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Image by Karsten Winegeart

The Alpha Theory - Debunked?

By Jamie Sharma

By now we have all heard about the debunking of the alpha theory. The popularity in positive-based dog training has increasingly gained momentum over the years. That just leaves one big question unanswered, why do we still see adverse tools and methods being used if we know they were developed from a debunked theory? 


As a certified trainer, I have observed some interesting human behavior in my career and a few thoughts come to mind but I’ve narrowed it down to three. Ego. Lack of education. Society standards. 


Hear me out.


We see this in our society in many aspects. From physical beauty to possessions to status we are often victim to standards that we don’t actually identify with, feeding an alien ego that we confuse with confidence. Dogs become a great ego booster. People often find an illusion of the identity they desire within their relationship with their dog. Control, respect and affection, all things a dog offers a human but not always by choice.  A dog living in a home using adverse methods and tools often “submits” because there is no other option. Those dogs who don’t “submit” and instead become defensive are labeled “aggressive” or “alpha” dogs. These “alpha” dogs become a trigger to those people with low self confidence (driven by ego) which ends up feeling like a challenge for the “alpha” title. Positive-based methods threaten that illusion of control over their dog thus removing what feeds the ego. This leaves those with low self confidence feeling a lack of control and the cycle continues.  

Lack of education

Between the internet, TV, social media and books it is easy to get overwhelmed and pick up the wrong information about dog training. Couple that with the unregulated dog training industry and we have a mountain of false information spreading from self proclaimed dog trainers. Additionally, those bringing home a canine companion don’t often think training is necessary  because they are not experiencing any “bad” behaviors. They resort to what has worked with previous dogs or worse, what they learned on the internet, TV or from the self proclaimed dog trainer. This mindset continues the cycle and spread of incorrect information. 

Society Standards

Society has a monumental impact on our behavior as a man, woman, spouse, friend, family member and species. Society has put a lot of pressure on dog parents by pushing for standards that are not only extreme but are unnatural and unrealistic - A dog that doesn’t bark, jump on people, growl or bite! All of which are natural forms of communication for a dog. 

Society can be blamed for so many things but we forget, WE ARE society. 

Making a change

Change begins with each of us. Sounds cliché but it couldn’t be more true. As a human, we should want to better ourselves by healing and growing through our journey of life. Addressing the inner critics and past traumas that feed todays struggles so we can repair our false identity driven by ego. We should strive to learn all we can about our canine companions, it’s the least we can do considering they spend their entire life studying our every word, behavior and move. We can shift the society “standard” to be less critical and more practical by changing the way we see our four legged compadres. Starting with educating ourselves with the most up to date information. It starts now, with the dog you have. Find a certified trainer, take a class! Encourage those around you to do the same. Together we can heal, learn and become closer to our best friends than ever before. 




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