Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dominance vs Leadership

I thought I'd share with you this recent email sent to my staff:

Hey everyone,

In my new found quest at being more opened minded to the people who I used to call "crazy positive only people" I came across this article (shared by Sara Beth). The truth is, what we try to teach here in our training classes is leadership not dominance (you'll see the distinction made in the article). Though in our classes we do use discipline we are really teaching owners things they can use throughout the day (working for food, waiting at doorways, walking beside you, etc.) that help them establish leadership not dominance.

In this article you'll hear her give examples of the crazy negative things she had trainers tell her (hold the choke chain tight till they pass out, omg!) That's dominance, that's someone that has taken the use of discipline way too far. You'll agree that some of the things she mentions we would never tell a client to do or do to a pet ourselves. Yes, I've been weaning off the choke chain (really haven't used one in quite some time). It's nice having my couple of private clients to be my "experiment" as well as my foster dog (I don't use them for my dogs, even Hester). Does this mean that I don't discipline? Absolutely not. However, I think what I do is leadership and not the dominance as she describes. Would I have a dog lay down when in trouble? Yes, when I think it appropriate, but not as often as I see some people and for the reasons they do it. We had a fight recently even in our very well-balanced home. Kenzie jumped Bailey. Our best guess (because we saw this happen once before) is that Bailey corrected Jazzi for being in her face. At that, Kenzie jumped in at Bailey. It's tough to see something like that. At that moment I separated them and in an effort to calm myself, Kenzie and Bailey, I got Kenzie and Bailey to the ground (on their sides), we all stayed that way for a little bit. Then I carried Kenzie, without saying a word, to the other room and put her in a crate.

This situation breaks my heart. Bailey and Kenzie have been friends for years, however Kenzie reacted on a very primal level (doesn't matter if they are "friends). So to see Kenzie taking advantage of Bailey's aging (that's what I'm thinking is one aspect) it's hard to understand. I love Kenzie but at the same time I was so hurt and disappointed that she could do that to another dog that I love. What Kenzie did was dominance, plain and simple and I believe, like she says in the article, dominance plays a major role in dogs' relationships with each other. However, my response to the situation was leadership. In the past I've had the mentality of "I HAVE to win this fight!!" anytime a dog disobeyed, especially showing aggression towards me. Where has that gotten me? It's gotten me a handful of scars. Did winning those situations miraculously fix the dogs? No. I came out on the worse end. Hester has taught me a lot about dealing with an aggressive dog. I've learned alternative ways to establish "leadership" and make sure she knows she can't get away with anything negative towards me. It works. Will Hester still bite me if pushed...absolutely. However, I've really won. I've figured out a way to get an "aggressive" dog to comply to my commands, to not growl when she normally would and let me take her toys and treats away. No matter how I achieved it, she respects me and obliges when I ask her to do something. That's success.

Anyway, I am hoping that you guys can begin to think about this a bit more, maybe even modifying how you approach training certain dogs. If I, the enforcer of discipline, can learn to adjust my methods then I believe anyone can : ) I'm very glad many of you will be taking my staff class. This will give you a peek into my new thoughts on training the behaviors you want. If you have questions or comments about this article or my email please "reply all" if you feel others could benefit from it. It's a great way to get the conversation started.



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