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"pack theory training" can someone explain to me why it's so wrong?

(15 Posts)
monstermoods Fri 05-Aug-11 20:40:02

Genuine question, inspired by another thread, have moved to the relevent topic as the last thread was randomly taken over by a different agenda.
Long Story short....I have 3 year old JR and belatedly (my Fault) realised she/I needed some training behavioural help... contacted a local trainer, who came and in a 2 hour session educated me hugely, and "created" a calmer more obedient I would say happier dog.

I have followed his advice, just calm control really and persistant continuity, I'm going to classes once a week, and I'm absolutely thrilled that within 3 weeks she's calmer, walks to heel, sits and stays, and I'm learning better ways to exercise her than the off lead long walks she used to have

We still have long walks, but now she stays close to me and we're playing games .

The trainer is fantastic with all the dogs in the class, treating them individually according to their needs/problems, and each with great care and sensitivity

On the other thread it was suggested this method was outdated, plain wrong and even that my dog is now behaving herslf because she is shit scared! She's not! to me she just seems much calmer and therefore happier, and I feel I've learnt huge amounts about being a great owner/leader.

Am really interested as to why this method is obviously so detested by the dog experts on here.....

Scuttlebutter Fri 05-Aug-11 21:05:24

Hi Monster, the techniques you are talking about have been championed by a number of high profile trainers including Cesar Milan and in the UK, Jan Fennell. Typically, dog owners are encouraged to think of themselves as pack leaders, to ensure they are fed before their dogs, go through entrances before their dog, not to let dogs on sofas, beds etc - sound familiar? I had a look at your trainer's website and this is all the sort of stuff he promotes. I was taught this too by a charity behaviourist that I trusted.

I eventually gave it up because I could see it wasn't working. Quite frankly all the bonkers ideas about eating biscuits in front of my dogs didn't seem to make ANY difference to how they behaved. Then I started reading more about how dogs learn and how they really interact. Dogs are intensely social - they have rich and complex behaviours and methods of communications. Almost uniquely they also have a strong bond with humans. Dominance doesn't explain this bond, your dog is not always trying to think about how to be top dog each day. This article explains beautifully and far better than I could why dominance ideas are wrong.

I'm currently doing my Gold exam with one of my greyhounds - he regularly comes on the sofa, I feed him when it suits me (often before we eat) yet he's in no doubt that i'm human and he's a dog. We have a happy relationship. If you do dog training classes with any good trainer, they will teach you lots of positive learning methods, using positive reinforcement. This doesn't mean your dog won't have boundaries - it's a kinder, smarter way of learning that is based on scientific principles that have studied how dogs learn and interact.

Take a look at the Association of Pet Dog Trainers website here - see what they say. This is the recognised professional body for dog trainers/behaviourists in the UK - sadly the trainer you used isn't a member and his training philosophy would exclude him straight away. Scroll down the home page to see what they say about dominance and why they don't use it.

Good luck with your dog and your training. smile

Ephiny Fri 05-Aug-11 21:05:38

Maybe his techniques work, but just not for the reasons he thinks? 'Calm control and persistent continuity' sounds good, as does lots of exercise and games to keep her interested. If he's doing basically sensible things, just dressing it up in a lot of talk about wolf packs and leaders, then I guess it's OK!

I think some of the techniques used by some trainers in the name of 'pack theory' can be counter-productive and even cruel, as they're based on the idea of all problematic doggy behaviour being attributable to an attempt to 'dominate' you. Whereas actually dogs are somewhat more complicated than that, and the behaviour may well be caused by something else. Sometimes the dog is doing something just because it's fun or enjoyable (perfectly understandable!), nothing to do with dominance. And in fact often 'bad' behaviour is fear-based, so attempting to fix it by trying to make the dog 'submissive' is obviously a bad idea and can make them worse.

Lizcat Sat 06-Aug-11 10:39:24

I'm going with calm, control and persistent continuity too. It's like our children if you keep rewarding them for good behviour and ignore the bad stuff they will eventually get it. Probably quicker than children as most dogs just want to please their owners, children on the other hand........
Speaks one who had a dog first and trained the child the same way.

LordOfTheFlies Sun 07-Aug-11 00:56:20

I'm not a dog owner but have looked after dogs in the past.

I've watched/read some of Cesar Milan's theories and find myself agreeing with them.
Personally, and this is my personal opinion I don't agree with dogs on furniture, especially dogs on beds.
I do believe that dogs should have their own space- their bed, theier corner. Children should not be allowed to intrude.

There was a very sad case in the papers at Christmas where the family had taken in a stray dog ??(Sharpei) and he bit the little boy on the face while they were watching TV.
He might have been caught unawares or touched on a sore spot.
But the photos of the dog showed him on the sofa, level with the boys' face after a few days in the house.

MotherJack Sun 07-Aug-11 02:04:50

.. just where my OldLady was, within minutes of getting in the house less than a year ago though, LOTF. Pack status is never about metres above sea level and the relative elevation of the sofa and I will put my hand on heart and say that it doesn't exist between man and dog. People do buy into it... I did too for a while... but then if the part of it you believe is about calmness and continuity and everything that goes with this it is just the wrong heading. Much of this is because of what people have believed for the last few decades but it's MUCH easier when you break free of the idea that you are alpha of your pack. When you see your dog will do things for you because he/she really wants to because they get something out of it, that's when you have a fab relationship with your dog. They want to do right because then good things happen. Exactly like kids do if you show them so... and even more so if you apply calmness and continuity. You wouldn't hit, strangle or electrocute your kids, but Cesar Milan does with dogs and promotes this in the name of "pack leader".

