September 1, 2014
Why the ‘pack leader’ mentality for training and living with your dog is outdated.
In the dog-training world, there is “Old School” training and there is “New School” training. Both styles are effective because dogs are eager for attention, shelter and food – this is why they are so easy to persuade. However, it’s important to me how a dog feels in its home and when it’s being trained.
Here are some things Old School trainers might do or believe as part of their training style. An Old School trainer will take a more dominant approach, having less patience while expecting more immediate results. Old School trainers want dogs to be submissive to them; they may use praise but use more correction or redirection techniques without reward.
In old school training, the trainer focuses more on what a dog is doing wrong as opposed to what a dog is doing right. Old School trainers believe the reason for many of your dogs behaviours is that they’re trying to be “pack leader” or trying to “dominate you.”
Old School trainers are fond of using the “pack leader” analogy to describe the relationship between owner and dog. In the wolf society the pack leader is the one sitting alone (most of the time). When he walks around, he’s got to play the part by acting like the tough guy. Other members of the pack will lick his face and keep their tails tucked under, and ears back. This signals to the pack leader that they are not a threat and that they are not going to challenge him for mating rights. Which is what the pack leader’s role is – MATING! This doesn’t sound like the relationship between human and dog.
On the other hand, New School trainers and their techniques focus on what a dog is doing right rather than wrong. New School trainers use motivation and redirection techniques, incorporating food, toys, clickers, praise and patience. New School trainers don’t relate everything a dog does as an act of dominance or positioning themselves as a pack leader or follower. Instead, they understand that much of a dog’s behavior is a product of their breed traits and early education and socialization.
New School trainers want a dog’s state of mind to be confident, not submissive. They understand that dogs don’t need to be submissive to listen. They also understand that dogs like to work as a team, to succeed, which is why dogs need a teacher and not a pack leader.
Education and practice helps build good communication skills with your dog. With practice, patience and proper teachings, a dog can learn to behave appropriately for any situation that comes its way.
Preaching the Old School style of training only helps to perpetuate the dumbing down of dogs and dog owners. When we think the old school way we become lazy and our expectations become too high. I say give the dog a break. Educate – be its teacher, not its pack leader.