Like humans, very few dogs are natural-born leaders, but you may wind up with a dominant dog that would typically take the lead position in the pack. If you are not the Pack Leader, this can cause problems, as a commanding dog will gravitate toward being in charge.
However, if you take steps to establish yourself as the pack’s leader, you can have an excellent and balanced relationship with a dominant dog.
Understanding Dominance in Dogs
Dominance is a natural behavior in dogs, but it can lead to aggression and other behavioral issues if not properly managed. By understanding the concept of dominance and how it manifests in dogs, pet owners can establish themselves as Pack Leaders and create harmonious relationships with their faithful companions. This involves recognizing and addressing controlling behaviors.
How to Tell Dominance in Dogs
If you notice any of the below traits in your furry pal, they could be an alpha dog. It’s important to note that your pet may only demonstrate a few of these traits.
- Sitting in a high spot, looking down on everything
- Dog acts like he is guarding you when another human approaches, but in reality, he is “claiming” to own you.
- When on a leash, your dog is persistent about being in front of you.
- High-pitched screams when he does not want to do something.
- Sleeping on top of their Pack Leader
- Does not like people touching their food
- Does not obey commands that they know
- Gets annoyed if disturbed while sleeping
- Does not like to be left alone and become overly excited when their owner returns home.
- Kisses in a determined way
- Determined about being on top, whether on your foot or lap.
- Nips at his Pack Leader’s heels when they are trying to leave.
- She walks proudly, head high.
- Jumps on humans
- Likes to get in the doorway first
- Persistent about being on a particular piece of furniture, even after being commanded not to.
Things to Keep in Mind When Dealing with an Alpha Dog
Handling a dog with a dominant personality can be challenging, but it is essential to approach the situation with patience and understanding.
You Need to Be Even More Calm-Assertive
Dogs will not follow unstable energy. This is even truer for alpha dogs, who will try to correct what they see as unbalanced behavior. This is why you must be even calmer and more assertive when dealing with a dominant dog than usual. If you’re anxious or nervous, your dog will sense this, and a dominant dog will see it as their cue to take charge. On the other hand, if you are calm and assertive, an alpha dog will read this as everything is all right, and they won’t feel the need to protect and direct their pack, i.e., you.
Set Rules, Boundaries, and Limitations
Again, rules, boundaries, and limitations are even more critical for dominant dogs because it focuses on their dominance and allows them to express their confidence without using it on you. At a minimum, there should be rules for where they can go in the house without your permission. They should always have to wait before going in or out the door and only get their food once they are calm and submissive.
With dominant dogs, you can take it a step further with agility training, allowing them to use excess energy while leading themselves through the obstacle course.
Don’t Force Affection
Dominant dogs are naturally more aloof and solitary. Remember, in the pack, the leaders do not approach the followers. The followers come to the leaders. The trap that it’s easy for humans to fall into is to pursue their dog to give affection when the dog isn’t “cuddly” enough, which puts the dog in the leadership position. If your canine is dominant, the best approach is to ignore her. She will come to you when she wants attention, reinforcing your role as the Pack Leader.
Use Meal Time to Your Advantage
Leaders in the pack eat first; the same should be true when leaders are humans. For dominant dogs especially, you need to create a boundary around the family table, with the dog not allowed to approach while the people eat. When it comes to feeding time, your dog must be calm and submissive before you even begin the process, and wait in that calm submissive state until you have put the bowl down, walked away from it, and given the “okay” for your dog to eat.
Give Your Dog a Job
Dominant dogs, in particular, must fulfill a role in the pack, so you should give your dog a job. This can be as simple as having them wear a backpack on the walk, or you can train your dog in agility, search and rescue, obedience, herding, Treibball, and more.
You must be an even stronger Pack Leader if your dog is dominant. These five points will help keep you on top and your relationship with your faithful friend happy and balanced.
You establish clear boundaries and expectations by staying consistent in your approach to training and handling. This consistency helps the alpha dog understand its place in the hierarchy and reduces the likelihood of conflicts or power struggles. It is crucial to enforce rules consistently, provide regular exercise and mental stimulation, and use positive reinforcement techniques to reward desired behaviors.
Use Positive Reinforcement with a Dominant Dog
When you reward your dog for good behavior, they will likely want to repeat the desired behavior for another treat. This is called positive reinforcement. The rewards don’t have to be a treat in the form of food. You can offer a nice belly pat, verbal praise, or even a new toy.
Utilize Professional Help if Needed
Some things require us to bring in reinforcements to help in areas we may not have confidence in. Training a dominant dog can be challenging, especially if you need to gain experience or knowledge handling such behavior. Enlisting professional help can be crucial in effectively addressing and modifying the dominant behavior of your dog. Trained professionals have the expertise and experience to assess your dog’s behavior, identify the underlying causes of dominance, and develop a personalized training program. They can teach you proper techniques and strategies to establish yourself as the Pack Leader and effectively manage your dog’s dominant tendencies. With professional guidance, you can ensure the safety and well-being of both your canine and those around them.
When to Consider Professional Help
Knowing when to hire a professional dog trainer is essential for ensuring the well-being and obedience of your furry friend. While some dog owners may be able to successfully train their dogs on their own, there are certain situations where the expertise and guidance of a professional trainer are necessary.
- When you’ve taken on more than you can handle: Experienced Pack Leaders sometimes need help; if your furry companion has yet to respond to your tactics, it’s time to seek a professional trainer.
- Next-level training: If you want to enhance your training efforts, you already have a highly trained dog, but you believe they can achieve even more.
