Despite no dog training organisation or behavioural association now advocating the Dominance theory in canine behaviour and training, the concept remains suitably stuck with pet dog owners and a few old-school trainers alike.
It is so ingrained in peoples minds, that I have often heard the term used by owners of pets such as Rabbits, Cats and even Ferrets – who naturally live alone in the wild, never forming ‘packs’, let alone having any instinct of how to act in a hierarchy.
As an animal advocate and someone people look to for answers or advice on their pet my aim is to build equality rather than hierarchy between a pet and owner. Doing so leads to both a greater understanding of what is happening for the pet at the time they display a behaviour, and to a greater acceptance and love within the relationship.
My hope is that this article goes some way to explaining why I feel the concept of dominance is no longer appropriate to energy work with dogs (or any pet), what could be the true reason the dominance theory just keeps on sticking around and how we can very easily explain what is really going on for these animals instead.

The Dominance theory is certainly a concept that needs more understanding and open mindedness.
On a research, or science, basis the theory has been thoroughly outgrown and proven wrong – especially for dogs.
In order carry out research and find out if dogs really do create hierarchies, we need to be able to see what they act like without us around.
So far only a few studies have been able to do this, as there are very limited opportunities to study dogs living in groups without human interaction. Each one has however highlighted that the theory doesn’t hold up.
Examples include:
>A recent study on a group of more than 30 rescue dogs, who had very limited human interaction (only to have left dry food down and remote observations for signs of health) observed no status or hierarchy within the group of dogs at all. They formed friendship groups only. They sometimes guarded resources from each other but the behaviour was not led by any status or hierarchy, only literally by who happened to have the wanted item at the time and the moment of time being experienced. The ‘winners’ of items were not consistent, neither were the dogs that had desires for items. – (Salisbury rehoming centre study, with John Bradshaw and students of Bristol university)

>A study of non-related feral village dogs in India in which the observations showed that dogs do not consistently vie for rank or leadership in the village dog group model. They may occasionally resource guard, but it’s never about status. The desire for a resource, and the ‘winning’ dog was again inconsistent; the guarding was again more ‘in the moment’. (- Dr Sunil Kumar Pal, West Bengal biologist)

> The original studies on wolves that led to the dominance theory have been shown as flawed. They were observations of various unrelated wolves that were put together in an unknown environment, of limited space, simply for a study of them to occur. This did not allow for the wolves to act as they would in the natural world. In nature wolves live in family groups and would not decide to or choose to exist in an unfamiliar environment or in groups with various unrelated individuals.
The resulting findings are thus not applicable to wolf behaviour or to the theory that dog behaviours stem from any wolf-like status tendency.

Further considerations on the dominance theory include our domestication of dogs itself. Domestication occurs when we align with animals that are able to co-exist with us in a friendly, mutually beneficial way.
Early on we self-selected the dogs that posed us the least threat, these dogs then became more tame by being with us. This was strengthened through years of evolution and breeding.
Like us dogs are also social animals that prefer peace for safety. Out in the wild, where your friendly local vet doesn’t exist, staying unhurt is the priority. Social animals have learnt to survive together, by not getting hurt or injured. Dogs hunt in groups and communicate very effectively in groups. They know the value of the collective and respect all in their group.
A label of dominance only explains what we perceived to be happening at any given moment in time. It in no way proves that the animal was aware of the consequence of acting a behaviour in terms of status, or if their future relationship with another being – human or dog, will be changed as a result of their behaviour.
Rather than plotting, planning or even desiring to ‘better’ themselves, our dogs simply live in the moment and act accordingly in each new fresh moment.

When we either label, or view behaviours a pet displays as dominant, the tendency is that we are feeling some level of the fight or flight response rather than a stress-free relaxation response.
We might find ourselves making a joke about the dominant behaviour, but humour is often a suitable cover up for an underlying feeling that the behaviour actually worries or concerns us.
In the instance we view the behaviour as dominant we reduce our ability to see what is really going on for the animal. We reduce our ability to understand the true message of concern, anxiety or fear the animal is trying to provide for us.

Behaviours often associated with dominance can include; perceived aggression, barking, growling, jumping up, mounting, resource guarding and even doing things like ‘stealing’ the seat on the sofa.
Interestingly when we experience each of these behaviours directed towards us they easily put us into our fight or flight response. We feel either consciously or subconsciously a concern or anxiety based reaction to what we are seeing or feeling at the time the behaviour happens.
Perhaps there is an underlying, kind of inherent instinct or belief that actually any animal could cause us harm preventing us from moving on from the dominance theory?
I don’t feel it is an accident that people who are more chilled out and less reactive themselves see less if any examples of ‘dominance’ with their pets.

