Brad Pattison: Submissiveness is Really Dominance

Another example of Brad Pattison’s twisted view of dogs seemed appropriate before the upcoming book review.

When is submissive behavior an attempt at dominance?

In an episode of At the End of My Leash, Pattison meets a black GSD with some fear-aggression issues that manifested in a lot of barking and some lunging. It also looked like the dog had never been trained since it was unresponsive to the owner’s cues.  When the dog barks, Pattison reacts by yelling aggressively and moving threateningly towards the GSD. This makes the dog bolt and run upstairs as Pattison gives chase continuing to yell. He manages to corner the fearful dog and the dog eventually stops barking and urinates on the floor.

Pattison’s then tells us that the dog was trying to be dominant and manipulate him with submissive urination!!!???  You just stepped into Bizarro World

In fact Brad Pattison tends to see dominance everywhere. He writes:

“Here are some signs that your puppy is polishing his résumé or has already moved into the executive suite:

  • He tries to manipulate you by displaying exaggerated signs of submission as soon as you even attempt to assert your leadership. These fake-out submissions include shrieking an equivalent of “Ouch” when you dethrone him from your bed or favourite armchair; twirling around in circles when you try to clip on the leash for a walk’ and dropping down or rolling over like a drama queen at the dog park after he’s had adequate socialization and you need to wrap it up”.[p.142]

In Pattison’s mind, this dog is ‘dominating’ him

What Pattison describes: walking in circles, dropping, sitting rolling over, shrieking are all pacifying behaviors and/or signs of stress. A natural response when you consider that Mr. Pattison asserts his “leadership” by hanging dog until they sit, pinching a dog’s ear, walking into a dog to force it to move, hitting a dog on the snout and worse.

What does it say about a person that has never met a dog that wasn’t trying to “dominate” him? And why is the response always a violent one?

Further Reading

Dominance—Making Sense of the Nonsense by Roger Abrantes, Ph.D.

Social Dominance Is Not a Myth: Wolves, Dogs, and Other Animals by Mark Bekoff, Ph.D.

Pacifying Behavior—Origin, Function and Evolution by Roger Abrantes, Ph.D.

Calming Signals – The Art of Survival by Turid Rugaas

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16 thoughts on “Brad Pattison: Submissiveness is Really Dominance

  1. Pingback: Brad Pattison on learned helplessness | Science of Dogs

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  4. damn, he is horrible, certainly abusive. I’m the same one who spoke well of Kevin Behan, hi there. I know you are not a fan of NDT, but it certainly is way better, a million times better than this guy. He is complaining immensely in the beginning, he just seems like a f*&%# up. I’ve seen Bart Bellon tap the nose of his dogs before but there’s something to it, and certainly doesn’t come from a place of anger. It actually fits right in line with some of Behan’s theories. This guy just bash’s that poor dogs nose. What a loser. If I saw him I would make him piss himself, the only way someone like that learns what he is actually doing is to feel the same thing. Thanks for posting this, as hard as it was too watch these guys need to be exposed. Such poor form all the way around.

    • I’m reading Behan’s books, and I believe he’s on to something. When I saw Pattison smack that dog, I couldn’t believe the owner didn’t say anything. I have one of Pattison’s books, but I dare read any further. I also work with dogs, but to hit a dog, who by the way was not misbehaving, and resume his training class, I have to blame those people standing there and then following him as though he’s a guru. I learn each day, but I must say that so far, Behan is way ahead of his time.

      • Behan also uses aversive methods including the use of shock collars. I admire him as a guru, he has really crafted his message to fool enough people that he makes a living out of it. Of course he is no Chopra.

      • If Behan is still using shock collars, then I cannot condone that, of course. I have not yet come across a dog that euthanasia was an option, but someone who has been working with dogs for 50 plus years has met many dogs that may otherwise not have had a chance. I don’t know all the answers, nor does anyone. But if I SEE someone causing pain on a dog, it makes me sick. Maybe some day I will come across a dog that everyone says “put him down”, and what will I do then? Hopefully I will figure something out in order for the dog to flourish. That’s all I can do – just never give up. If I can take something from this trainer or that trainer and create my own method, that is what I’ll do. For myself, I cannot use painful methods. But then again, I haven’t had to. I believe Behan’s push/pull theory is quite genius. I have seen many trainers/behaviorists that I can take something from. We are ALL learning. I do believe dogs know us better than we know them, or ever will know them.

        • Don’t get me wrong. As a “mechanic”, that is just a trainer, Behan is mediocre. I do think he uses punishment too frequently and without careful thought. But that doesn’t give any value to his lousy speculations about ‘energy’ or his completely false views on evolution, learning theory, neuroscience, etc. He’s just making crap up. One of the reasons that I cite so many papers is to give the reader a chance to check that my interpretation of scholarly work is accurate and I’m not pulling stuff out of the air.

