For decades, dog training has been based on the theory of 'Dominance' and has assumed that dogs misbehave primarily because they are striving for a higher 'rank' within a perceived pack.  These trainers and ‘behaviourists’ would have you believe that your dog is constantly plotting to take over you and your house.  This idea leads these trainers to believe that it is necessary to employ force or intimidation to successfully modify a dog’s  behaviour. 

This view arose due to a study conducted in the 1970's on a group of un-related wolves, captured from the wild and forced to live in a captive environment.  In this extremely stressful and un-natural setting, the animals had to find a way to live together without killing each other, the way they did that was to establish a strict pecking order which greatly reduced competition over resources.  This would never happen in a natural environment.  This study was quickly adopted by dog trainers and used as 'proof' that force was necessary to train a dog.  

Thankfully, our understanding of both 'Dominance Theory' and the behaviour of domesticated dogs and their wild cousins have advanced considerably.  There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that dogs perceive humans as part of their “pack”.  While there is no doubt that dogs are social animals and form part of our family groups, a dog knows it is a dog…  It recognises other dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, etc and behaves accordingly.  To suggest a dog is unable to differentiate between a dog and a human is, when viewed logically, quite absurd.  Animal 'packs', are without exception, populated solely by members of the same species. 

Dr David L. Mech: Alpa Wolf?

Tough Love: A Meditation on Dominance & Dogs

You will come across Dominance Theory in many guises:
  • Be the “Leader”, Top Dog” or “Alpha”
  • Rank Reduction Programmes
  • Pack Rules
  • Pack Hierarchy
  • Amichien Bonding (Jan Fennel)
  • Nothing in Life is Free (NILIF)
  • Learn to Earn
  • Ceasar’s Way (Cesar Millan) 

Rank reduction programmes claim to work by instilling a set of “pack rules”.  These vary from trainer to trainer but usually consist of all or some of the following:
  • Always eat something before feeding the dog
  • Stand / lie in the dogs bed
  • Do not allow the dog on the furniture
  • Do not let the dog lay at the top of the stairs or any elevated position
  • Do not let the dog lay in a hallway or doorway
  • Never step over your dog - always make him move
  • Never let the dog go through a doorway before you
  • Never let your dog initiate or end a play session
  • Never let your dog win a game of tug 

I do not subscribe to these ideas and would strongly recommend that you disregard any book, TV show or other that recommends any of the above tactics.  They do nothing but damage the relationship between you and your dog.