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Identifying Dominance in a Dog and Curbing it

02 May 2013 | by Kritika Ponia | Posted in: Training

There are a few dogs that are naturally dominant while others may develop dominance and establish themselves as alpha if you are not careful enough. While it is okay for dogs in the wild to be dominant, dominance is not a trait that you’d like in your pet dog. You, the owner, must establish yourself as the alpha so that your dog listens to you and does as told instead of doing what pleases him. A dominant dog can be very difficult to control and can easily go out of hand. This is the reason why vets and animal experts lay emphasis on leadership and obedience training. Remember that he is an animal and it is natural for animals to establish their dominance and leadership.

For your dog, you are not family. You are a pack. Every pack has an alpha. As early as possible, you should ensure that your dog realizes that you are the alpha and that he has to follow your lead. The sooner you make this clear, the better for you. Otherwise, you won’t be able to do anything about it once he establishes himself as the alpha. All the fun of having a dog will be lost if your dog is out of your control. Hence, you should be careful and do the needful accordingly.

In order to be able to train your dog, there are things about dominance that you should be aware of. You should understand dominant behavior in dog and know what the signs of dominance are so that when your dog shows any of these signs, you work to curb them. If you fail to recognize these signs, it will backfire miserably. So what do you do? You learn about dominance as much as possible so that you are better prepared and you work your dog training schedule accordingly.


Listed here are some of the traits that a dominant dog showcases:


Dogs will establish their territory if they are dominant. They will especially mark their personal belongings by urinating on them to tell you that it is theirs and should not be touched. Thus, if you see that your dog is urinating on your things, know that he is trying to set his role as the alpha in the house.


Does your dog mount on you or another dog? That is dominant behavior. He wants to tell you that he is superior. This type of behavior can be seen both in female and male dogs.


Check if your dog mouths you when he plays with you. Know that he won’t bite but he will take your clothes and hands in his mouth when he plays with you. This is a sure shot sign to say that he is dominant.


Yes, even jumping on you in order to greet you is dominant behavior. If he places his paws on your shoulders when he greets you, he is establishing his dominance over you.


This is an obvious sign of dominance. Dominant dogs will simply refuse to listen to you and obey your orders. Some examples include running to reach the door first and jumping on the couch even though you ask him not to.

If you ignore all these signs, know that they will get more prominent with time and after a while he will begin to get aggressive. Aggressions signs include snapping at you and growling when you come too close to his possessions and not letting you touch them. This includes food. He might even bite you if he thinks you are endangering his dominance. This is why you should work to eliminate dominant behavior right from the start. You definitely don’t want your dog to get dominant and aggressive. You will not be a happy owner if he does.

What should you do then? There are several things that you could do to break the dominance of your dog. Here are a few tips to help you out:

1.    Train your dog. Start obedience training right from the day you bring him home. Start simple so that he is more willing to learn. Start with commands such as stay, come, sit, and so on. Once he learns these, you can start advance commands such as roll. When you train your dog, he will learn that you are the alpha and not he. He will learn that he is the subordinate and he can’t do as he pleases in the house.

2.    If no amount of training helps, go to a specialist. An animal behavior specialist might help you tackle the problem. He will also tell you why exactly he is behaving like that so that you address the issue accordingly. He will give you valuable advice and suggestions to practice. Listen to him carefully and do the needful.

3.    Consult a vet. Sometimes, even pet dogs start showing dominant behavior out of nowhere. Even if you train them right from the start, they end up being dominant. Such behavior indicates health issues. May be your dog has a neurological problem or a health issue such as rabies, dental issue, or epilepsy. The vet will be able to zero in on the problem and provide solutions.

4.    Don’t aggravate your dog. For example, don’t disturb him while he sleeps or eats. That can make him very aggressive. Grooming, hugging, touching, and other activities must be restricted to when he is awake and willing. Also, keep him away from public places where he can establish his dominance. When you take him out, make him wear a dog muzzle so that you control him better.

5.    Lastly, be nice to your dog. Be positive when you speak to him so that he calms down. Also, when he tries getting dominant with you, ignore him point blank and walk away. Don’t give him any treats or praise when he acts dominant. In some days, hopefully, he will understand that he was mistaken and that you are the one he should listen to.

NEVER hit your dog. NEVER. That can make him even dominant or scared, and he will be even harder to control. Be careful and do the needful to control your dog right from the start.

A trained dog is a happy dog!


Anirban Sinha
A well written article with valuable insights.Here, I would also like to add three points. Many dog owners allow their pets on their beds / sofas. While it does demonstrate the bonding towards your pet, it makes that barrier of respect blur in his/her mind (particularly for growing puppies). A better alternative is to never allow dogs on beds / sofas used by humans

By: Anirban Sinha | 03 Feb 2014

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