Monday, August 2, 2010

Alpha Roll, Be Damned!

The battle between Cesar and Victoria, or quasi-dominance/compulsion vs. positive training methods, has been going on for a while now.

This recent article in Time magazine talks about being a leader to your dog rather than being your dog's alpha, a change from what we've been told for decades now. In my training internship classes, we had always been taught to be "leaders" rather than "alphas," and it made so much more sense when looking at the big picture. We never - ever - did alpha rolls on puppies or dogs. We'd be stricken from the class for life if we did.

I'm not a huge fan of Cesar. But I don't out-and-out hate him either. I think you have to look at the dogs that he's saved, take them in context, and thank Cesar for the great work he's done with them. Many, if not the majority, are dogs that shouldn't be adopted to the Average Joe. They're dogs that wouldn't be considered adoptable for a variety of reasons, primarily severe behavioral and social issues. There's no doubt that these dogs would have been euthanized. I'm glad beyond words that he is able to save these dogs from death and give them a decent quality of life in a socialized pack. If I could spend my life plucking these "red flag" dogs from the jaws of death and rehabilitating them - I would, I truly would.

But, his techniques with those red flag dogs aren't necessarily appropriate for Jane and her Maltese or Bob and his Heinz 57. That's where I think his show is dangerous and fails the masses.

When people worship a celebrity on television and decide that "if he does it, it must be okay," that's when we see trouble. Hanging a dog from a choke collar is not okay. Alpha rolling a dog isn't okay, it's not even a smart move and could prove dangerous to Bob the Heinz 57 guy, setting up Heinz for a trip to the vet for the Final Injection. If you know what I mean.

Call me crazy, but I've managed to get a lot more successes from a mutually respectful relationship with a dog rather than an I'm-gonna-dominate-your-butt relationship. When a dog fears you, that's not obedience. That's fear. When he sits because he's being rewarded and not because he fears what you're going to do to him - that's a treat for the human. And I love treats!

What are your feelings about positive training versus compulsion methods?

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