Specializing in helping shy and fearful dogs, Gallivan provides private, in-home training in the Greater New Orleans area. He has trained thousands of dogs and resolved complex behavior cases without the use of force or fear.
Trying to be your dog's pack leader is like trying to be your turtle's 'flight instructor'...
Gallivan's Musings on Dominance Theory
I don't care what that television training guru told you, domestic dogs are not pack animals, nor are we engaged with them in an epic struggle for dominance. In fact, virtually all of the misconceptions we have about our relationship with dogs comes from flawed studies of wolves dating back before the middle of the last century. Not only is there no such thing as an "Alpha" dog, current science no longer uses the term "Alpha Wolf," because we have come to understand that the "mating pair" at the top of a wolf pack don't hold that position through confrontation or violence, but because they are the parents of the rest of the pack. That's right, a wolf pack is actually a wolf family.
Besides, your dog is not a wolf. Wolves observe selective mating behavior, share pup rearing duties, and hunt & feed cooperatively, which are true "pack" behaviors. Dogs? Uh, no. Not one of those things. And while wolves are naturally wary of humans, domestic dogs have a natural affinity for us. There is no animal besides the dog with whom we have such a close relationship. Domestic dogs exist because we exist.
So while your dog looks to you for cues and clues, guidance & leadership to get along in the confusing human world, he doesn't think for even a moment that you are some kind of extra-special dog (like a "pack leader"). You don't look like a dog, act like a dog, or smell like a dog. And if you think your dog "thinks he's a person!", you need to call me right away. He'd do it, but he can't because he's a DOG!
Domestic dogs exist because we exist, and their basic survival strategies - unlike those of wild canines - are wired to include us. As humans, we are equipped with a Big Brain & a couple of really handy thumbs, allowing us to be the Source of All Things Wonderful & Necessary to our dogs, like food & water, and walks, and belly rubs, and TRAINING! If that's not enough leadership for you, you might consider sticking with cats! That way you'll always know who's boss.
I sometimes find myself telling some dismayed dog owner, "Relax, he's just a dog," when their dog is driving them up the wall, or not "getting it" as quickly as they expect him to. The response tends to be of the "He's not just a dog, he's 'Bongo'!" variety.
This ignores the fact that I believe that being "just a dog" is one of the greatest things any dog can aspire to. If you really want to have a complicated, neurotic mammalian relationship - as opposed to one based on pure companionship, communication, and just plain FUN - stick with other human beings.
And as for being "a Bonehead"? Hey! You try being a dog and let's see how good you are at it.
Gallivan's Recommended Reading
The Culture Clash
by Jean Donaldson
2005 (2nd edition), James & Kenneth pub.
How To Teach A New Dog Old Tricks
by Dr. Ian Dunbar
(3rd edition) 1996
James & Kenneth pub.
The Well-Adjusted Dog
by Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman
2008, Mariner pub.
Oh Behave! Dogs from Pavlov, to Premack, to Pinker
by Jean Donaldson
2008, Dogwise Publishing