Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Oh boy. Temple Grandin is making some sweeping statements (backed by science, at least) that would prove Cesar Milan so very wrong about so many situations. It begs the question - if wolves (the nearly-genetically-identical ancestors to domesticated dogs) don't roam in packs, but rather families, why would pack mentality be considered appropriate in a 1-2 dog situation?

So much of the advice on "establishing dominance" over your dog is wrong because it's not tied to the dog's emotions. An example is dog training books telling you never to let the dog up on the furniture or on the bed. Dogs on furniture are up too high, supposedly. Another example: books telling people never to play tug of war with their dogs because playing tug of war encourages the dogs to think it's OK for them to challenge you. That's completely wrong. In Animals in Translation I wrote about the study of golden retrievers playing tug of war. The experimenter played tug of war with fourteen dogs, letting one group win almost all of the games while the other group lost most of the games. All of the dogs were more obedient after playing tug of war, regardless of whether they won or lost. Beating a person at tug of war didn't make the dogs more dominant. I wouldn't be surprised if you saw the same thing in a study of dogs getting up on furniture and beds.

Full disclosure: I also like books that reference actual studies with statistically significant results (the absence of which became my biggest irritation with the Milan books). There are so many people out there who claim to know the secrets of dogs - it can be overwhelming. I believe it's all about finding what works best for your relationship with your dog - also, it's helpful to find books that pat you on the back for doing what other books chastise. Hehe. I am clever like that, yes? THANK YOU, TEMPLE GRANDIN.