This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 08 table of contents.


A German Shepherd trainer who specializes in problem cases says his technique for greeting a disobedient dog is to clasp the dog's head and stare it in the eye until the dog looks away, indicating submission. That establishes who is boss. Cesar Millan, the "Dog Whisperer" of Animal Planet fame, pins a dog to the ground at the neck, the way a dominant wolf treats a subordinate wolf. Cesar uses his hands instead of his teeth, but the message is the same: I'm the boss, stop misbehaving. Dogs respond to this almost every time. Cesar's strength and calm, dominant manner also contribute to his uncanny success with problem dogs.

What actions can tell a dog who is boss? How do group-living and solitary animals differ, regarding submission to authority?

Not all animals respond so readily to assertions of authority. As a rule, only group-living animals are "programmed" to submit to dominant animals. In group-living species, submission is adaptive; it gives the subordinate animal better odds of survival and reproduction. Badgers, by contrast, are solitary animals. Therefore badgers are not programmed to respond to submit, and they do not respond well to acts of discipline by a human. Eibl-Eibesfeldt wrote:

When I reared a badger I could never forbid it to do anything. If I scolded it when it opened a cupboard and pulled out my linen, the most it did was to stare at me, and if I gave it a smack on its nose it attacked me. It would not subordinate itself. A dog, on the other hand, quickly learns to obey. (Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1970)

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