Bit of a weird night on several levels last night, but for a short story I woke up with my son sleeping nearest the wall, a large ginger gangly thing (mahoosive lurcher) in between us with her head on my son's pillow with his limbs draped over her in a huge hug whilst I was spooning with OldLady. We all got up.. eventually (think it was 10.30), had breakfast when we fancied it - food was put in the dogs bowls first and then went out for an off lead walk and the ladies both did exactly as asked... because they know good things happen when they listen... ie tennis balls are chucked for one and kind words and a stroke on the head are given for the other.

They chose to be in my bed with us and they are welcome as they are both snuggle monsters who budge up if needed. They have their own bed too which is sacred to them when they need space. My son understands this and is also coming to the understanding that it is not appropriate to play with dogs ears as I keep telling him that he will get bitten if he does it to a dog that won't put up with it. We all need space, but we are able to communicate this with words. Dog's can't.

It is very sad about the Sharpei and the little boy... but whatever it was, it would not have been about the dog being on the settee. Honest.

Ephiny Sun 07-Aug-11 08:41:35

I agree about dogs having their own bed/space where no one bothers them, so they can choose to retreat to when they need a bit of space or peace and quiet. Even my dog who absolutely adores cuddles and human company, likes to disappear off to his own corner now and then to chill out on his own. But that doesn't mean he isn't allowed to come and snuggle up to me on the sofa when he wants to. Don't allow him on the bed as he's a bit of a noisy sleeper and he's a bit big anyway (rottweiler).

I remember the story about the boy bitten by the stray Shar Pei, really awful and sad story as the family did a good and kind thing by taking in the dog. I don't know what the explanation is, but I remember at the time it struck me that they said the dog went for the boy for no apparent reason when he was watching TV - I've heard stories where dogs have been 'trained' using electric shock collars, then freaked out when they see someone with a TV remote because it reminds them of the controller used to administer the shock and hurt them sad.

Don't know if that was what happened in that case, but I do know thousands of dogs curl up happily on the sofa without ever biting anyway, so I wouldn't single out that as the cause. Maybe they should have been more cautious and watchful with such a dog, not knowing what the poor thing had been through and what might be likely to trigger fear or aggression, but I suppose they were not dog behaviour experts and weren't to know.

midori1999 Sun 07-Aug-11 12:28:31

I didn't see the other thread, but pack theory is old fashioned, outdated and disproven. It was based on a study on captive wolves and it is now proven that wolves don't even behave as they thought them to, let alone dogs.

Even if dogs did live in packs the way pack theorists believe, (they don't) we are humans, not dogs and dogs aren't stupid and know this, so how can be a in a dog pack or leader of it?

Dogs don't care if we eat before them, let them through doors first. Allowing your dog on the sofa or bed won't teach it that it is pack leader, it will teach it that the bed or sofa is somewhere comfy to sleep and they are allowed there.

dazzlingdeborahrose Sun 07-Aug-11 17:33:20

Because we're not dogs and dogs aren't wolves. Calmness and consistency is the way when training dogs. The children have been taught that when the dog is in his basked they're not to go near him. That's his bolt hole. However, he spends most of time on the sofa. It's comfy so why wouldn't he - he's not stupid grin. Training puppies is like training children. It's not about imposing dominance, it's about developing a relationship and mutual respect.

QuietTiger Mon 08-Aug-11 12:26:40

Cesar Milan is a complete and utter fuckwit, who uses outdated, dangerous and cruel methods to train dogs. He is a complete twat. If I had the pleasure of meeting him face-to-face, I'd tell him how he has put dog training ideas back by about 50 years. And then I'd put an electric shock collar or a prong collar on him, take him for a walk and see how he lied to be bullied to the point that he was complying purely out of fear of the consequqnces. Negative reinforcement has no place in dog training. Cesar Milan has no idea about dog behaviour apart from outdated crap ideas and he talks through his arse.

The only reason that calmness and consistency work (and they work well if done right) is because then the dog can anticipate the response (*POSITIVE reward*) they are going to get if they exhibit a certain behaviour, which in turn means that they know where they are/what is going to happen.

So for e.g, my dog know that if she is asked to sit, and she does it, she will always get a good word and a scratch behind the ears. Everytime. (That's Consistency from me) or, another e.g, my timid BC, who is scared of children, knows that if she goes to her bed (safe place) when children are in the house, she will be left alone (consistent, positive reward) Everytime.

Dogs also pick up on your energy - how many times have you seen dogs in the agility ring or fly-ball being hyped up ready to take part, or the excitement in the park when you're playing ball? Compare that to the calmness of a shepherd working with his dog quietly or a family pet walking quietly on the end of the lead because their owners are calm? If you start screaming and shouting at your dog, you're going to get a very different response to if you speak quietly.

They DO NOT see you as "pack leader". You are not "the boss". In a proper relationship with your dog you have mutual respect and partnership.

midori1999 Mon 08-Aug-11 14:01:59

Don't sit on the fence there, will you QuietTiger... grin

FWIW, I totally agree.

ExitPursuedByAGryffin Mon 08-Aug-11 14:07:46

I don't want my dog on the bed or the sofa, thankee kindly. He is a big smelly arsed, smelly breathed, farty individual who hogs all the bloody space wherever he is. grin

Interested in ideas for exercising that does not include off lead walks though.

Cheria Mon 08-Aug-11 14:50:49

You might find this article interesting. Sorry, am shite with links, but it is a webchat from last week with John Bradshaw, whose book aims to debunk a lot of the "pack" myths.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2011/aug/03/john-bradshaw-defence-dogs-live-webchat

Cheria Mon 08-Aug-11 14:51:28

Wow I just became clever

MotherJack Mon 08-Aug-11 15:27:40

I don't think I'd want your dog in my house by your description, PursuedbyaGryffin grin

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