Tonawanda News

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July 14, 2013

CRITTER COMPANIONS: Don't force dominance over pets

Tonawanda News — I believe in science. I believe in tests and retests. Sometimes science is slower then whimsy and magic, but science sticks. 

Science holds up, where other types of animal training fail, though calling animal whispering “training” is a stretch. When going through books or websites that offer secrets to training animals — bypass them altogether. The science is in and there are no more secrets to basic animal training. We may learn more insights in the future, but with the knowledge we have now, we can live in harmony with our critter companions using the most positive, least-invasive techniques possible.

Dogs are decedents of wolves. Many people, including whisperers, believe wolves live in dominance hierarchies and therefore dogs need to be dominated. A 13-year study following wolves on Ellesmere Island in Canada reported that wolves do not live in packs and do not have an alpha male. Instead of packs, they live in families. The reason why only the “dominant pair” reproduces is not because they are dominant over the other animals; it is due to the animals being related. The group of wolves would include the mom, dad and offspring. Since the offspring do not mate with each other or their parents, only one pair is reproducing.

The reason why we believed that wolves live by hierarchies and dominance is due to many studies taking place in captivity. In captivity the wolves that live together are almost never related, but rather forced together. Most individuals are adults and the wolves’ solution to living in captivity is to form a top-down order.

Knowing this do we need to be the leader of the pack at home with our pets? If it is not the system their wild kin are working with, why would it work in our homes? Rather than a pack leader, being a supportive pet parent might be a better situation.

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