Animal Studies Journal


This article explores the workings of power in dog training cultures through an analysis of UK dog training manuals from the mid-19th century to the present. We focus on gundog and companion dog training cultures, investigating the dog-human relations they assume, the changing conceptions of human-animal relations they represent, and the inequalities and relations of power in which they are embedded. Rather than thinking about changing training practices in terms of a shift from dominance to positive training, or from instrumental to affective relations, we argue that training cultures reveal how inter-species inequalities are conceptualised and reproduced in a range of historical periods and cultural spaces. We suggest that dog training cultures can be distinguished by contrasting understandings of dogs as: (1) rational, thinking beings, (2) instinctive creatures, and (3) autonomous active agents as well as by the inequalities of gender, class, race and species structuring the spaces in which they are embedded. Furthermore, the modalities of power which characterise dog training cultures favour different groups of human actors rather than dogs, even in training cultures which are based on partnership and are ‘dog centred’. Our analysis shows how inter-species relations are lived and thought through the cultural practices of dog training.