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‘Tough Love’ – What Dogs Need, or Popular Myth?

Documentary Sheds Light on History, Science and Practice

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Dominance training, popular on TV, is discredited by science and animal behaviorists.

By Sandra Seitz

Wrong-headed ideas have a way of persisting, such as the popular notion that dominance, or “alpha dog,” training is the right way to handle the family pet.

Chad Montrie, history professor and documentary filmmaker, debunks that notion in a hard-hitting new film, “Tough Love: A Meditation on Dominance and Dogs.”

“We accept dogs as ‘man’s best friend’ and give them a special place in our lives,” says Montrie. “In turn, they are loyal companions. Yet, many dog owners believe that they are supposed to establish themselves as the dominant ‘alpha dog’ in relation to their pets, using physical restraint and punishment.

“How can we reconcile our feelings of respect and even love with the demand for submission?” Montrie asks. “Is dominance justified by the nature of dogs, based on biological facts and evolutionary history?”

“Tough Love” sets out to answer these questions and confronts the disconnect between accepted science and popular practice.