The Dominance Myth in Dog Training Explained

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93 Comments on “The Dominance Myth in Dog Training Explained”

  1. Find a dog at the pound that is going to be put down because it’s too aggressive. Then make him a balanced dog using love and kisses before you bash a proven method of dog training.

    1. George Tullos They trained them with dominance and beatings. Ever read White Fang or Call of the Wild? Jack London, the author, saw those circumstances and based them with what he saw. Not saying I agree with beating your dog though.
      Second, don’t compare humans to dogs. With shock collars, dogs have higher pain tolerance, fur or hair (and two coats of it), plus thick skin.

    2. Zak George’s Dog Training rEvolution Says the guy with no education on this subject and hasn’t even used these tools personally. 😏

    3. George Tullos No. You dont need treats. And electric shock isnt torture. I have been shocked with my dogs electric collar (he is at a pretty high level too cause he doesnt respond to anything lower) and I wasnt that bad. Have experience with it before you condemn it.

    1. he got mediated because owners dont know any better and saw “miracles” when there dog was completely transformed in 10 minutes. also B.A.T doesnt exactly make for good television whereas ceasars approach is dramatic and action pact and you can see a clear transformation within the hour of show time which appeals to humans but isnt so good to dogs

    2. There has only been one case out of thousands when Cesar has used a shock collar, I dont think this is directed to Cesar. Cesar has a record of thousands of results, sorry but this guy has nothing on Cesar. The fact that we bred dogs, doesnt mean that we created them from zero and made them from a blank state. We also bred dogs to be protective, aggressive etc. This guys argument that we bred dogs therefore the dominance laws dont apply doesnt hold up in any sense, and he doesnt provide any arguments. He talks of science yet didnt provide any scientific source or paper. “Shock collars are bad” wow it took a genius to find that out?

    3. Not exactly. The dominance approach was one of the most wildly used training methods in the past, and many trainers still use it. One of those trainers just happens to be Cesar, who is the most well known trainer of all in pop culture. So this vid is aimed at a large number of trainers, including Cesar, but isn’t a direct bash of him in particular.

  2. I just got off the phone with a trainer who swore that I was doing wrong by my dog for using positive reinforcement. He wants me to use an e-collar and “a special touch” for to correct a bad behavior. No thanks. My doberman has been through 2 positive reinforcement dog training classes and mostly, I’ve used Zak George’s videos to help me along the way… More so than the class. I am ready to advance his training into more reliable/advanced training since I have MS. It’s not noticeable, but sometime I get off balance and he is tall and great to lean against when there are no distractions. So I guess I’ll continue my search for the right hands on trainer and watching ZG’s vids for help until then.

    1. As a dog owner I have all the say in the world because of my particular opinions. I’m just saying that I don’t agree with that particular trainer in the decision of using a e-collar.

    2. +Sam Macd Well, some e-collars actually spritz water and some “special touch methods” are vibrations. They are pricey, and not a shock collar. I’ve never used one and would only use the extra cash if my dog’s life was in danger, however.

    3. I’ll never use any type of shock collars. I used positive reinforcement training with my dogs (many of Zak’s techniques) along with a local trainer and my three dogs have turned out pretty good. I never quit training… Always positive.

  3. I don’t understand how people can look at my rescue dog who used to be shy, reactive and terrified of everything, and is now happy, confident, focused, and obedient, and tell me that positive reinforcement doesn’t work.

  4. I think that a lot of people like methods such as Milan’s because he seems (but not really) to offer a quick solution. But the truth is that building a relationship with a dog and raising it properly takes a lot of time and effort.
    A lot of people will rather be lazy and quickly get rid of the barking, pulling, etc. which is just symptom removal, instead of taking the time to work on the underlying problem. Sure you can kick a dog, just like a child will shut up if you hit it. But if you want your dog to grow up healthy and happy and mentally stable, building a positive relationship works much better.
    The difference is that what Zak says has been proven time and time again with decent scientific research and the dominance myth is indeed nothing more than a myth.

    1. Cesar always says that he is not a dog trainer but a dog rehabilitator. He also always is training the person to work with these dogs that have gotten off on the wrong foot behavior wise. It also isn’t so much dominance as it is leadership. I like the way you said it Veronica. A dog who feels safe does not feel the need to act aggressively.

