So I'm pretty surprised at the responses thus far, mainly the belief that dogs must be maintained using a position of dominance (pack theory).
Originally Posted by Abby Normal
Personally, I think dogs thrive under the control of a loving human companion. I don't think the same is true for little humans. You can be the most loving you possible, and they are going to find control and behavior manipulation insulting at some point. It's much wiser, imo, to appeal to their intelligence with logic and reasoning. Which is something we don't really have the option to do with our furry friends.
I try to avoid words like control, dominance, alpha, and even command - it gives off a very distinct picture of an almost military style execution of training. For me, positive reinforcement does involve appealing to the intelligence of the dog in question. For example, I have one female Australian Shepherd who is incredibly smart, insightful and a quick thinker on her feet. Repetition and drilling are insulting to her. When training for competitive obedience, I have to be very careful how I ask her to do things because if she senses my intentions are to change her behavior (ask her to sit straighter, move faster, walk closer in a heel, etc) she will actually do the opposite! It's fun for me as a trainer bc I enjoy the challenge - keeps me from getting complacent. I try to phrase everything in a way that makes the dogs believe they are in control of the rewards when in reality I'm carefully chosing the path and shaping it slowly. In terms of my daughter, I very much see the similarity when I ask her not to do something, ie "leave it" for my computer or power cords. She will look at me, study my reaction, and go right back in to grab but a littler slower or from a different angle. So I tend to walk her past those objects in a wide arc to avoid them or I will point out something exciting just past them and suggest she might like that to play with. By suggesting it ('ohhh look at the books, we like to read books, can you take mommy to see them?) in this way, I'm not telling her directly to go play with the book and not the laptop, but indirectly I'm chosing the direction I'd like her to go in.
In terms of discipline, I use removal and redirection on both species. Removal for my dogs might mean walking in an opposite direction of a distraction (such as when leash walking, if they pull, we do a 180 to teach that pulling will not get them what they want), leaving the room if they jump on a guest, or crate time for a super mouthy puppy that appears overtired and in need of a nap. For DD, removal is similar - we walk away from the dog bowl (or I carry her), she goes to her pack n play if she continues to leave her toys for off limit things, or we go to a quiet room for nap time if she's looking overtired (which I do try to avoid, but hey, it happens!).
Originally Posted by marsupial-mom
My dogs know all kinds of tricks. It's fun to teach them new behaviors.
There are absolutely similarities. The main things IMO are:
Consistency and persistence
Praise/reward/ positive reinforcement
Strong emotional bond
That said I do not use similar methods very often. My son is almost 3 now and so we can communicate in English very well. We can talk about how to act before or after a situation rather than only dealing with behaviors instantly (plan together or remember together) . We can imagine/pretend/visualize which is something you can't do with animals. We can verbalize emotions and
You can't have a conversation in the car with your dog "remember at the dog park how that other dog took your ball? That made you angry and you barked and growled at him. But he wouldn't give it back. Do you think you could have gotten your ball back if you asked him nicely for it? Or maybe you could ask his person to get the ball? Want to try that next time?" but you can do that with children.
Oh marsupial-mom, if only you could hear the conversations I have with my dogs ;-) But absolutely - kids speak english, dogs don't. Long conversations and explanations will get you nowhere with a dog - they live in the moment.
Originally Posted by Kaydove
We have an part wolf (probably a 1/4) and husky/german shephard mix who has a dominant streak, super loving and kind hearted, but he needs an alpha. That said I don't think positive reinforcement would work for him, however I can see it helping my Basset Hound to an extent - he has a nervous barking problem and since he has the second best nose of all dogs, he tends to be a hound about food so he needs to hear no. I don't think ignoring unwanted behaviours and only rewarding the good works in all dogs. We do have large working breed dogs. We had a German shephard/lab mix before the husky/wolf mix and she was the same way, needed an alpha. I think dogs closer to the wolf in breed (German shepard, husky, etc vs Basset hounds, chihuahua, cocker spaniels, etc) need more alpha and pack mentality.
We see our pets as furbabies so don't think we're heavy handed with them, I never strike animals (nor people) but the first and only time the husky took food out of my baby's hand, I grabbed him, wrenched his jaw open, and pulled the food out, then made sure he was watching me throw the food away. He then had to spend time outside. That was kinda crazy because I went all Mama Bear and instinctually did that! But that was most alpha thing I could have done. He's never done anything close to that again, although he's so tall that the baby feeds him when she's in her highchair - she will grab a handful of food then put her hand over the edge and let him lick it off her hand. Oh well.
