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APDTNZ Position Statement on Dominance Theory

n line with modern training techniques, which are based on scientific and widely accepted
studies regarding the use and misuse of ‘dominance theory’ (also referred to as ‘wolf-pack
theory,’ or ‘alpha theory’), the APDTNZ advises against the acknowledgment and application of
dominance theory when training dogs.

Within the highly unregulated field of dog training, the concept of dominance is frequently
encountered with varying degrees of understanding. The dominance theory is based on the
concept that in order to have a compliance from a dog, one must establish a hierarchy where
humans claim the role of “alpha” or “pack leader.” Many people, including some animal industry
professionals, believe that submission is a key component to successful training.

According to dominance theory, behaviour “problems” and non-compliancy are explained as the
dog “trying to gain rank.” The dominance theory suggests that the way to address training
failures is to “regain alpha rank,” which often leads to the use of punitive and aversive training
techniques that can damage the relationship between the dog and their caregiver.

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