How do you know when one dog is dominant over another?

doghead

 

This article is posted as part of PGAA’s curation efforts. This was originally posted at Boston Terrier Network

 

How do you know when one dog is dominate over another? My understanding of how this all works is basically this:

If you have several dogs in the home, you can control the dog’s behaviors by being more dominant to the other dogs, but if you leave the dogs together unsupervised the dogs will return back to the one dominant dog. You did not change the true pack order, only by your presence and dominance, to have control. You must separate the dogs by crating them or with doggie doors or closed door, etc.

Their genetics (and to some extent, upbringing– depending upon their age) determines this.

In other words, the “Alpha dog.” is the alpha dog, until you get home. Then you’re the alpha dog, and he becomes the beta dog.

Dogs need a dominant, alpha leader; a being who is calm and very strong-minded. Dogs instinctively crave this leadership and guidance. Size means nothing. It is all about energy, all about how the being is feeling inside. Unstable humans make unstable dogs. A human who lacks confidence will not have a dog who listens to their commands.

If you find yourself correcting your dog with anger, you are not being a good pack leader. Your dog should never fear you. You are looking for respect from your dog, not fear. When a dog respects you he will happily want to follow you. One cannot accomplish this respect using fear and aggression. Source: dogbreedinfo.com

Since dominant dogs look so proud, and we all have to admit cute, if you don’t know what the dog is really saying, and submissive dogs kind of look sad since they hold their heads low and slink themselves down, it’s no wonder so many people have dominant dogs. When their dog acts submissive they mistake that for a sad dog. When their dog acts dominant they mistake it for a happy, proud dog. Dominance tends to get rewarded. Source: dogbreedinfo.com

That is nice, but what can I do with a dog that doesn’t get along with other dogs?

Don’t give him the opportunity to “fail”, so-to-speak, socialization is the key in having a dog that gets along with other dogs.

You must learn which dog is starting the fights. It’s not always as it appears. Sometimes there are silent challenges you do not see. The humans have to get their timing correct to tell the offender you do not agree. You must earn the respect of the pack as their leader. Without that respect, telling them you don’t agree with fights won’t mean anything to them.

The dog with the bone, who happened to be the new rescue Pit Bull, let out a small growl. One would think that dog was starting a fight, but if you looked closer you would see the other dog was laying down near the dog with the bone staring her down. Staring down a dog can be a silent challenge.

The dog without the bone was silently challenging the dog with the bone. Who do you correct? You correct the dog who is being disrespectful. One dog cannot be allowed to stare down another in a challenging way. It means something in the dog world.

When dealing with dogs there should never be a favored dog. Each situation needs to be dealt with individually on a case by case basis. The rules should apply to all equally regardless of the dog’s size or breed. A toy dog should not be allowed to harass a big dog and vice versa.

On the other hand, you must always remember the dog with the bone does not own that bone. He just happens to have dibs on it at the moment. When he stops chewing the bone, it’s fair game for others to chew. The dog with the bone cannot be allowed to sit and guard the bone. Source: dogbreedinfo.com

A dog’s temperament is a direct result of the owner’s ability to understand him and give him what he instinctively needs as a canine animal. There are no bad dogs… just uneducated owners. Source: dogbreedinfo.com

Ideally, socialization should start as soon as possible when the dog is still a puppy.

Puppies have a “grace period” of up to 12 weeks of age where they intensely require as much contact as possible with other people and other dogs. If this “grace period” passes with improper socialization, then the whole socialization process will turn out to be much more difficult and challenging.

If your dog is unfriendly towards other dogs, very likely he has not been properly socialized as a puppy. In rescue we come across many dogs of all ages with this behavior.

Being unfriendly shows up as the dog’s body stiffens in an aggressive posture and as he gives that typical extremely cold stare to another dog that crosses his path. The dog may growl and threaten to bite or he may simply bark with fear. This is not dominant, this is an attempt to protect itself from a possible threat.

A well socialized dog on the other hand instead will appear to be comfortable and even friendly when meeting other dogs.

While severe cases may need the intervention of a dog behaviorist, if your dog’s case is only mild there are some things you can try to do to turn him around.

But, now back to what dominance is in the dog world.

According to the dictionary being the dominant dog means:

Being an animal that occupies the highest position in a social hierarchy and has the greatest access to resources such as food and a mate or mates. Social dominance is gained and maintained through factors such as size and aggressiveness.

If an animal is fearful, it doesn’t make sense to treat it by trying to “dominate” it. That won’t bring it out of its fear state.

Actually, if you change the underlying emotional state you’ll change the outward behavior.

One definition of leadership is the ability to influence an individual to perform behavior they would not otherwise perform. By that definition, pet owners do need to develop leadership skills. However we have a choice of leadership style. We can lead by force like a dictator such as Muammar Gaddafi or by providing goals or rewards that follows want, such as Mahatma Gandhi.

This is what some of our friends commented on how to tell which dog is dominant.

Matt Tucci: They stand next to them and press their muzzle to the side of the others head by the eye/ear area.

Nancy Fields: They let the others know by not letting others on lap, won’t give in if they’re next to owner in bed, some can be snappy, growl etc. but haven’t found Bostie baby like that. Mine whines, talks, etc. to get what they want. Lol

Hiedi Pierson: Rya sits on top of the other dogs. She is very dominant with other dogs. Traeger sits on me, my chest, to be dominant, but he isn’t dominant with other dogs. Abbott does his part by winning all the games. I think every dog is different on how they try to be dominant, it’s a matter of whether or not it works because they know I am the alpha so they have to establish the lower ranks.

Angela Unterbrink: I call it head bopping. My female will steal toys from the other and then bop them on the head with it to almost say “this is not yours, it’s mine and you’re an idiot”.

Kimberly M Lunsford: I have four Bostons and one pushes the others away from me so he can get attention first.

Linda Barbaro: They bully the other dog. Stand over food or water like they are daring the other to come near. They hump, won’t let the other near their people. They hoard the toys and chew toys.

Carol Larsen: An excellent book – “The Dog Listener”, all about understanding dogs..pack structure, etc.

Angie Bower: When the human dad doesn’t know how to say NO, and the dog carries on with whatever dad trys to tell the dog to stop with. He does as I tell him, but his dad he looks at him as if to say I DON’T THINK SO. lol

Wendy Browne: When I’ve had large packs of four or five dogs, I’ve noticed that the NON dominant dogs are usually the troublemakers, the agitators and humpers and growlers; whereas the top dogs are more confident, eat first, bark first, greet first, are allowed to take toys without objection. The top dog sometimes changed between two out of the large group, but the troublemaker never changes, always making issues and when a fight happens it was always everyone piled on that dog.

Sources: dogbreedinfo.com

Edited by: Julie Bradford, Jan Mitchell

Re-positing of this article is done with the permission of Donna Curtin of the Boston Terrier Network — full of Boston Terrier and canine information, news, and adoptables. Copyright © 2017. Boston Terrier Network.