Dominant Dog Behaviors
Learn about causes and corrective actions for dominant behaviors.
Signs of Dominant Behavior
- Persistent barking, nudging, pushing for attention or food
- Racing to go out the door first
- Consistently blocking your path as you walk
- Standing over or putting head over lower sitting person
- Guarding items from owner
- Ignoring or slow compliance to known commands
- Mounting people's legs or mounting other dogs
- Aggression toward owner, family members or dogs
Causes and Corrective Actions for Dominant Behaviors
Note: A dominant dog requires you focus on mental control rather than superior physical prowess — beware advice to "alpha role" or use other force methods in attempts to reinforce your higher status as this may elicit aggression from a dominant dog that otherwise would never resort to biting.
Some dogs experiment with aggression as part of dominant behavior to see if they can back someone away from their toys or food, stop the person putting them into their crate and in other situations they want to control.
AGGRESSION Corrective Actions: Work with a trainer to determine if aggression stems from dominance, fear/anxiety or in response to unfair rules and expectations. For dominance aggression, trainer will work toward establishing you as dominant figure over dog through consistent rules, training and games without dangerous physical confrontations.
An experienced breeder or trainer can watch a litter of puppies and determine which puppies possess the most dominant personalities — true "alpha" dogs.
GENETICS Corrective Actions: All dogs rank above or below other dogs in the normal "pack" system, meaning a dominant dog may display superior rank over more submissive dogs at home or away through benign displays such as standing tall over another dog or through direct behaviors like mounting, shoving or potentially fighting.
Social Standing (Dogs)
All dogs rank above or below other dogs in the normal "pack" system, meaning a dominant dog may display superior rank over more submissive dogs at home or away through benign displays such as standing tall over another dog or through direct behaviors like mounting, shoving or potentially fighting.
SOCIAL STANDING (DOGS) Corrective Actions: Establish proper dominance ranking through adherence to strict rules by all family members, such as not allowing the dog an elevated position on the bed or furniture, insisting on a sit for dinner and other control exercises. Obedience train using positive methods that teach the dog what you expect and insist on compliance to commands. Always require your dominant dog to earn treats, petting, play and other joys in life by obeying a simple known command to reinforce your alpha status.
Social Standing (Family)
Because every dog in the pack ranks above or below others, owners lacking leadership force their dog into the top ranking position, a role some dogs perform without conflict but others make clear through mounting legs, frequently shoving people and other dominant behaviors. Because every dog in the pack ranks above or below others, owners lacking leadership force their dog into the top ranking position, a role some dogs perform without conflict but others make clear through mounting legs, frequently shoving people and other dominant behaviors.
SOCIAL STANDING (FAMILY) Corrective Actions: See SOCIAL STANDING (DOGS) Corrective Actions
A male around a female in season, or estrus, and females in season may become pushier and more dominant than normal — behaviors that usually surface around other dogs more than humans, but can carry over to people.
HORMONES Corrective Actions: Spaying females or neutering males prevents hormone-driven behaviors from becoming issues. Provide ample exercise to take the edge off of intact (non-sterilized) dogs, carefully supervising females to prevent accidental breeding. If dog marks in the house during this time, limit freedom until season subsides.
Until taught differently, a dominant dog considers everything a personal possession that he chooses to share or not to share as it would be in a pack.
RESOURCE GUARDING Corrective Actions: If your dog bites, work with a trainer. A dominant dog must learn that you control but willingly share food, toys, attention and more when he earns them through proper manners like readily giving up a toy — a behavior trained by insisting the dog drop one item to earn another of greater value. For a dog who becomes possessive over food, remove bowl, feed dog from your hand if sure dog won't bite, then hold and feed from a new bowl that you gradually lower to the ground. Maintain the dog's comfort with people approaching the food bowl during meals by occasionally dropping a few delicious tidbits into the bowl as you walk by.
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