Could the theories of dominance, status and pack leadership also provide fuel for a few very common limiting beliefs that we humans find hard to let go?
The basis of the theory could provide evidence and strength to common subconscious thought patterns we hold and consider are serving us, or keeping us safe.

2 such limiting beliefs are ‘it’s a dog eat dog world’ and ‘there is not enough’.
Both subconscious thought processes, keeping us believing that we each have to fight for our survival and that other people or animals, essentially things outside of ourselves, are against us in some way. The exact opposite of the belief that ‘we are as one’, that ‘we are all made of energy’ and that we really can live in a world of abundance.
While behaviour being viewed as dominant is happening our fears can be felt at varying levels ranging perhaps from terror through to simply concern, at the other end of the spectrum. Subconscious fears that we may not even be aware we are experiencing, can also be enough to influence our own behaviours and choice of beliefs at the time.
We are more than capable of acting on our basic animal instincts and feeling a fear of the ‘wild’ in any animal. This is actually only natural for us!
Our subconscious does tend to believe it is assisting us when it leans on these limiting beliefs.
It is super easy to fall into this way of feeling and thinking when faced with a dog we either feel or think is potentially unsafe for us to be around.
It is what is also often referred to as ‘victimhood’ or a victim belief pattern.
We can also find we judge ourselves for not being a ‘good’ enough dog owner very easily too.

If the theory is not either true or perhaps even something we simply think we view rather than actually happening, what could be happening instead?

Dogs do very clearly display moments of aggression towards us, perhaps resistance or growling and often between each other too.
The studies mentioned above noted that dogs would do so at times a certain resource meant more to them. Although with no consistency, different dogs displayed the resource desires or the ‘winning’ of them and at all different times and even different resources.
Our dogs absolutely live in the moment, and each resource will be either more or less important based simply on how they Feel in any given moment. If you are finding your dog is displaying these types of behaviour very often it is imperative you look to reduce your dogs general stress levels. Once a dog feels less stress or anxiety and has less cortisol in his system every moment in its life becomes more chilled. Their instinctive need for survival and the resources they feel they needs for survival becomes less important, and less worth going into ‘fight or flight’ to obtain.

The new emerging knowledge of our dog’s feelings and the energy of their emotions also provides us with an answer.
When a dog displays the behaviours often connected with dominance I believe that they have a built up emotional energy, a frustration of some kind due to not being able to express or ground the emotional energy that comes from their feelings. They have an energy Charge that needs understanding and to be allowed to be grounded.
Essentially they are not trying to be in charge, they actually Have a charge! A charge of emotional energy that for whatever reason either exists in their body.
There are many safe ways to enable a dog to ground and express themselves and prevent these stuck or frustrated energy charges accumulating.
Rather than viewing the animal as ‘bad’ or ‘trying to take charge’ when we realise they are simply feeling some level of anxiety or concern, essentially when they do not feel 100{4da997b282d5795c5afa16f0d1368cad8e81b680680781bf82c78f4866adc60f} safe, we are able to decide on solutions that are compassionate and understanding – rather than the fight or flight response solutions created by either believing they are against or trying to control us in some way, or by focusing on their thoughts & mind as the reasoning behind the behaviour.
Emotional Energy is very real and has so far largely been overlooked in terms of dog behaviour, mostly because it is hard to quantify or measure. Yet it holds the key to reducing so many behaviours we find concerning and creating the lasting bonds and relationships we want to be having with our pets.

As Kevin Behan so aptly describes in his book, Your Dog is Your Mirror,
Natures balances and works as a whole, it doesn’t judge the interaction of species as good or bad. The quote goes;
‘’Just as the humming bird and the flower join together in nature rather than the bird using the flower and in that way dominating it, nowhere else in nature does a creature live simply for dominance, there is always a mutuality about connection in nature.’’
Dogs are part of nature’s creation too. Our interactions are a play of emotional energies, both our emotional charges and theirs. In nature there is no ‘good or bad’ behaviour there is simply expression of energy.

The cycles of nature are constant, ultimately we are all as one, all made of energy. That is the reason energy techniques such as Animal Healing can work, and the reason Animal Communication can happen.
My hope is that all animal energy workers; healers, communicators, psychics or trainers with an understanding of energy, will promote equality between pet owners and their beloved pets. Understanding that a recognition or belief in a dominance or status theory is the opposite of doing so.