'try me' attitude and do anything to control their environment. Some of Diesels behavior is learned - his rescuer allowed him to get away with blue murder as a pup, bully adult dogs etc. But he also has the stability, nerves and drive to back up his attitude which is not a learned behavior at all, its an intrinsic part of him as a dog.

19 dogs is not a good enough sample size. Considering how many breeds there are its definately not good enough. Looking at the website what is available at the rescue centre looks soft or old - how big a dominant behavior do you think will be exhibited between dogs like these?

We're forgetting what they are - dogs. Big pointy teeth, the capability to send you flying or scrabbling for your life if they so desire. We're humanising them more and more, forgetting they are a prey animal, a hunting animal that sees us as a companion - probably. A source of food, shelter and attention - definately. Now we want to create little experiments to move away from the wolf and towards the cuddly wuddly best friend.

I've seen what being 'best friends' and 'feel bad for his previous life' to a dog does - these people treated him like a charity case, couldnt control him physically and he shredded them. His dog brain told him to take over this group of people that could not control and put them in their place. Posession of a family member was when it got dangerous.

I dont advocate being cruel to dogs but I'm becoming worried at this trend of losing grip on reality and what a dog actually is. We will see dog bites increase, I see excuses for behavior left right and centre as not to hurt 'dogs feelings' and people are scared of chastising their animals for behavior or simply taking control - the old 'crushing spirit' boloney is back again *sigh*. Nope. Prove to me that EVERY dog will be well behaved, balanced, sane, and bombproof through love alone and I'll believe it. We cant even do it with people for heavens sake how can we do it to a predator?

Edited by Nekhbet

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Your average pet person is dealing with neuters. Yes there are pet people who have entire dogs, but there are more neuters out there and I think there is also a lot of misinformation about neuter behaviour. I wouldn't bin a study for looking at neuters for that reason.

so having a set of testicles now denotes whether a dog is capable of dominance ...

Who said that? Either you agree neutering is significant (and therefore significant enough to ditch the study over) or you don't?

I know that when people have posted on DOL about neutering to reduce aggression I've cautioned that it may well not have that effect. All I am saying is that chucking out a study because it studies neuters isn't reasonable. I would like to know more about neuters, and welcome studies on them.

Sample size is an issue, but it will be an issue for anyone no matter what side of the fence they are on - ethically and practically these days as well. Where do you get enough dogs to study for as long as is necessary and ensure their well being at the same time?

We're forgetting what they are - dogs. Big pointy teeth, the capability to send you flying or scrabbling for your life if they so desire. We're humanising them more and more, forgetting they are a prey animal, a hunting animal that sees us as a companion - probably. A source of food, shelter and attention - definately. Now we want to create little experiments to move away from the wolf and towards the cuddly wuddly best friend.

I don't think the study is arguing for that position. If you can quote to me a section of it that is let me know.

I've seen what being 'best friends' and 'feel bad for his previous life' to a dog does - these people treated him like a charity case, couldnt control him physically and he shredded them. His dog brain told him to take over this group of people that could not control and put them in their place. Posession of a family member was when it got dangerous.

Pathetic anthropomorphism existed well before the first wave of positive training and well before scientists started studying dog behaviour. Some of the most pathetic anthropomorphism I have seen has been from correction based trainers. I can recall one woman at a show once whose incredibly patient dog put up with her whole crazy script of punishment, complete english sentences and playing for the crowd like a real little trouper. I felt sorry for it, being yelled at and pushed around when half the time it was just minding its own business. Loonies with serious emotional issues exist on all points on the dog training spectrum.

I dont advocate being cruel to dogs but I'm becoming worried at this trend of losing grip on reality and what a dog actually is. We will see dog bites increase, I see excuses for behavior left right and centre as not to hurt 'dogs feelings' and people are scared of chastising their animals for behavior or simply taking control - the old 'crushing spirit' boloney is back again *sigh*. Nope. Prove to me that EVERY dog will be well behaved, balanced, sane, and bombproof through love alone and I'll believe it. We cant even do it with people for heavens sake how can we do it to a predator?

People are the most dangerous predators on the planet. That aside, you do have to be careful not to crush spirit and shut a dog down and you can take control without doing that. I don't have a problem with telling people to think carefully about the relationship they build with their dogs. I set boundaries with my dogs which I stick to, but I don't use physical correction (with the exception of very rarely scruffing the male - usually when the bitches are in season and he is thinking with the little brain which limits my toolset). Most of the reason I don't use it otherwise is because it's not necessary. I have well bred aloof breed dogs who are master manipulators but who have never given me any physical challenges of any kind. I have to use my brain and be painfully consistent, but I very rarely have to chastise.

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Anita, did you intend to sound pretentious in that post and treat anyone who uses corrections as inferior dog trainers and imply they are not using their brains?

Just curious.

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