Underdogs Long Beach is a science-based dog company. However, unless you are familiar with the dog training world, you likely don’t fully understand what “science-based dog training” means. That’s okay! This particular post will dive into what this means and how we apply it every day in our dog training business.
Our team recently shared the quote, “I’m their mother caretaker and handler…Not their pack leader,” on our Underdogs Long Beach Instagram account. This quote and its intention inspired us to devote an entire blog post to the “WHY” behind our dog training philosophy.
To begin, let’s discuss the background of our canine friends. Dogs are domesticated animals. By domestic, we mean that over that, humans accidentally by sharing our meat some 20,000 to 40,000 years ago. As a result of this relationship and eventually selective breeding, dogs have evolved to communicate better with humans than their ancient ancestors, the wolf. Much, if not all, of their traits, are passed down through thousands of years of domestication. Dogs are considered man’s best friend and entirely depend on humans for survival. Our pets wouldn’t survive a few days on their own, unlike wolves, who are much more adaptable and independent.
Of course, for as long as dogs have been domesticated, there has been some form of dog training. Until the early 1990s, the Alpha Pack Theory was central to dog training teachings and philosophy. This theory states that the Alpha in a wolf pack controls the pack through aggression and dominance. However, research by wolf biologists debunked this theory in the 1990s. The studies that formed this theory were done in the 1940s and were never actually based on wolf packs living in the wild.
According to experts Dr. Gary Landsberg and Dr. Debra Horwitz, DVM DACVB, using wolf behavior to explain our dogs’ behavior is grasping at straws and oversimplifying canine ethology. These original observations were on captive wolves, in enclosed pens, low on resources, and unrelated (i.e., not family). When in the wild, wolves are families related, not fighting for rank. The breeding pair are the parents, the mother and father are the pack leaders, and their offspring’s status is based on birth order. Pack’s hierarchy does not involve anyone fighting for the top of the pack because, just like in a human family, the youngsters naturally follow their parents’ lead.
New research proves that dog learning patterns indicate that dogs understand us far better than humans understand them. This truth is mindblowing and contradicts what most humans know to be true about dog training and ethology.
First, our dogs don’t confuse us with wolves. They are much more intelligent than that. They also are not wolves and are many thousands of years removed. Somewhere along the way, humans decided that because dogs evolved from wolves, we now need to dominate our dogs to make them behave. Dominance training has to include fear, intimidation, and pain for it to work. These methods do work. They are fast at shutting down behavior, but at what cost?
Harsh, old-fashioned dominance-theory methods can effectively suppress behaviors, but is this changing the way our dog thinks? Is this helping them to make better decisions? These methods can help dogs to fight back or entirely shut a dog down. Either way, this is not training – this behavior is beating down an animal.
Aggressive behavior in humans is learned and modeled for us. This aggressive behavior towards animals (alpha roll, kidney punch, leash pop, or jerk) is an immediate response to frustrating behavior. The human responds out of frustration. In turn, our dogs are scared or in pain, or both. As brutal as it sounds, this is happening in training all over the United States.
Our thoughts can be summed up perfectly by Alexandra Horowitz when he states, “what we know to be true, is our dogs are family. We share the same routine and agreements. They love and depend on us.”
Instead of punishment or pain-inflicting training techniques, we at Underdogs Long Beach believe in force-free training methods. Through positive reinforcement, we can help all dogs and teach them valuable cohabitation skills with their humans. We start by establishing what the unwanted behaviors are and then find the function of the behavior. We then walk through what behaviors would be incompatible with the behaviors they are exhibiting.
It is essential to understand that many people expect their animals to know what humans want and need from them. In reality, most behaviors are perfectly normal dog behaviors. We look at your dog’s routine and see where their needs aren’t being met, and determine what type of enrichment, or training might help. There is so much more to animals and their needs than many of us are prepared to acknowledge.
We believe that dog behavior is complicated, and it is up to us to help our dogs. It is our responsibility to be their advocates.
Questions? We know this is an information-dense blog post, so please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding our dog training philosophy!