According to DogNostics Career Center (2018), dominance theory is used within the same species to predict the winner of a conflict when fighting over a specific, context-oriented resource.
Scientifically, dominance only applies to two beings of the same species, thus a human cannot be dominant over a pet nor can a pet be dominant over a human.
Using dominance theory to train dogs is today considered to be outdated and obsolete, with current scientific knowledge recanting the findings of previous studies that promote the implementation of alpha rolls and so-called dominance training. Leading expert and board certified veterinary behaviorist,
Dr. Karen Overall (2016) states:
“Dominance theory has shut off scientific research and has crept into medicine to the point where we think we can do things to animals whereby we are asking them to ‘submit.’ In pop psychology, dominance theory is insidious and has crept into everything we do with dogs and it’s wrong. It has gotten in the way of modern science and I’ve just about had it. Every single thing we do with dogs hurts them because we don’t see them as individuals or cognitive partners. Unfortunately, the dominance, discipline and coercion approach has affected every aspect of how we interact with dogs from basic training to treating troubled dogs. We must abandon these cruel, scientifically unsupported labels and approaches and replace them with a humane, scientifically-based approach that is dog-centric and attempts to understand situations from the viewpoint of the dog.”
People may think that to work in the pet industry one must love animals, yet, in reality, how can this be possible given the varied topography of pet care? In addition to the examples of cruelty, abuse and neglect highlighted earlier (see book text), we must also consider pet professionals who still rely on outdated training practices and cultural myths while ignoring the growing body of science that proposes specific, humane methods and approaches.
Is this really so different to a public policy that accepts the use by a medical professional of alcohol as an anesthetic, or leather arm cuffs as restraints as standard operating procedures?
We are now in a position to know better. In fact, in most professions that involve counseling, mental health, education, or training, there is a professional expectation and, indeed, a legal mandate that, no matter what the field, a professional must practice according to the best, most reliable and up-to-date scientific research available.