    2. In Marin County, before dog laws were enforced, people let their dogs out at night. They would pack up and maul gentle dairy cattle. Noses, udders and tails shredded, the animals so traumatized they often had to be put down. At first they thought it was wild dogs or coyote. The dairy farmers banded together and had groups with the cattle at night. They shot some of the attackers. They were purebred dogs, with collars and tags, registered with the city. Their owners were shocked and mad that their dogs had been shot but started keeping their dogs in. Leash laws were strictly enforced and the cattle mauling stopped. Dogs DO pack up. Dogs do attack livestock. I’m not saying it’s wolf behavior, I don’t know. But I do know that hunters will hunt, when not raised around livestock and given the chance. I’ve seen it too often

    3. Heaven of Sound – That’s not a pack or pack behavior. There’s a big difference between how dogs act together and wolves.

    4. thats what dogs do, it is pack behavior – dog pack behavior. Dogs get together and do things they might not do alone. Kill sheep, kill chickens, the relationship to wolves is not the point. That dogs do act as a pack when they have the opportunity to do so is.

  5. Dominance means to have authority/influence over. That doesn’t always mean it has to be aggressive. So when your using positive reinforcement training you reward the dog for good behavior only. You are showing the dog what YOU want it to do and what is okay. That’s still dominance.

    1. Dogs look for structure, if it’s not found they make their own. I suggest any book by Caesar Milan. Look up the definition of dominance and it’s very clear. Any training/interaction with any animal (this includes humans), there is always someone who’s dominate, again I will repete myself; dominance is not always aggressive, it’s to have authority or influence over.

    2. +Kelly Holt I have read “Cesar’s Way”. I read it before I read “Dog Sense”. Upon reading the latter, I quickly realized that just because someone has a bunch of popular books and tv shows, doesn’t meant that there is any scientific validity to support their methods. Cesar Millan has a conception of dog behavior that is entirely rejected by the majority of actual scientists who research dog behavior. There is no evidence that dogs are trying to have “authority or influence over” their owners. When a dog jumps onto to someone or mounts someone, it is not trying to dominate; rather, the dog is simply carrying out behavior that has been reinforced by simple associative learning. The idea that dogs seek to take charge of their human owners makes very little sense, especially when one looks at the evolutionary relationship between our two species.
       Kelly Holt, I honestly don’t know anything about you, but I will assume you are very intelligent. However, no matter how intelligent one is, it is still easy for an individual to get swept up in the myths of pop culture without the slightest bit of skepticism. 

    3. +Evan Gray You mean the way you’re getting swept up in this? It’s just another method, and Cesar’s obviously works very well. Dogs like Cesar. Knock him all you and other want, but he loves dogs and they love him , and his way works. And I see nothing cruel in what he does or how he treats them.

    4. I agree with you, but to teach anyone requires a leadership role. This doesn’t mean that negative behaviour is a sign the dog is being ‘dominant’, negative behaviour is due to high energy, anxiety or lack of training. The dominant approach also leads to many trainers taking it too far and abusing the dog under the guise of ‘balance training’.

  6. Hi Zak, just discovered your vids, awesome, congrats on putting together all this great, research-based, ethical information. You are doing a great service both for dogkind and mankind. THANK YOU.

    I am stunned by the inappropriate and even hateful comments on here, but I guess it is all part of the degradation of our culture. Just want to encourage you not to be discouraged. You Rock, and haters gonna hate. They deserve to be ignored. Keep on keeping on. I am contributing to your efforts, and it is a privilege to do so.

    1. Online culture encourages to live in a bubble and immediately ignore or invalidate the opinions or disagreements with others. Even when they do share the same qualifications or experience (dog training).

  7. Zak I have a lot of respect for you however, saying wolves don’t have a pack mentality in the wild is silly. There is a enormous amount of documentaries and information saying otherwise. Do you have a source that I could check out?

    1. this is also seen in puppies , where they establish where they are with in the family ie the flow but they know who mum and dad is. its primitively systematic , same with humans to. i agree in captivity the wolfs are not family , its the same as orphans in an orphanage or prisoners in prison .

    2. Beast Warrior I’ve never before seen anyone being in so much denial. Your anecdotal evidence is not evidence – read the scientific litterature.

    3. He isn’t saying that wolves don’t live in a pack, what he’s saying is that the organization of that pack is not based on an alpha leader and all the things we have associated to that

  8. well… everything you do can be explained from a dominance’s perspective… you just exercise dominance intellectually rather than physically, but it’s still dominance

    1. Have you ever read ANYTHING about “dominance” based on research rather than pure guessing? Please, study first then start arguing about it. Bet you have not even HEARD about John Bradshaw, Tomás Szpigel, Ian Dunbar…

    2. “Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution is a must-read for dog lovers everywhere. It has a wealth of practical tips, tricks, and fun games that will enrich the lives of many dogs and their human companions.”
      —DR. IAN DUNBAR, veterinarian, animal behaviorist, and founder of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers

  9. Clearly this is a jab at how Cesar Millan trains dogs. I just love how you keep saying that this type of dominance training is “old school” and “unscientific.” 1) Well, is YOUR method scientific? 2) How do you define scientific? When I see Caesar interacting with dogs (on his program and on interviews), he can very quickly handle almost every situation? 3) So, if you’re going to jab at Cesar’s methods, then please tell us why he is so successful in training dogs. He doesn’t abuse them. He doesn’t train them with fear. The interactions I see that he has with dogs is very positive. The animal seems to be very comfortable.

