Is my dog dominant?

Dominance in a dog can take on many forms, and I recently blogged about what to do if your dog is dominant, and the dangers of not doing anything about it.  However some forms of dominance are much more subtle than others, so it is worth a post to outline all the different behaviours which can help you to answer the question “Is my dog dominant?” for yourself:

Is my dog dominant?

It’s quite easy to excuse some of the things our dogs try on with us as nothing of consequence, so I wanted to shine a light on the subtle behaviour which IS of consequence.  As if your dog get away with these things on an occasional basis, they will definitely be thinking that they are the leader (or the dominant member) of your pack.

Then I thought “in for a penny in for a pound”, so I’ve also added some of the more obvious stuff that they might try too, rather than assume that you already know what this behaviour is.

The obvious dominant behaviour:

  • Jumping up at you or your visitors.
  • Stealing things
  • Barking at you
  • Begging for your food
  • Refusing to come over when called
  • ‘Humping’ (whether castrated or not, and females do this too!)
  • Getting onto your bed or your seat on the sofa.
  • Getting up as high as possible in front of you (e.g. the top of the back of the sofa/chair)
  • Pulling on the lead
Is my dog dominant?
Is my dog dominant?!
If your dog is doing any of these things then it certainly has ideas relating to it being high up within your pack.  This will not only be meaning you are having to suffer the consequences of this behaviour, it also means that your dog will be experiencing stress that he/she is responsible for the pack.

The more subtle (yet just as important) stuff:

  • Lying down on your feet or leaning on you.
  • Casually dropping a toy into your lap, which you then engage in play with
  • Appearing in your eye line at around dinner time…
  • Coming part way over when called, or all the way over, then leaning back into a stretch in an attempt to get you to make the last movement.
  • Walking in between you and your partner if you are trying to have a cuddle.
  • Attempting to block your path, and divert your course.
  • Putting a chin or paw on you while you are fussing them.
  • Walking ahead of you on a straight lead, but without actively pulling.
  • Running out of the back door immediately when opened for toileting.

If your dog is trying any of these more subtle things it means he/she is clever!  They don’t need to be obvious or awkward to confirm their leadership, but they do need to check it every so often. To them, leadership is life and death stuff, not to be assumed that all is fine – so they will also be experiencing some stress at thinking that they are the dominant leader of your pack.

What to do with the awareness that your dog IS dominant?

You’ve asked yourself the question “Is my dog dominant” and by now you will be thinking “Yes, my dog definitely is dominant” so you need to know what to do about it.  Ultimately you need to convince your dog that it is not the responsible member of your pack.  You need to do this through showing leadership in a calm and consistent way, following a set of rules that your dog instinctive understands.  We do not instinctively follow these rules as they are very different from our human ways, so it takes precise learning and practice to get these into place.

You can start by reading “The Dog Listener” by Jan Fennell – or give me a call and see if I can help you with your dog.  I am based in Essex, and cover the surrounding areas; London, Suffolk, Kent etc.

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