Data-driven humane care
We can use this new scientific knowledge about dogs to help us address canine behaviors that we or the dog find problematic.
Fixing problematic canine behavior is actually not about control, leadership or mastery of the dog—it's about increasing the
chance that you can signal clearly to the dog, that you have the dog's undivided attention while signaling, and that you are
actually rewarding the behaviors that you desire.
As the data accumulate, our only choice is to accept that use of the dominance concept has encouraged techniques that are
dangerous to owners and dogs alike and that are unfair and often abusive to dogs. For those wishing to use data to trump assertion,
see the AVSAB dominance position statement and the Dog Welfare Campaign position statement.
For hands-on, gut-level learning for children, I recommend the Blue Dog (http://thebluedog.org/; CD and booklet are available from the AVMA). In this interactive video, children (and their caregivers) are able to try
out their behavioral responses on a virtual dog and, thus, learn about what could happen with a real one. Scientific validation
of the beneficial effects of this program continues, with early studies showing that the Blue Dog reduces errors made by children
3 to 6 years of age with respect to their responses to dogs' behaviors.
Two short popular books on canine communication that may be of interest to most veterinarians and dog lovers are Tail Talk: Understanding the Secret Language of Dogs (Chronicle Books, 2007) and The Canine Commandments (Broadcast Books, 2007).
The really good news is that we can now choose to no longer be dumbed down by dominance.
Dr. Overall, faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania, is a diplomate of the American College of Behavior Medicine
(ACVB) and is board-certified by the Animal Behavior Society (ABS) as an Applied Animal Behaviorist.