          And even though he keeps trying to take credit for “pushing”, the truth is schutzhund trainers have been using this method long before he was even born and you can find it described in some really old German books and magazines – alas I could find none online. BTW the pushing exercise if far better explained under the umbrella of modern science than by ‘energy’

      • Using a particular method in dog training/behavior is far different from UNDERSTANDING the method and what is actually taking place within the human and dog. I fostered a GSD and worked very hard controlling his antics. As I look back, he was without a doubt asking for the resistance Behan talks about. But I was not aware of what Behan talks about. I cannot rebut anything at this point, because I know nearly nothing about quantum physics. I was not able to control this particular dog, no matter what I did. (never abusive!) As of right now, the word “energy” has a whole new meaning, which I am grateful for. If I am wrong, I will get bit! Hence, continue my research. I am about to work with a dog who is showing signs of aggression toward a particular family member. It so happens that this person has never liked this dog. In human terms, the dog does not want to harm her. I believe he is “attracted” to her energy, as a child is attracted to something his parents say are off limits. I will continue to research “positive” and “negative”, opposite poles of attraction, etc.. If I am going in the wrong direction, a dog will always let me know. They never lie. I will gingerly pursue the truth. I’m in no hurry to get bit.

        • Good luck with the work. I would still caution you against buying into metaphysical dog training. It is quite possible, never having been mistreated the dog finds small people more comforting. I’ve done my share of fostering too and I find speculating on what or why is useless

          Finally, IDK if dogs lie or not. But people are often incapable of seeing what the dog is telling them. Hence we get people like Pattison and Millan who also say the dog never lies.

      • Please don’t take “dogs never lie” out of context. Or do they lie? We continue to humanize these animals and ignore the fact that dogs, etc.,have a language we’ll never fully understand. Many dog experts make a very good living, but do they really know “what’s going on”? I think not. Yes, I will be careful. It’s upsetting that Pattison actually got people talking on your blog. In the meantime, animals are dying in shelters as we speak. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed this. Thank you!

  5. Pingback: A Review of Brad Pattison’s Puppy Book | Science of Dogs

  6. And this psycho has a book out? Which people will read and some will believe!? I don’t believe in censorship, but in this case I would make an exception. This book should never see the light of day. What’s his next book going to be about – how to discipline your wife and kids by beating the crap out of them?

  7. This is a huge problem, as far as I’m concerned. People can take their personal issues out on dogs and call it “training” and get away with it. In fact, they can abuse dogs and NOT call it training and get away with it. Dogs are thinking, feeling beings (this has been proven in scientific studies) and they suffer horribly from this type of treatment.

    We need animal cruelty laws with some teeth in them. (No pun intended — but we really do need to get aggressive here.) I think we also need a change in our cultural outlook where we stop thinking of dogs as being here for our use. They are our partners and have been for thousands of years in one form or another. They deserve our respect. Someone had suggested a legal “protected companion status” which would be stronger and more comprehensive than the existing animal cruelty laws. That seems like a good start.

  8. Unfortunately, I suffered from this guy’s idiotic “training” method – or rather, my dog did. My first dog as an adult was a boxer (smart, right? for an inexperienced dog owner?). Before we took him home as a puppy, I read books, looked online watched youtube etc. to get tips and figure out how to train a dog – I wanted to do agility with him, badly (don’t laugh). Clicker training was the first thing I came across, and it sounded great to me.

    Then, I saw this dolt’s show. It seemed to work… just tie the dog around your waist and he will learn to mind you. Right. I attended an impromptu Street Safety class with him and met him in person. Should have listened to my husband who thought he was a total jackass. It took a while, but I finally figured out that he wasn’t quite with it… things were starting not to work, or make things worse. Then I discovered Cesar. God help us all.

    When my dog first became reactive and then aggressive towards other dogs, my agility instructors at the time offered my books instead of physical help. I cried out to them (literally cried on the phone after my dog attacked another boxer for no reason). They gave me books and told me he’s probably fine. They also told me that I could send him away for board and train with a certified behaviourist… because this is justifiable with a graduate student’s income. He never acted this way in class after all. Those dogs were familiar to him – of course he didn’t. I tried things in the book, but I wasn’t very successful. You simply need people to help with some of the set-ups and scenarios, and being a novice in the dog world, I had no one. It would have been nice for my trainers at the time to help me out, or introduce me to people who could help.

    I moved on to a trainer near my house that seemingly was amazing. My dog responded to her but wasn’t afraid of her. She did use well-timed corrections, but emphasized that the more I rewarded the good dog, the less I would need to correct the bad dog until all he might need is a verbal reminder to behave. Turns out I absolutely suck at timing and correction. I couldn’t do it well enough, and my actions simply made him worse.

    After all this, my dog is still aggressive towards other dogs, but in certain contexts he is good. I started taking him to different trainers for agility – they don’t only R+, they use a mixture of methods BUT if you want to clicker train your dog they will not interfere or punish your dog. They are simply great for knowing that training style is a choice, and they don’t want to impede what you have built with your dog.

    We now compete in agility, and I can maintain pretty good control there (he’s still a newbie, though). In training facilities he understand what is expected of him, so although he may become excited, he looks to me as if to say “mom, I’m trying really hard, okay, but I am REALLY excited.” I now know LOTS of people willing to help me with my dog… good people who know dogs, not just anyone who can’t even control their own dog.

    The point of this long post is that when you’re new to dogs, you can become desperate to find something that works, and the stuff on TV is made to look like it is foolproof. Even when you think you’ve found good trainers, they may not be fully committed to helping you with your dog. In the end, I’ve started a “socialization” group in my area on facebook so that others with similar dog issues could meet with each other in pairs or groups and work on issues in real-life situations. Seems like a good idea, as I’ve been told multiple times, but unfortunately not everyone comes knowing what to do. They clearly are in need of professional help and don’t know where to get it. It must be said that it can be hard to find.

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