We’ve all heard it about canine education and learning:

‘there’s no such thing as dominance’.

Well let me burst the bubble.

I believe there is a difference between dominance theory and dominant behaviours.

“Huh?”  I hear you say.

Well, think of dominance theory as the old fashioned style of dog training where dogs were stared down, pushed down, or even frightened into behaving and doing what their owner wanted.

This style of learning for dogs has been well and truly thrown out the doggy door by science.  It is unnecessary, and in some cases can even cause harm.

These days whilst we accept that dogs do need to conform to our human society’s rules, we know that we can teach our dogs in a more collaborative, mutually respectful and understanding manner.

So, what  am I on about?  Easy.

Dominant behaviours are simply normal dog behaviours that your dog does that give it social standing.  Ever seen a dog pee really high on a tree or bush?  Or pee over the top of the other dog’s pee?  The dog is simply making itself appear bigger or masking the scent of the other dog.

If you watch a group of dogs together you may see that one is a bit more demanding in its play behaviours – maybe controlling the toy that the group is playing with or pushing another dog to get somewhere first, (like to the ball).  It may be as simple as your dog leaning on you to get you to move (not just getting a cuddle).

Just as with people, some dogs are more dominant than others.  Heck, put me in a room full of people who want to know about dogs, and I will probably dominate the conversation, but in a shopping centre at Christmas I am the quiet mouse edging around the corners.

The thing about dominance is that it is fluid.

So often families of multiple dogs will tell me that dog A  pushes dog B around at home but out on walks it is a different story –  dog B is the more dominant personality, dog A takes its leadership cues from dog B.

So is a dominant behaviour a bad thing?  NO!  It’s just a behaviour – check this blog post here http://formaldogs.com.au/dog-not-behaviour/ that I wrote about dog behaviour.

Having a dominant behaviour or personality does not make your dog angry or aggressive.  Being the dominant role model in your dog’s life doesn’t make you aggressive or angry either.   Dominant behaviours are often indicative of a dog with behaviours that we humans would describe as ‘leadership qualities’ or ‘assertiveness’.

When I say to a family “that’s a dominant behaviour “I don’t mean the dog is mean or being nasty or aggressive, or that we even need to modify it.  It is often simply an observable behaviour that helps to understand the dog’s personality and how to work with it.

So if someone suggests that your dog is being dominant, check the behaviour is not inappropriate for the situation, use operant conditioning to help your dog learn the appropriate behaviour, and enjoy spending time with your dog.

If you need help with any of your dog’s behaviours, we offer in home consultations and learning packages as well as conducting specialist Greyhound Schools around Melbourne and functional behaviour training for all breeds at the Rotti Club of Victoria.  You can enquire about our services here:  [ninja_form id=1]