Dominance in Dogs: Should I be concerned?


Dominance in Dogs: Should I be concerned?

The concept of dominance in canine communities has been a topic of intense debate. There is widespread misconception in the evolving discourse of dominance in animal behavior. Notable researchers have delved into the social hierarchies of various species, contrasting the stringent social structure of baboons with the more fair nature of lionesses. However, the narrative surrounding our beloved dogs has often leaned towards a misunderstood perception of dominance. This has been exacerbated by certain celebrity trainers  and misinterpreted canine behavior.

Clive Wynne’s Challenge to Traditional Dominance Views

Clive Wynne, a distinguished expert in dog behavior and the head of the Canine Science Collaboratory at ASU, confronts the conventional notion of dominance in dogs. His enlightening research, featured in Frontiers in Psychology, provides a comprehensive review of existing studies and introduces a redefined interpretation of dominance. Wynne particularly emphasizes the contrast between the inherent social dynamics of dogs in their own communities and those residing with humans.

The Human-Dog Super Dominance Dynamic

Wynne sheds light on a unique aspect of human-dog relationships. While canines exhibit clear social hierarchies among themselves, their interaction with humans paints a vastly different picture. He introduces the concept of “super dominance,” where humans, by controlling essential resources, naturally ascend to a higher status. This relationship, Wynne explains, is not about subjugation but a mutually beneficial dynamic of respect and dependency.

Debunking the Alpha Dog Myth

Wynne’s research examines and challenges the outdated alpha dog concept, which stems from observations of captive wolf behavior. He highlights studies showing that natural wolf packs, bonded by familial ties, show less aggression and more cooperative behavior. These findings play a crucial role in debunking the alpha dog myth and redefining our understanding of dominance in dogs.  Dominance can be thought of as a complex and situational trait, rather than a fixed individual characteristic.

Nuances of Canine Social Communication

Wynne delves into the subtle yet profound ways dogs communicate their social structure, both within their species and with humans. Actions like a dog tucking its head under another’s chin or affectionately licking a human’s face are not mere behaviors but significant indicators of the intricate social dynamics in dog communities and between dogs and their human counterparts.

Conclusion: Embracing a New Perspective on Dog Training

In conclusion, Wynne’s research encourages a profound recognition of the complexity and depth of our relationships with dogs. He advocates for a shift from traditional dominance-based training methods to approaches centered on positive reinforcement and mutual respect. By understanding and embracing the true nature of dominance in dogs, we are invited to foster a more empathetic, harmonious, and understanding coexistence with our canine friends. This relationship is one of a loving and responsible partner and not as dominators or the alpha of the home.