Those who surrender their dogs to animal shelters cite behavior problems more than any other reason. Yet many of the problems can be prevented by a sound leadership program.
Dog training has advanced and changed in dramatic ways in recent years. Patricia McConnell is a good example of how training has advanced through the use of the principles of operant conditioning. McConnell uses effective, scientifically-based, humane methods. She recommends integrating obedience training into the dog's day.
"Teaching sit, down and stay can easily be accomplished by asking for one or two of those actions as you are playing, walking across the room, going outside, watching TV, etc." she writes.
McConnell's booklet, "How to be the Leader of the Pack ... and have your dog love you for it" is an easy-to-follow guide to being a good leader.
This would be a wonderful booklet to send home with new puppy buyers, particularly those who are first-time dog owners.
McConnell explains that dogs want their owners to be leaders - it is actually easier for the dog and makes the dog feel more secure. When the owner is indecisive, or otherwise communicates to the dog that owner and dog are equals, or even that the dog is in charge of the relationship, behavior problems are likely to show up.
Animal behaviorists like McConnell stage a continuing effort to educate owners against using the Alpha roll. In fact, McConnell concludes her booklet with "Alpha Roll-Over ... Don't Do it!"
As she notes, "people don't win dog fights, so don't start one." Job Michael Evans, who first suggested the Alpha roll in his book for Monks of New Skete, later apologized for it. He said that the only dogs that would accept an Alpha roll didn't need it and the ones who do would bite your face if you tried it with them. Unfortunately, some trainers persist in recommending it.
The various leadership techniques McConnell recommends in this booklet are far more successful in communicating leadership to the most dominant dog than the Alpha roll -- without the risk of having one's face bitten.
McConnell is familiar to many from her "Petline" TV show on Animal Planet. She used her behavior expertise in segments where she helped owners solve various behavior problems. If the owners who called her program had this booklet in hand when they first got their pet, they wouldn't have needed to phone the TV show.
McConnell received her doctorate in zoology from the University of Wisconsin researching communication between people and dogs. She is the owner of Dog's Best Friend, Ltd., which offers family dog training classes and treatment for serious behavioral problems, where she specializes in the evaluation and treatment of aggression in dogs. She is Assistant Adjunct Professor in Zoology at the University of Wisconsin, teaching "The Biology and Philosophy of Human / Animal Relationships." Co-host of Wisconsin Public Radio's "Calling All Pets", Dr. McConnell gives advice about behavior problems on over 110 radio stations across the country. She is the behavior columnist for the BARk magazine and a Consulting Editor for the "Journal of Comparative Psychology. Currently she is working on a book for Ballantine/Random House titled "The Other End of the Leash", comparing human behavior to that of our four-legged best friends. She can be found either nestled within a pack of four dogs, one cat and a flock of sheep, or traveling to give speeches and seminars around the country.
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