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Mythbusting Miniseries: Myth #3


Just tuning in to the Mythbusting Miniseries now? Check out Myth #1 and Myth #2 to add to your collection!

'Bad' behavior from our SideKicks is generally behavior that doesn't mesh with living in the human world or it's behavior that doesn't fit the rules or boundaries of our particular house. 'Bad' behavior includes any undesirable or unwanted behaviors we see from our SideKicks: jumping on guests, hopping on furniture, chewing on shoes, etc.

Often, these undesirable behaviors are explained by the dominance theory. The "dominance" or "alpha dog" theory is an idea about animal behavior that's been around for decades. The theory of dominance describes a social structure in a group of animals that is created and maintained by the use of force/aggression and submission; this push and pull of force and submission determines which members of the group have access to resources and when. The theory, however, is based on outdated information and we've learned so much about animals and animal behavior since the theory was developed that it's become obsolete in our modern world.

Modern science puts emphasis, instead, on observable behaviors and the affects an animal's environment has on those behaviors. We've learned that animals (including humans) do what "works" for them. What behaviors get an animal what they want or need? Looking specifically at our SideKicks, what behaviors get your SideKick the things s/he wants?

  • If jumping gets the attention and play Rover is looking for, then he's going to jump on mom and dad and anyone who it works for.

  • If rushing through the back door gets Ringo into the backyard and to the treasure trove of smells and fun faster, then that's what he's going to do when the back door is opened.

  • If gnawing on mom's flip-flops feels good on Roo's teething gums, she's going to keep chewing them (plus, added benefit, they smell good to her and are aged to the perfect vintage).

We control all access to all resources our SideKicks need and might find valuable (food, toys, treats, the couch, etc.); therefore, it's impossible for your SideKick to establish dominance over you and unnecessary to establish dominance over.

So, your SideKick isn't trying to get out the door first or sleep on your bed to dominate you; your SideKick wants to get outside to all the smells and you SideKick wants to sleep on your bed because it’s comfortable and that's where you are!

You're almost there! Read Myth #4 to collect all of the myths in the Miniseries!

Curious about the dominance myth? Find more information in the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Animal Training and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals.


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