Dominant Dog Myths
Author, Professional Pet Sitting Etc.
Ever feel like you relationship with your dog resembles a scene between the Bloods and the Crips from West Side Story, but instead of fighting for turf you’re fighting for dominance? If you’ve ever watched some of the dog training personalities on TV or read their articles, you’ve certainly heard about dominant dogs and dominant behaviors in dogs. But is there any credence to their dominant theories, or is it just a case of a dog being a dog? After all, habits become behavior, and dogs act the way they’ve either been trained to act or the way they’ve been allowed to act. So which dominant behaviors aren’t really a display of dominance at all?
“My dog barks to show me he’s the boss.”
Wrong. Your dog barks because he’s bored or anxious. By giving your dog attention when he barks, you’re actually reinforcing the behavior which, in the long run, which makes him bark even more. So what’s the best way to curb your dog’s excessive barking? It all depends on what works for your dog. He may just need a nice, long daily walk to curb his boredom and/or anxiety (or, if nothing else, to wear him out so he has no energy to bark!). Or redirecting his behavior by training him to retrieve his favorite toy on command may work. Most importantly, don’t show frustration; the barking can be irritating, but if you don’t remain calm, your dog will mirror your behavior and get frustrated right along with you, which will, of course, lead to even more barking!
“My dog ignores my calls to him to show he’s in charge.”
No, your dog ignores your calls because he hasn’t been properly and consistently trained to “come.” To a dog, your call usually means the end of a good time. If you only call him to come back into the house, or to leave the dog park, why would he willingly comply? Begin calling him frequently during outings, rewarding him with a treat each time he obeys. Then send him off for more play time. He will eventually associate your call with something good, and realize heeding your call will be beneficial to him.
“My dog pulls on his leash to prove he’s the leader.”
Quite the contrary, dogs typically pull on their leash because they haven’t been properly led (i.e. trained). While walking your dog, if the leash becomes taut from pulling, stop walking. Require your dog to maintain a slack leash. Be consistent. It will be stop and go for a while, but he will eventually learn that pulling gets him nowhere.
“My dog jumps on our furniture to claim/mark his territory.”
The bottom line is, your dog likely jumps on the furniture because it’s more comfortable than the floor, or to get closer to you. View this as an opportunity to train the commands “on” (or “up”) and “off” (or “down”). As always, reward your dog regularly with treats, attention and verbal praise as positive reinforcement.
“My dog jumps on me and others to show he’s the dominant one.”
Dogs usually jump to get attention or because they are over-excited. Many pet parents and visitors unintentionally reinforce jumping by giving the dog the attention he seeks. Redirect that energy with training. Require “sit” or “down” commands before allowing him to greet people.
It makes perfect sense that what some consider “dominant” traits in dogs are actually behaviors that have gone unacknowledged or accepted with the thought that “it is what it is.” Think of it this way ~ when you were young did your parents allow you to yell and scream, or did they develop a plan of attack that eventually taught you not to yell and scream? Whether it was with bribery or simply ignoring you until you stopped, their reaction to your behavior altered your behavior. And your reaction to your dog’s behavior will so alter his.
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Dorinne Whynott, is a long time animal professional. She is a successful business owner establishing one of the largest pet sitting companies in New Hampshire since 1990. Click to Read her complete History.
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