    I certainly think that you are a great dog trainer. But, you just have different method. If you’re going to essentially attack the Cesar Millan approach, why don’t you have the courage to say CESAR MILAN? Everyone knows who you are talking about.

    Sorry, but I really like your videos – but the WAY you are attacking Cesar’s methods is not credible. If you’re going to say that his ways are “old school” and “unscientific” then you need to show how yours IS scientific.. and that “new school” is better. Just because something is NEW doesn’t mean that it is better. We all know this.

    1. This is not a ‘jab’ at Cesar Millan, he is not attacking anyone, but clearing up misinformation. Cesar just happens to be one of the people who is misinformed.

      Secondly, Zak’s technique IS scientific. Following psychological studies: Pavlov’s dogs and Skinner’s Rats, surrounding conditioning and reinforcement.

      Finally, Cesar Millan has no education in dog training, everything he has learned has been ‘self taught’. He also failed the German dog trainer exam. He is not a dog abuser, but his methods are outdated and ill-informed.

    2. That’s not true. You are talking about schutzhund or police-dog training.And they use both, positive AND negative reinforcements! But in America, the UK or in any other country the training strategy for these dogs is all the same oO
      I mean, your’re saying that EVERY nearly every German dog trainer is a dominance trainer. Well, I live in Germany and I can tell different xD I know no one, training his dog with force methods. Even in our dog lessons the trainers all tell us to never use chokechains, etc.
      So don’t stick to that myth, please. It kinda gets me off, hah. xD

    3. Steph90
      In fact a wolf and a dog are geneticly speaking quite identical and i bet you take a wolf born in captivity and trained and a dog raised in a wild wolf pack, behaviours would be inverted because research have proved that the environment an animal grows has more impact, in intelligent mammals case, then the genetical traits. And for your last line, if we follow your mentality, so don’t dog’s need to act as humans and therefore follows civilized restrictions we put in there lifestyle!
      I am open to other points view and argument,

    1. I had a slightly older dog who would occasionally try to over-rule me. I’d seen older/dominant dogs nipping at the muzzle of pups as a reprimand. So I would hold a tiny fold of skin below/between the eyes with my lips (SUPER LIGHTLY) and he would instantly stop what he was doing and would be great for days to weeks. I didn’t like doing it, but it worked. I would also whimper, as though in pain, when he did anything painful and it would also make him stop. I tried to think like a dog, rather than like a person. I’m SURE it’s not entirely right, and my puppy is being trained more along the lines of his videos, but it did work.

  10. Also, I noticed you keep talking about “Science” and “multiple studies” and “sharing our data” but you have NEVER provided any legitimate study whatsoever.

  11. Cesar does NOT do obedience training on his show! He does NOT train dogs, nor is he using dominance methods on all dogs!! The episodes I have seen where a dog is shy/nervous he always work on the dogs confidence and never using the alpha role.
    Where is this scientific data saying using positive reinforcement only is the most effective way to train from?
    If you look at real professional trainers who train police dogs and rescue dogs, you will see that they use both positive and negative reinforcement!
    Dogs are individuals who responds different to various training methods.
    Please do a show where you train 2 adult dominant powerful dogs with aggressive tendencies using positive reiforcement only.
    Don’t get me wrong I really like your way of training puppies and obedience training, but when it comes to adult dogs with serious issues I think Cesar is the guy to call.

    When the other positive only trainer victoria Stillwell didn’t succeed training an agressive cocker spaniel over 6 weeks and the dog ended up biting the girl in the home, she told the family to euthanize the dog!!!
    Not cool

    1. Fallen Angel Well you’re the one who’s triggered and disrespectful. You calling people names and being rude doesn’t solve your issues..

