Last week I began discussing the long retired theories of “alpha” and “dominance” which are still hugely popular today, due in large part to television and marketing muscle. I could feel the “gasp” from everyone as I pronounced these theories dead. However, this is not new information; these theories have been debunked for about 30 years. It would be akin to still proclaiming that the earth is flat, yet, these theories remain as “truth” among television viewers and so-called dog “trainers” who seek to capitalize on their popularity. As promised, I am going to begin with a little history behind dog training, so here we go.
In the early 1980’s a revolution, as it were, occurred in the dog training world. It was the positive dog training movement. It started when Dr. Ian Dunbar, a British born veterinarian and animal behaviorist went looking for an obedience class for his new pup. He couldn’t find one that he found suitable and that did not use coercive techniques. As a result, he started designing and teaching his own classes. Through those classes the positive dog training movement was born, as he and others began doing scientific research into the most effective methods of behavioral modification in canines. The rest, as they say, is history.
In 1993, Dunbar founded the Association of Professional Dog Trainers with a mission to promote better and more humane training methods through the education of dog owners and dog training professionals. Since Dunbar began his first puppy classes, he and many of his protégés like Jean Donaldson, Karen Pryor, Pat Miller and others have made major strides in advancing the field of positive dog training. Several generations of dog owners have now come to realize that training dogs does not have to be about coercion, fear, dominance, or other hurtful techniques to force the dog into submission.
I promised a look into the history as well as the science of positive dog training. Now that you know some of the history, please do some research on the entities and names discussed to learn more. Come back next week for the science portion of our discussion.