Tough Love: A Meditation on Dominance & Dogs

All animal lovers/activists are aware of “dominant theory” and how pop cultural has shaped today’s dog training methods. Tough Love is a documentary that gives a fascinating look on the progression of dog training from the outdated “alpha” theory to the positive reinforcement methods many trainers use today. Featuring the late Applied Animal Behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin, the video explains how the “alpha theory” came about and also goes to great lengths to debunk this theory.

Thanks to television shows like Cesar Milan’s The Dog Whisperer, many dog owners erroneously believe dogs misbehave because they want to be “pack leader” and you need to deliver corrections such as making a “tsss” noise at them or jerking hard on their collar when they do something wrong. Tough Love points out that using modern force-free techniques is far less abusive. It is based on operant conditioning and urges owners to reward the behaviors they want the dog to perform so that way their furry friend will keep repeating said behaviors.

Dr. Yin even recounts a story about a Boxer that she had owned named Max who had behavioral issues. She took a class with a trainer who used corrections and grew frustrated when her dog was still “acting out.” His issues lead her to research a more humane way of training, leading to her becoming an animal behaviorist so she can help others.

The documentary argues that reinforcement dog training methods can lead to a deeper bond between canine and owner, and it also points out that force-free methods also work to address the cause of behavior and over time, helps to curb the issue entirely.

If you love all things canine, Tough Love is a fascinating exploration of how dog training has progressed and persuades owners who may be on the fence about what kind of methods to use to choose wisely, for the safety of their pet.

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