    2. Cesar Millan is the BEST dog behaviourist. He uses a mix of positive and negative reinforcement, and although he does use dominance, the funny thing is.. it works! And it saves lives!! He works with much more extreme cases than Zak George and other dog “trainers” and he never gives up on a dog. Where’s all your hate coming from? Cesar doesnt hurt the dogs, watch his TV programme and read his books, research him if you have to but if he “kicks” a dog it’s a tap on it’s side that happens to be with his foot. He can’t tap the dog with his hand because he could get bitten. These dogs would be killed if it wasn’t for Cesar. He saves many many lives and is very good and effective at what he does.
      I like positive reinforcement but when dealing with an aggressive dog, i believe that you should correct bad behaviour too, and then you can reward the good behaviour. Cesar Millan is my favourite by far, and he is my inspiration. Victoria Stillwell’s ideas are good however i have seen that she gives up on dogs if her positive reinforcement doesn’t work. She recommended a spaniel was put down because her positive work didn’t work after 6 weeks. She prescribed a load of drugs to a dog she’d met once for a few minutes before she’d even tried any methods of training. (I have links to videos if you need proof) However, some of her methods are okay.
      Zak George is good with his positive reinforcement & he has very good and usually effective ideas. However, I’ve never seen him work with a case as serious as Cesar Millan’s. He trains with basic obedience, puppy training, pulling on the lead and barking etc. Not with dogs that have bitten people badly or got in lots of fights with other dogs. Or dogs that are doing to be put down. We need Cesar Millan to help with those serious cases, so why would people go against him? He saves lives. Lives that have been ruined most likely by uneducated people.

    3. Natzxx 2 – So kicking and strangling dogs by a leash until they urinate doesn’t hurt them?

      Dogs trained by fear are not behaving because they genuinely want to. They behave because the alternative is more pain and abuse.

      A training method based on the erroneous claim that dogs are wolves is no proper training method.

    4. Negative and positive re-enforcement both work, but the dominance approach does not. the dominance approach is basically a mask for negative re-enforcement + good leadership, but the people teaching it do not understand what they are doing and why it works. They attribute all bad behaviour to dominance and all good behaviour to respecting the alpha, which generalises and simplifies the problem. That being said, dogs can be trained using mostly/only positive re-enforcement, and although that isn’t the only effective way of training, why use discomfort to train your dog when you don’t need to? Also there are many other positive only dog trainers out there, it isn’t just Zak and Victoria.

    1. To believe that is to ignore every puff piece you’ve ever seen on the news where an animal is raised by a completely different type of animal. Animals don’t need to see other animals as being the same species in order to assimilate them into their pack, flock, herd, etc. The animals that get taken in don’t get treated any better than the rest just because they look different. In fact, they sometimes get treated worse.

    2. Whether they recognize they’re the same species or not is irrelevant. Fact is we’ve groomed dogs to see us as the one to follow and obey. Especially considering how we technically take them as puppies from their families and provide them with food and shelter. Kinda like stockholm syndrome.

    3. doesnt matter if they see us as a different species or not, they will still use their language to communicate not ours.

  12. +Zak George’s Dog Training rEvolution “In rare incidences that dogs bite people” 11 years experience and he says something this incredibly ignorant. You know why…because in his 11 years he has not worked with aggressive dogs (towards human)whatsoever. Stick with tricks and obedience Zak (this man has over 500k followers, Lord help us!) BTW, each and every day about 1,000 U.S. citizens require EMERGENCY care treatment for a dog bite injury, approximately 4.5 million in total. Also, on average about one person per week dies from a fatal dog attack in the U.S.

    1. How does it pertain to what we are mentioning in this vid? This is about dogs NOT humans, are you delusional? Go back to bed…

    2. Doggy Thoughts Well perhaps this says more about american people and how they raise and treat their animals rather than the dogs themselves

  13. hi Zak !
    i am gonna be honest , the first video i saw of you was with the white pitbull going for a walk. In the beginning i was like “what the hell is this guy doing ? ” your method seemed silly trying the dog to work with you with a piece of chicken. This thought came of watching ceasar milans show all the time. But watching more and more of your videos i saw that your technique is the one i go for now. All the leash pulling ceasar does will not really adress the behaviour i think. The episodes where he goes back to “rehabilitated” dogs they are still have some issues… while your technique just works quicker and is more fun! Thanks for showing me zak and sorry for my english !

    1. @lostinabook you liked him because he doesnt just train a good happy dog thats already balanced so its impressive to watch and means he knows what hes doing.

      Not that i dont like Zak George i think hes great, but Cesar uses his way to help that german shepherd that wanted to kill any and everything that stepped foot in his yard..cant do that with pieces of chicken and a “yes good boy”

    2. you can rehab aggressive dogs using reinforcement. well you probably can’t but qualified trainers do it all the time.

  14. I absolutely love this video and have watched it a couple of times. I have also recommended it to several people. Thank you for the truly great and helpful videos.

    1. Kameo Hosley If it’s all lies, then please refer me to the scientific literature supporting the ‘alpha male’ idea.

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