Exploring Dominance A Bit More

I just had such a wonderful group of questions from a reader that I decided to present this as a post so more people will see it.   I hope you will enjoy this exploration.  Dr. Mark

Dr. Mark

Interesting treatise on the topic of dominance. I am interested to know what your definition of a pack is. I would also like to know what your definition of dominance is. You talk around it, but you don’t define it. Dominance is a construct, and as long as it is useful to describe what is happening between two animals I don’t have a problem. But when it is used to describe how to use positive punishment to get what the human wants, instead of who got priority access to a resource between conspecifics, then it just isn’t good science. If you go into the literature, you can find inter species dominance studies three times-first between reef fish, who want the same food and space. Another between feeder birds-who both want the same food. But by and large, dogs and humans don’t want the same things, so it is hard to make a sound argument that dominance is a useful construct in describing the relationship. Perhaps though, I have a different perspective given that I am partnered with a dog who knows when I am going to have a migraine, and who will tell me when to go to bed. And I go-just as he tells me to.

Dear Sue,

Thank you for your great questions.  These are good explorations.  I think of a pack as a group of dogs with a common bond who share their time, space, and resources.

With dog handling, I think of dominance as a relationship between two animals (including between people and dogs since we are all animals)  in which one is exerting an influence which motivates the other to do what they may not want to do.  But this does not have to be punitive or demeaning or negative.  It can be something as simple as a dog raising his tail to send a message.

People have many definitions of dominance and may not like mine.  That is okay.  The problem with definitions of dominance is that most people cannot comprehend a good or positive from of dominance. They often have a lot of stories attached to their concept of “dominance”. You refer to a human using “positive punishment” and I do not know what situation you are referring tom but I am not endorsing or encouraging any form of punishment or punitive or demeaning actions.  Dominance does not have to be punitive or demeaning, though many people cannot comprehend that aspect.  Positive forms of dominance for me include leadership or parenting, both of which can be done in the most respectful and loving manner.  This is the energy and type of dominance when the Y Pole is used properly.

Here is the best example of “dominance” I can think of to describe what we are doing in Compassionate Dog Handling (The Finesse of Dog Handling) by GWR. Imagine you are on a Search and Rescue Team in an earthquake area and you find a teenage boy deep under a pile of rubble.   The only way you can get him out is to wrap him tightly on a stretcher them pull him through a narrow tunnel, but he is claustrophobic and terrified.  In this case you must be firm, yet convince him to hand everything over to you in order to save his life.

Most people cannot comprehend a positive form of dominance so here is another way to describe how we are using the Y pole properly.   The Y pole is simply a metal extension of your hand.  Use the Y pole to comfort the dog and earn his confidence enough to relax.  Typically, he finds that when he does relax, there is only compassion and respect and an energy that is calm and relaxed (from us) which is a big part of the message to the dog.  Many times I have found that the dog is more trusting and friendly with me after I have handled it.

If you do not like the word “dominance” referred to in a relationship between two different species, that is okay with me.  Use the words “leadership” and “confidence” and combine that with a calm and compassionate manner.  These discussions should not be a case of who is right and wrong or who is using good science.  It should be a case of letting each person share their perspectives, and if the reader wishes, they can strive to understand the perspective and see what parts can be used in their life and work to make the world a better place or to make their life easier.

And as for what is “good science”,  that is like referring to “good economics”.  Science is not nearly as concise as science-based people think.  Also, there is so much more than just science.  So much more.  Science cannot quantify compassion and intuition.  And the relationship and connection between the handler and the dog is a very personal thing that cannot be replicated for all people.  That is one of the challenges in teaching this compassionate form of dog capture and handling.

Thank you for your wonderful questions.  Dr. Mark

“Compassionate Dog Capture and Handling” – A Distinctly Unique Approach

Confirming Our Friendship After Filming

The Feral Dog Blog and our website demonstrate unique approaches to humane  and compassionate dog capture and handling.

