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Moving beyond "Dominance Theory"

March 16, 20231 min read

Moving beyond "Dominance Theory"

Updated: May 1

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Dominance theory is an outdated and disproven theory used in the dog training world. We know a lot of these old school theories are still out there today, but research has shown over and over again that dogs do not learn this way!


  • You don't have to be "above" your dog in a social hierarchy

  • You don't have to eat before your dog

  • Your dog is allowed on the couch/bed (if you want!)

  • They don't have to obey you without food "because they love you and you're the boss..." - would you go to work and obey your boss without a paycheque?

  • Most things you see on TV are highly edited and continue to popularize outdated, dangerous techniques because frankly, it makes better TV.

  • You can operate from a place of understanding and compassion, without being permissive.

Techniques to reduce dominance often include:

  • Placing dogs on their back, also known as the “alpha roll”

  • Pinning them to the ground

  • Staring into their eyes

  • Challenging them over their right to food and resources

  • Invading and blocking their space

Your dog does not want to control you. You also have no business imitating what you have colloquially heard "what the mother would do" to puppies in a litter which is also a myth and fallacy. We can have our own unique relationship with dogs by interacting with them with kindness so that the human­­­–animal bond is based on trust that lasts a lifetime.

One way to help puppy and dog owners if they are struggling with aggressive behaviours or if they have misconstrued dominance theory is to encourage them to look for advice and support from accredited behaviourists, trainers and behaviour counsellors.

Shannon Noonan

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