Ethics in the dog world

Ethics in the dog world

December 01, 2023

Why we choose ethical and force free


Myths about "alpha dog" and "pack leader"

  • These terms are rooted in outdated science and misconceptions.

Are dogs just wolves?

  • Dogs evolved symbiotically with humans, while wolves adapted to a wild existence.

But wolves have alpha wolves, don't they?

  • The alpha wolf narrative doesn't hold; wild wolf packs operate more like families, with alpha pairs assuming parental roles rather than asserting dominance through aggression.

Domestic dog "packs"

  • Domestic dogs don't naturally form structured packs, dispelling the concept of an alpha dog or pack leader.

"But dogs are dominant"

  • Behaviours labeled as 'dominant' often stem from fear, stress, or anxiety.
  • Aggression is then a coping mechanism, not an assertion of dominance.

"We need to punish that behaviour out of the dog"

  • Attempts to address fear/stress/anxiety based behaviours through punishment are ineffective.
  • Punishment heightens the dog's distress and just suppresses behaviour.
  • Instead we can use positive/differential reinforcement to teach our dogs what we want them to do without fear or threat of intimidation.

Compassion and ethics

  • Focus on becoming better guardians rather than aspiring to be pack leaders.
  • Responsible guardians prioritise empathy and understanding.
  • Recognise dogs' individuality, needs, and emotions for a harmonious bond based on mutual respect.
  • Make the ethical choice not to use punishment methods when dealing with dogs.
  • Using ethical methods helps improve the dog-human relationship by building trust and communication.

Aversive training tools

  • Reject aversive tools like shock collars and choke chains.
  • These tools have the potential to induce fear and stress in dogs.
  • Aversive methods hinder trust development and lead to unintended behavioural consequences.

Seeking help

  • Seek assistance from trainers using positive, reward-based methods.
  • Choose trainers explicitly associated with ethical codes.

Find more detailed info on these topics in the Position Statements by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior here.