  • The compassionate styles and methods of dog capture and handling presented by GWR are not taught anywhere else in the world.  This approach has been developed by Dr. Mark over 20 years as a wildlife veterinarian working with captive and free-ranging wildlife including hundreds of wolves and teaching training courses for 20 years as well.  Dr. Mark’s desire and purpose in developing this unique inter-connected, and compassionate approach stems from his field experience, his training in aikido (he is a first degree black belt.) ,and from his practice in traditional Lakota Sioux ceremony.
  • The underlying messages and philosophies of this unique approach include:

Dog capture and handling should be humane, effective, and safe for both handler and dog.

Handling dogs in a kind and compassionate way will make the community and the world a better place.

We are training Dog Handlers (Humane Officers, etc.) not Dog Catchers.

Except for alpha dogs, dogs do not participate in the fight.  They are trying to escape or protect themselves.  The handler should not add to “the energy of conflict” in his actions, heart, or mind.  In other words, Do not fight the dog.

When handling dogs, you must first look at yourself.  Dogs are extremely sensitive to humans.  Calm and settle yourself and the dog will calm as well.  This is the key to successful and compassionate dog handling.  In this way we attend to the “ways of being” as well as the “ways of doing”.

Truly see the dog for who he is.  Use his personality and assess the best approach – trying the softest techniques first.

Every dog is your teacher.

The Y pole is an essential tool for humane dog capture and handling.

  • The Y pole can be used for any fearful dog in an enclosed area when leashes do not work.  They are simply a safe extension of the hand.  The Y pole will lower the energy of the restraint, remove any harm to the dog,  increase human safety, and can potentially replace most uses of the catch pole (snare pole) commonly used in animal shelters.  And when personnel choose to use a catch pole, they will have more success if they use it like a Y pole.    GWR and Dr. Mark are the only ones teaching the use of the Y pole with dog handling.

My hope is that eventually this approach to dog handling will be widely practiced throughout the world and other trainers will continue the message bringing new ideas into this humane approach.

Best wishes,  Dr. Mark

2010 in Review

The stats monkeys at WordPress.com evaluated how this blog did in 2010, and here is our summary!

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow!!.

Crunching Numbers

Featured imageThe average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 3 fully loaded ships.

In 2010, there were 40 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 46 posts. There were 91 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 59mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was March 19th with 408 views. The most popular post that day was Is Dominance Always Bad?.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were wildliferesources.org, terriermandotcom.blogspot.com, flyingdogpress.com, cynography.blogspot.com, and mail.yahoo.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for feral dogs, feral dog, feral dog blog, y pole, and dog restraint equipment.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Is Dominance Always Bad? March 2010
15 comments

2

Dog Capture and Handling Courses January 2009
7 comments

3

Y Poles – an essential tool for every animal shelter August 2008
5 comments

4

About Mark and GWR August 2008
14 comments

5

Physical Restraint for Dogs. Part 1 The Scruff January 2010
3 comments

THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR YOUR COMMENTS AND SUPPORT.  OUR GOAL FOR 2011 IS TO ADD MANY MORE TOPICS AND ORGANIZE IT IN A MORE USABLE FORMAT, ADD MORE VIDEOS WHICH WILL TIE IN WITH OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL: GWRFERALDOG, AND ADD A FORUM SO WE CAN CREATE EVEN MORE OPEN DIALOGUE FOR PEOPLE TO SHARE THEIR WISDOM AND EXPERIENCE.

PLEASE KEEP SENDING YOUR COMMENTS AND SHARE WITH OTHER PROGRAMS HOW YOU ARE HAVING SUCCESS WITH HUMANE AND COMPASSIONATE DOG CAPTURE AND HANDLING.

May this new year bring you great health, abundance, an even greater clarity of purpose, and the opportunity to fulfill your purpose.   And may there be less suffering and more harmony for all people, animals, and beings in the world. Dr. Mark