What is dog dominance behavior?
Dominance where animals are concerned as defined by Dictionary.com is the following…”Animal Behavior– high status in a social group, usually acquired as the result of aggression, that involves the tendency to take priority in access to limited resources, as food, mates, or space.” This definition basically qualifies as dog dominance behaviour.
Here are seven statements
about Dog dominance behaviour that I found on another site. The author of this site stated a flat NO, to all of these statements, citing excerpts from articles written by ‘wolf behaviour experts’ and others. I do not think it is this simple. Dogs are not Wolves, and Wolves are not Dogs. Dogs have evolved in their own right, over thousands of years, influenced by humans through breeding and training.
Here’s my take on it…
and it’s based on many years of experience and observation, 23 years worth in a dog boarding business, 12 years of dog grooming, and about 40 years of owning dogs in general. I do not have any dog training degrees, that have come from books and training manuals. My knowledge in part has come from reading, but most has come from doing and observing.
1-“Dogs that pull on the lead or leash are dominant”, maybe some..in fact almost ALL DOGS will pull on the lead or leash until they are taught to walk properly. That being said, if you DO have a very dominant dog, allowing him or her to pull on the lead or leash, will reinforce in the dog’s mind, that he or she is in fact the Leader, not you. So in some cases, the answer could be Yes.
2-“Dogs who jump up on people think they are the alpha or Leader” As in number one, almost ALL DOGS, will jump up on people UNTIL they are taught not to. It IS important to teach a dog NOT to jump up on people, because it is disrespectful and annoying! It is one of those behaviours, that when it is allowed, dogs become more pushy and more dominant. So in some cases, the answer here could be YES too.
3-“If you let your dog sleep on the furniture, he will think he is the pack leader” Not necessarily, but…… if your dog IS indeed a very dominant personality, having the pick of the best lounging spots, will be trouble for you, the human. One of the easiest ways to TEACH a dog that you are the leader, is by teaching him or her, to keep his paws on the floor, walk by your side and to sleep in his own bed on the floor. So the answer could be YES in some cases.
4-“Don’t let your dog sleep at the top of the stairs as he will be higher than you in the pack structure” Okay, now I have to say, this statement is absolutely ridiculous! It’s so ridiculous, that you already have your answer… NO.
5-“Always eat before your dog does so that he knows his rightful place at the bottom of the pack” Okay, this statement is also ridiculous, and strangely, many people believe this! Regarding who eats first, the human or dog, I have never seen a dog make this distinction. However… when you have multiple dogs, it is helpful to encourage ONE of your dogs to be a Lieutenant of sorts of your other dogs, for the sake of peace. At one point I had 5 dogs all living outside together. They shared a very large dog house, more of a shed with beds inside, heated water bowl and their dishes for meals. I taught them to eat at their own dishes, and always started with the oldest most dominant dog, putting the dishes down in order. I would always pet the more dominant dog first when they would all come to me for attention.
This ensured to teach the others, that when I was not around, my ‘lieutenant’ dog, his name was Bellows, was in charge.. I never had any fighting between the dogs, there was order. I did the same with two of my house dogs who were close in age and in dominance. Those two, Bobo and Joey got into a few squabbles over toys and chews on occasion, so I had to be vigilant in always putting Bobo first but also letting Bobo know that I was the Leader over all.
6-“Always precede your dog through doorways to prevent him thinking he is the leader” In fact the answer here is YES. It is a very good exercise in control and teaching respect. You SHOULD teach your dog that YOU lead the way through doorways. Now is your dog proving his dominance because he walks through a doorway ahead of you? Not necessarily, most dogs will do this, but a truly dominant minded dog will have the idea reinforced that he or she is the Leader of you, when you allow this behaviour. It is a good exercise in teaching control and respect, to teach your dog that YOU, the human, will be the first to go through a doorway, gate etc.
7-“Dogs who are dominant should be ‘alpha rolled’ to show them who is boss” Now you should notice the words, ‘dogs who are dominant’, this does not generally apply to fearful dogs. Sometimes, and only sometimes, it can be beneficial to push a dog down on his back and hold him there for a few moments with your fingers at the side of his neck. I have seen my dominant dog do this to younger ones (with teeth), mostly in play, but it is a lesson nevertheless. I have done this with dogs in my care, that were not paying any attention to me, and were persisting in bullying other dogs.
This discipline should NEVER be done by anyone except an experienced and dog savvy person, and only in rare instances. I see my older dog, Sirius, do this to my younger dog Ciro while playfully wrestling with him. When Ciro gets too rough in play, Sirius will not hesitate to pin him down momentarily. So the answer here is ‘sometimes’, and only by an experienced and calm dog savvy person.
Dogs understand their roles with the world around them much better than humans do. Dog dominance behavior is completely natural, but must be managed wisely by their human leaders. A previous post on being a Pack Leader, is a good supplement to this article.
The key to raising a well behaved dog begins with Healthy food, and consistent Basic Manners training so you can move onto the fun stuff like playing Frisbee, or training for Dog Agility, or getting into Joring or trying some Backpacking with your dog. For more information on Dog Training courses and books, you can find that on the Dog Training product page.
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or just want to make a comment, I welcome you to do so below.
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