A Small Revolution In Dog Training

How or why urban myths get started is a mystery and not only to me. The phenomenon has been studied by academics and they do not fully agree on how it happens. But there does seem to be a consensus that two elements are typically present - lack of information and fear.

One persistent belief which has become a sort of  “urban myth” is the idea that dogs form hierarchies, similar to wolves, and therefore it is necessary for us to establish our status as alpha, or leader of the pack. There is actually no data to support this. It makes me wonder why this myth has persisted. But since research shows us that the persistence of myths involves lack of information and fear, we can wonder what it is we fear. Is living closely and amicably as a family unit, as wolves actually do,  such a scary prospect? Are we just more comfortable with the idea of  “rank” than teacher and parent?

The Revolution

Here is the good news. One of my favorite dog trainers, Kathy Sdao, in her new book “Plenty In Life Is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace” has provided a clear and thought provoking alternative to training approaches which are based on the misinformation of  “leader of the pack” theories.

As a trainer, I have promoted an approach that is popularly known as “NILIF” – or “nothing in life is free.”  In this approach dogs are expected to earn rewards, such as our attention or treats.

After reading this book, I am totally rethinking that approach. And Kathy has provided, in her typically  concise and witty way, a more equitable and even humorous view of living with our dogs, which is based on science. We have recently started to understand more fully the part that dogs played in the life of very early man. Archaeological finds are now suggesting that dogs evolved less as helpers in hunting, and more as just scavengers living closely with early man, looking for “table scraps” and handouts just as they often do today.

So if you have started to question the approaches that are based on the notions of “alpha dog” and “leader of the pack” and are searching for a method and theory based on scientific studies, read Kathy’s “Plenty In Life Is Free.”

It is amusing and enlightening, and hopefully her approach will replace the approaches which are based on the urban myth of dominance and hierarchy in your pack.


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5 Responses to “A Small Revolution In Dog Training”

  1. Cyndi 19. Apr, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    Oh I cant wait to read this!

  2. Cyndi 19. Apr, 2012 at 9:06 pm #

    Just ordered it!

  3. Elizabeth Deitz 20. Apr, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    You’ll love it! Right up your alley. And if you ever have the opportunity to go to one of her seminars, do so. She is an incredible speaker. How are things going?

  4. Cyndi 20. Apr, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    I’m on chapter 3 and do am really liking it a lot. Would love to see her in person.
    It’s going well, better & better! Hows the new place? Are you teaching?

  5. Cyndi 28. Apr, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    Our Smart50 for the puppy is just 5 behaviors for now:
    1. Eliminate outside
    2. Sit or down offered
    3. Rest calmly on bed
    4. Enter or lay in crate
    5. Make eye contact

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