This is funnier than it should be.
An old tree stump with grass growing over it, Faroe Islands
are you stupid thats a unicorn
oh what I have to draw this
I love this unicorn
David L. Mech, who is now a Senior Research Scientist for the U.S. Department of the Interior, was one of the first people to study wolf behavior in the wild. In his 1970 book, he was influenced by earlier ideas, including those of Lorenz, and referred to the pack leader as the “alpha wolf.” Looking back 40 years later he has come to doubt the usefulness of this concept. He now maintains that the label is wrong because it implies that the wolves fought to determine dominance.
In actuality, when they mature, wolves leave their original pack to mate and produce offspring which then become the rest of their new pack. Dominance arises simply in the same way that parents naturally control the behavior of their offspring in humans, at least while they are living with the family. As in human families, the parents loosely set the rules, and the kids sort things out among themselves. Because of this state of affairs, rather than using the label “alpha” Mech prefers to refer to the “breeding” male or female in the pack or simply the mother or father wolf. The idea of the alpha only seems to be valid in artificial packs, where unrelated individuals are put together, as in captivity, or where may be multiple breeding pairs. In such “unnatural” social groupings, animals will contest for leadership and an alpha wolf will emerge.
Of course wolves are not dogs, so let’s look at a recent (2010) piece of research by Roberto Bonanni of the University of Parma and his associates. They looked at free-ranging packs of dogs in Italy and found that leadership was a very fluid thing. For example, in one pack, which had 27 members, there were 6 dogs that habitually took turns leading the pack, but at least half of the adult dogs were leaders, at least some of the time. The dogs that were usually found leading the pack tended to be the older, more experienced dogs, but not necessarily the most dominant. The pack seems to allow leadership to dogs, who at particular times seem to be most likely to contribute to the welfare of the pack through knowledge that can access the resources they require.
The reason that all of this is important is that it tells us, (regardless of concerns about the amount of force used in training) that Cesar Millan’s technique, and that of many other trainers who use a military-like concept of canine social hierarchy as the basis of dog training and problem solving, is based on a false premise. It is a holdover from German military service dog training at the turn of the last century, and generalization from outdated wolf research based on artificial packs of captive wolves.
There is considerable scientific literature which argues against the idea that most behavior issues are a result of dominance issues or a lack of “alpha” status of owners, instead suggesting that most aggression issues result from fear (self-defense) and anxiety-related issues. It is equally clear from the scientific literature that confrontational methods like alpha-rolling, forced or dominance downs, and pinch collars increase the levels of a dog’s stress, anxiety, and fear; thus it is not surprising that the use of these techniques were reported to be associated with high levels of aggressive response. Interestingly, the most commonly reported source of these techniques was television, and while the research did not ask for specifics, it can be assumed that many of these techniques were learned from a popular television show hosted by Cesar Millan.
This study reinforces my own observations that dogs frequently respond aggressively to these confrontational techniques, from fear and anxiety, and that these techniques tend to make these conditions worse, continuing a spiral of deteriorating behavior, often resulting in either attacks on owners, redirected attacks on other humans, dogs, cats and other animals in their environment, or surrender of the unmanageable animal to an adoption facility. Add to these issues the well-illustrated fact that confrontational methods are not effective, and any reasonable, science-based dog owner should conclude that these techniques have no place in the world of our dogs. The science of ethology, modern animal behavior, is continuing to drive home this point in hard data.
Some cheshire cat redesigns for my concept art class~