Remember the movie “Titanic”? Remember the scene in the movie where Leonardo diCaprio says, “I’m the king of the world!” People are often concerned with status. I guess that is why we have “status symbols”. The media and some T.V. personalities often speak of dogs seeking status. We are warned not to let the dog go through the door before we do. Dire warnings are issued, “Don’t let the dog walk ahead of you!” It is as if dogs the world over are plotting to overthrow the humans, and set up their own government. If you play a simple game of tug with your dog, you are enabling a canine coup.
Science has a principle called “Occam’s Razor” or lex parsimoniae (the law of parsimony). Basically, one should not believe a complex explanation if a more plain one is available. It is possible, maybe, that dogs want to walk ahead of humans because dogs walk faster than humans. It is conceivable that dogs simply find it difficult to adjust to our slow human travel.
I am going to suggest an experiment. Let your dog engage in one of these behaviors you have been warned against. Let your dog go through the back door first, allow him to win a game of tug, perhaps let him eat before you eat. When you come home from work the next day, has your pet changed the locks? Run up your credit card on the internet? Left you a note that he has gone to Vegas for a few days? If you answer yes to any of these questions, check on your teenager before you yell at the dog.
If your dog is naughty, he needs training, exercise, and attention. It has nothing to do with a plot to rule the world, or even a plot to take over your household. Yes, it is safe to let your dog go out the door first, or to win a game of tug.
There is a published, peer reviewed study on dominance hierarchies of a social animal. People? No. Dogs? Surely it is dogs. No, not dogs. If not dogs, it must be wolves. Everyone “knows” about the alpha wolf. Nope. This study is about the dominance hierarchy of amoebas. No, really, amoebas! I do believe this proves someone is obsessed with status, but it isn’t amoebas!
On the other hand, there is a town in Kentucky that has elected two different dogs as mayor: Junior Cochran (black Lab) and Goofy Borneman (mutt). If you see your dog’s name on a ballot, stop playing tug immediately!
Tongue firmly planted in cheek,
Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed
DogS Gone Good
trainer @ dogSgonegood.com (remove spaces to send an email)