Traditional Theories and Modern Views on Dog Behaviour
There are two main theories of dog behaviour, firstly Traditional theories and secondly Modern theories. The two techniques can be mixed.
Traditional theory, other wise known as "pack rules" is based on pack behaviour of wolves. This is because after many years of scientists questioning the evolution of the dog, it has know been proven by DNA that dogs are sole descendents of the grey wolf but not the coyote or dingo.
Through archaeology findings and cave paintings it is believed that the wolf started to be domesticated ten to fifteen thousand years ago. The original theory behind how the wolf became domesticated was that a young wolf cub was found by hunters and taken back to camp and then brought up to become a semi tame wolf. This wouldn't of been a isolated case. Any semi tame wolf cubs that grew up still overly aggressive towards the hunters would be killed and the tamer wolves would then be bred from. This is how it is thought the evolution of the wolf to the dog started under the traditional theory.
If we look at the behaviour of a pack of wolfs we will understand the theory behind traditional methods of training.
Wolves live in packs where they have a hierarchy ranking of dominancy. You have the Alpha female and a Alpha male. These are the dominant pair in charge of the group who gives orders and the rest of the wolves will follow their lead. They are the only ones that will mate, have first choice of food, have the choice of where to sleep and will guard the den. Then next in line are the Beta wolves who are usually slightly more easy going and are happy to have the position one below the Alfa. The lowest ranking (submissive) is called the Omega wolf. This wolf can be male or female.
Wolves will communicate their moods i.e. dominant, aggressive, fearful, anxious, submissive, playful and confident, through body language and vocal communication. We can see much of the same body language and vocal communication as the wolf in our dogs today.
So the hierarchy structure of wolves that has been the traditional method of training for many years can and is still used to read, train and solve problems in our domestic dogs today.
It is believed that if you allow your dog to be more dominant than yourself they will become the Alpha and definitely more chance of having problem behaviours. For example allowing your dog to jump up at you, letting your dog win every tug of war game, allowing your dog to push ahead of you in door ways, letting him eat his food first, barking until he gets what he wants, being persistent/pushy when wanting to play or have affection, allowing your dog to stand over you and allowing your dog to sleep with you on the bed or maybe he wont get off when asked. These are all ways that raises the dogs status and will make him feel equal or Alpha to you.
Once your dog shows any signs of dominancy, like the ones mentioned above you will have to correct the behaviour as it can progress to aggression and it is important under the traditional methods of training that you become Alpha.
Two concerns of the traditional form of training is firstly the bond between the owner and the dog can suffer and the character of the dog can be flattened by the training being far to strict, if not done correctly. The other concern is that in some cases trainers/behaviourists can choose to ignore some more recent training methods.
The modern view is that dogs do not follow the hierarchy theory of the wolf as first thought. Their instinct is to survive and are opportunists. This is now the opinion after further research in the 1990s. It is now thought that the evolution of the wolf to the dog started by packs of wolves being attracted to human camp sites scavenging for scraps of food. The more confident and less fearful wolves would slowly learn to live along side humans. The humans would allow these wolves to stay as they were useful to them to kill vermin and would warn them of any dangers coming into the camp. The wolves that showed more aggression and could be a danger to members of the camp would be shot. The wolves that grew to live along side the humans became less fearful, more friendly and built up trust with the humans. These wolves started to breed and slowly eliminated the more aggressive genes.
The modern theory of training is that if your dog is well balanced, behaved, listens, does what you want when asked and responds to training to the standard you feel is expectable then there is no reason to follow the traditional theory of making your self Alpha. For example if you allow your dog on the bed and when you ask the dog to get off and he does there is no problem. The problem only arises if he refuses to get off. If you choose to feed your dog first, then why not if he behaves when it is your turn to eat. When training under the modern theory the technique is positive reinforcement or reward based.