- When your dog has been aggressive towards a human: It is essential to seek professional help if it has threatened or harmed someone. A dog trainer can assist in addressing aggression and ensuring the safety of others. The trainer may refer you to a more experienced colleague if they cannot handle the specific aggression case.
- If you are a first-time dog owner: Raising a dog can be overwhelming for new Pack Leaders. Knowing what techniques will be effective is challenging with so much information available. A professional dog trainer can provide guidance and help you and your pup start on the right path.
Choosing a Qualified Dog Trainer or Behaviorist
Selecting a dog trainer is an essential decision for any dog owner. A well-trained dog is a joy to have around and ensures the safety of the dog and those around them. When choosing a professional dog trainer, it is crucial to consider their experience and expertise in handling different breeds and behavioral issues. Look for trainers who use positive reinforcement techniques and understand dog psychology well. It is also essential to ask for recommendations from other dog owners and thoroughly research the trainer’s credentials and reputation.
Ultimately, finding the right dog trainer can make a significant difference in your furry friend’s overall well-being and behavior.
Provide Mental and Physical Stimulation
Alpha or dominant dogs tend to have high energy levels and a strong need for mental stimulation. Without proper energy and mental stimulation outlets, these dogs can become bored, restless, and even exhibit destructive behaviors. Commanding dogs in obedience training, agility exercises, puzzle toys, and interactive play sessions can help positively channel their energy and prevent behavioral issues. Regular exercise and mental stimulation also promote a healthy lifestyle for alpha dogs, keeping them physically fit and mentally sharp.
Establish Yourself as the Pack Leader
To establish your authority as Pack Leader, communicate with your pup in a way they understand. This requires thinking like a dog and not relying on words alone. Follow these steps to train a dominant canine and help your furry friend understand you are in charge.
- Project a calm, assertive energy.
- You tell your dog what to do by establishing rules, boundaries, and limitations.
- Stay consistent; every human in your home needs to follow your established rules and boundaries.
- Provide exercise, discipline, and affection. In that order, for a reason. Training allows your pet to release energy, discipline to keep order, and affection last as a reward for their submissive behavior.
- Follow your gut. Our canines desire leadership, and in return, they will be loyal companions. Take your time with the process.
Check out the video below, and you will see that Noelle Ciocchetti had issues with her dog, Angel, being dominant. In this excerpt from Cesar’s new DVD, she explains the problem, and Cesar shows how to use the power of the pack to solve it.
Increased exercise and regular obedience training may also be effective in reducing aggressively dominant dogs, and some forms of training may be used as distractions, focusing the dog's attention off of negative stimuli in a training technique known as a counter-conditioning treatment.How do you break a dominant dog's behavior? ›
- Be consistent. Canine companions learn through repetition and positive reinforcement, which means that you need to set rules for acceptable behavior and bad behavior in your home and in public places, like on walks or at a dog park. ...
- Lead the pack. ...
- Make the dog work. ...
- Seek help.
Increased exercise and regular obedience training may also be effective in reducing aggressively dominant dogs, and some forms of training may be used as distractions, focusing the dog's attention off of negative stimuli in a training technique known as a counter-conditioning treatment.How do I show my dog I am the alpha? ›
To summarise, you can be the alpha dog in your pack if you're consistent and patient. When you give a command or correction to your dog, be sure to follow through. Don't give in to begging for food or attention. That's like giving up some of your power.Does holding a dog down assert dominance? ›
This move of throwing dogs to the ground and holding them down is very pervasive on television. The act of holding a dog down forcibly as a correction is generally called the "dominance down." It is inappropriate, ethologically absurd, and completely counterproductive when interacting with dogs.How do you know if your dog doesn't respect you? ›
- They cower or hide when you're around.
- They tuck their tail between their legs when they see you (and notably don't wag their tail)
- Their body stiffens, or fur stands up in your presence.
- They flatten their ears or arch their backs around you.
Lastly, never punish your dog for aggression. Dogs don't understand punishment and thus are more likely to act out or act more aggressive when punishment is used. Instead, the best way to train away aggressive behavior is to reward good behavior.What causes dominant behavior in dogs? ›
Medical Causes of Dominant Dog Behavior
Certain medical conditions may trigger dominant behaviors and aggressive tendencies in dogs. Thyroid issues and testosterone imbalances are common medical causes of canine dominance.
Dogs that are willing to use aggression to change the outcome of a situation are rarely cured but often can be controlled. Improvement may occur by having predictable interactions, avoidance of aggression provoking stimuli, a good daily routine of exercise, play and social interaction.How do you teach your dog to respect you? ›
Only make eye contact and speak to your dog when you want to give them a snuggle, when playing with them, or on a walk. Don't reward the demanding of attention – If your dog comes over demanding attention from you, it's better to push them away, with calm, loving energy, without saying anything or looking at them.
Dominant dog body language
When your dog is feeling confident and dominant, he or she will have a strong, positive body position. There will also be signs of alertness: rigid muscles and tail; raised fur; an attempt to make direct eye contact; and a closed mouth, sometimes accompanied by a soft growl.
Paying Attention and Providing Affection
It's easy to understand that dogs choose the people who give the most attention, affection, and one-on-one time. High quality is key here. If your dog spends hours in someone's presence, but that person ignores them most of the time, that time won't matter.
But with time, they will begin to see that you control his life and pack leaders control lower-ranking pack members. By controlling the dog's environment, putting the dog away when it acted inappropriately, and taking the time it takes to establish leadership, most of a dog's dominance issues can be controlled.