While we're on hot-button issues for dog trainers, let's talk for a moment about dominance. There's a school of dog training, most famously represented at the moment by TV dog trainer Cesar Milan, which holds that the way to have a happy canine/human pack is to make sure that the human being is always in the dominant role. People who train from this perspective advocate things like making sure that the person always is the first to go through a door or the first to eat, and practice things like "alpha rolls" where the person pushes the dog into a "submissive" position belly-up on the floor. The kind of trainers who spend a lot of time talking about things like the timing and placement of reinforcers are not big on this particular theory, pointing out that a) social relations in wolf packs are a lot more subtle and complicated than these dominance trainers assume, b) dogs are not wolves and c) people are not dogs, so even if dogs do have dominance hierarchies, humans trying to create those the same way that dogs do might just confuse everybody. (Want to look tough? Try holding your tail stiff over your back. How's that working for you?)
OK, so I'm not a big fan of a lot of the dominance stuff, but it's also true that there are a lot of problems created in households where the dogs are running the show. If you can't sit on the couch when and where you want to sit, if you can't pick up your dog's food dish or take away something they want but can't have, there's a problem. Now that I think about it, there are a lot of households where the kids are running the show, which doesn't work any better. (If you can't set a bedtime, have homework and reasonable chores completed and get to school on time, to my mind, you've got issues.)
The solution to these problems, however, is not dominance, it's leadership. Leadership doesn't mean that I shove you around. Leadership means that I have access to the resources you want, and that you have to come through me to get them. Want the treats? Do the tricks. Want the TV? Get the homework done. Want access to the good things in life? Then follow the rules.
Here's where I go global (and maybe postal). For some reason, we seem to think it's OK for corporations, rather than the government, to be running the show. To my mind, that's like having the kids, or the dogs, in charge of the household. But now corporations have unlimited right to contribute to political campaigns. There's been deregulation of everything from banks to minerals management, and the rules that are in place are a) set by the corporations themselves and/or b) not enforced. And gee, it turns out that, like children and dogs, corporations really aren't qualified to be running the show. If the financial crisis was not enough to prove that point, the BP oil disaster ought to be driving the point home pretty good. If you want the right to drill for oil, you should have to conform to the safety rules. (Whether they can ensure that it's safe is a topic for another day.) If you want the government to loan you money, you should have safety limitations that prevent you from throwing people's money away on ludicrous gambling schemes.
Go ahead. Call me a socialist. But I would rather have a government elected by the people in the leadership role, rather than a bunch of corporations following their own interests without regard for public safety or welfare. Leadership through regulation and control of access to resources is all we've got, because I've yet to figure out how to alpha roll BP.