Dominant Dog – How to Identify and Deal
Many owners often claim that their dogs are dominant when they have a quarrel with other dogs, become aggressive, disobey their owner’s orders, or develop behavioral problems. Also they usually refer to this term when they begin to show a territorial behavior. But, what is dominance really?
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It is very important to understand that, despite carrying out the actions mentioned above, not all dogs are dominant, as it is a term that usually generates confusion .
In this article of YourCatCareguide we will explain how to identify and deal with a dominant dog , according to its characteristics and how to work in the training to solve the behavior problems that this may cause.
Features of a Dominant Dog
As we have already mentioned, the term “dominant dog” is often misused in most situations. It is not a characteristic of the personality of the dog, dominance occurs when, in the same space, several individuals are related. In this encounter of two or more dogs, a hierarchical relationship is established that can lead to dominance or submission of each one of its members. This does not mean that there is only one dominant dog and that all others are submissive.
Example: Laika is dominant with Timmy and in turn Timmy is dominant with Llop. Therefore, a dog may be dominant in a submissive relationship in another.
Although some dogs usually act as dominant dogs, not all dogs with a dominant tendency will do so in all their social interactions . It may be that a dog is dominant with some of its same size but not with larger ones. Similarly, a dog can be dominant with females, but submissive to males. It depends on each specific case.
In addition, a dog with behavioral problems or deficiencies in his education and training may have a dominant tendency in certain situations, but be totally submissive to others.
Example: Llop is a dominant dog when Timmy tries to take away his toys and when it relates to other smaller dogs, however, Llop is totally submissive when other big dogs try to mount him or when Timmy approaches them without being the your present toys.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that in some cases, males are usually dominant with other males when they are females in the present estrus . If dominance in these cases is a problem for us (and in addition we want to avoid an unwanted pregnancy), you can think of castrate your puppy , a way to enjoy a more stable and positive behavior.
Dominance and / or behavior problems
Once understood the meaning of dominance, it is important to mention some behaviors that are usually confused with the dominant dog and that may or may not be related to this tendency. Next, let’s explain the most usual ones:
1. The dog is dominant and aggressive
This is probably the most usual phrase related to “dominance”. It is important to clarify that a dog is not aggressive by nature, this is due to different problems that arise during your puppy stage or in your adulthood. The most common causes are:
- Due to poor socialization of the dog , the dog does not know how to properly relate to other dogs. This causes him to be reactive (act with aggression) before the stimuli that cause him fear, uncertainty and discomfort. In this case we must work on socialization in its adult stage.
- After a fight, an incident or a very stressful situation with another dog, the dog’s fears can also generate a reactive attitude. The dog tries to alienate the other dogs from its zone and to intimidate them not to undergo the traumatic experience again.
Aggressiveness is a problem of serious behavior that must be treated before the appearance of the first symptoms, since that is when you are more likely to treat and be able to educate our dog to have a more relaxed and sociable attitude. The following rules will depend on the type of aggressiveness the dog has. We recommend consulting an ethologist or canine educator to help you.
2. My dog dominates me
At this point many people confuse the fact that their dog does not call them or correctly follow their orders with dominance. This is a very serious mistake since they often resort to incoherent and ineffective techniques they encounter on the internet to try to minimize this situation. The most common examples might be marking the dog, putting it on its stomach, kicking it, entering the house first, or submitting it.
Carrying out this behavior when our animal suffers from a serious behavioral problem such as stress , victim of animal abuse (use of hanging collar, electric or punishment) can lead to very serious behaviors in the dog that derive in a strong aggression or rejection himself . Forcing your dog to do activities you do not want, treating you abusively, or expecting something that does not match is totally inappropriate and you should not continue to do it.
For this, it is best to work daily on basic or advanced obedience (as appropriate), provide long walks and different activities that promote your well-being and improve your relationship with him, always using positive reinforcement and avoiding punishment. We must understand that the dog is not a robot and so we can not expect his behavior to be exemplary and perfect if we do not educate him from the beginning. Going for a canine training course can be an excellent option to improve your communication.
3. My dog is dominant with food and its territory
In this case we do not speak of dominance, but of protection of resources. The dog that suffers from this problem is in constant tension and responds with reactivity when trying to take away something that he considers his property . You can respond with growls and even aggressively if necessary.
This type of problem should be treated according to the cause that causes it: food, territory, bed, other dog, us , among others. Remember that it is always important to consult a specialist.
4. The dog is dominant with other males or females
Here you can enter several factors. We mentioned before that it is normal for dogs that are not neutered to act in a dominant way with others to keep them away from a possible female in heat . A female can also act as dominant when in the presence of another that also has heat and other males around. In all these cases it is recommended to castrate the dog.
With the exception of these cases, a dog may be reactive with others for the reasons mentioned in point 1. If this is the case, the ideal will be to resort to a specialist and try to improve the dog’s well-being for a more positive and relaxed attitude.
Correct and train a dominant dog
The dominant behaviors can not be corrected because they are not negative , it is part of the natural communication of dogs. While castration may mitigate the dominant impulse, the truth is that some of them continue to have a dominant tendency after the operation. It depends on each case. What is guaranteed is that our dog, once recovered, will have a more calm and stable attitude.
Something we can do to improve the problems that can arise from the dominant tendencies, is to work our dog’s education and training , always in a positive way, to achieve a better response in our companion and avoid uncontrolled situations. Teaching him to come here or keep quiet will not help us avoid conflict, but it will help to improve our relationship, foster his intelligence and help us feel in harmony with us. We are helping him to understand what we expect from him.
Do not forget that in the face of any problem it is best to consult a specialist who, through observation, will explain to us what the problem really is that the dog suffers, it will improve our mistakes and offer us concrete and personalized rules to follow.