The theory suggests dogs are motivated to achieve a higher social status and this desire may lead them to show aggressive behaviour to show dominance and control. This interpretation has led to what is now an outdated training technique whereby trainers are encouraged to show the dog who the boss is. With the advancement of science; we now know this theory is flawed and the majority of good trainers have changed their practices to reflect this. We have a better understanding of behaviour in dogs so that we can now use techniques that are highly effective and do not damage the relationship between us and our canine companions.
Dominance theory become popular through the study of wolves. It was based on the observations of wolves whereby they would use aggression to decide who was top of the pack, who would eat first and who would have the prettiest wolf. As wolves were ancestors of the dog, people believed this theory to be relevant and its why you’ll often hear about alpha rolls and using force to get a your dog to follow a command.
Whilst wolves are ancestors of dogs, their behaviour is unlikely to be the same as dogs were one of the first species to be domesticated tens of thousands of years ago. Studies have proven time and again that the social structure of dogs is not based on specific patterns but more on their interactions with each different dog and how they regard the behaviour of the dog they are meeting. There appears to be no fixed behaviour or dominance but more of a flexible attitude depending on their interpretation of the behaviour.