That all being said, no I would never be alpha with my daughter. I see our relationship as a partnership, only I call the shots now and over time we'll transition to equals, but that won't be until she's an adult. Slowly as she grows, she'll be able to make more decisions for herself and I'll help her with that. I'll help grow in her the confidence to make good decisions with love and logic not authority.
I find it exteremely interesting when people view dogs breeds differently - ie one will respond to PR but another won't. Yes, some breeds are more assertive than others, and yes some push buttons more than others, but the beauty of PR is that every dog can be trained this way. I know this is a big debate in the training world, especially when people like Cesar Millan show up on tv looking like miracle workers with all these crazy intense 'techniques'. But there is a lot of research regarding the phrases alpha and pack mentality. The original alpha/domiance studies were performed in the 1940's, mainly on wolves in captivity, and were short-term and not all-inclusive. They focused on the big obvious displays - like hunting and resource guarding - and paid no attention to the subtle behaviors - so only about 1% of wolf behavior was included in these studies. (Although in wolves, very little is subtle bc hunting is life or death - you eat or you die.) Companion dogs are thought to be somewhat frozen in time aka permanant wolf cubs. Nothing in domestic dogs requires them to fight to the death. All their battles are psycological and in reality most dogs co-exist without a hitch their entire lives.
I have working dogs, Australian Shepherds. I've worked with just about every breed from chihuahuas, to beagles, to labs, to great danes. From a pure behavior standpoint, they all have the same needs and all will respond similarly to PR training. Some just need a bit more creativity on the part of the human.
I too have pulled things from my dogs' mouths, sometimes you do what you gotta do. In fact I've had to do it with my DD bc she's a paper eater....ugh. Anyways, she does feed the dogs from her highchair and bc it's so rewarding I've had to become super extra creative in teaching the dogs to ignore her while in the chair and look to me for rewards instead (I don't want her feeding them potentially dangerous things down the road). At least they aren't stealing it so I have no complaints there.
I'm not alpha with my LO. I'm mom. I'm in charge of decisions bc she is not capable of making them yet. I make the rules bc I know what is best. I take that same aproach with my dogs. It is very much a partnership - I respect them, they respect me, I get the behaviors I want from them bc of this mutual respect. There was a grea quote I found by a biology professor who is an avid dog trainer and researcher (Dr. Ray Coppinger): "I cannot think of many learning situations where I want my learning dogs responding with fear and lack of motion. I never want my animals to be thinking social hierarchy. Once they do, they will be spending their time trying to figure out how to move up in the hierarchy." The take home message? If you treat your dogs as though they ARE in a pack, you will essentially teach them that there is a top tier and that they should learn to climb the ladder to get to the top. If you treat them equally and with respect they will give that respect back to you ten fold. In my world, this translates to a similar concept with my DD - I want her to be a thinker. I want her to learn without barriers and without consequences that may squash her desire to explore the world for fear of a punishment. Now I don't mean to say I won't give her any rules at all. I'm not going to let her fall down a flight of stairs to learn how to avoid them, I won't let her run to the stovetop and burn herself to learn what hot means. I will however provide her with a safe environment in which she can explore her world, learn cause and effect, discover natural consequences. It's the reason I so desperately want for her to attend a Montessori school over a traditional public school. I want to give her room to grow at her own pace, to nurture her natural abilities and offer help in areas she needs it but in a way that doesn't make her feel like a faiure. The more successful they feel (kids and dogs) the more confident they become. Confidence translates into happiness and stability.
I have a 'friend' (she kind of came with my DH - he and her hubby work toogether) who runs her house like a dictatorship. She beats (yes, beats, not just lightly spanks), belittles, and degrades her 4 children and her dog. There is so much fear in that house, and tension, it really bothers me to be there. I've tried to work with her dog when he stays with us on ocassion, but he's been beaten down and told "no" so many times that he lives in fear of new behaviors. New behaviors are potentially something he will be hit for doing and so he knows 2 things: sit and paw. That's it at 7 years old. Her kids? Well, out of sight of mom, they are wild hellions breaking every rule, testing every boundary, but once they are in her sight, they are afraid to breathe for fear she will tell them to stop doing it so loudly. That's the thing about being 'alpha'...it's doesn't equal control in the absense of the 'leader'.
http://www.caninemind.co.uk/pack.html - slightly long, not sure of the background of the author but a very good read
http://www.jeandonaldson.com/jeans-blog-mainmenu-51/64-are-dogs-pack-animals - jean donaldson is a leading behavioral trainer with vast knowledge on every aspect of behavior and training
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090521112711.htm - citations from a behavioral journal
http://www.clickersolutions.com/articles/2001/dominance.htm - uses dominace and leader, which I don't love, but if you read it thoroughly the point of the article is that these things are not physical as we often envision them being, but psychological.