My bet is that this starts some interesting discussion.
Who's Dominant In Your Home?
By Anne Hendrickson, Pet Central
Last update: March 6, 2008 - 4:40 PM
When it comes to dogs, there is no concept more widely embraced and debated than the concept of dominance. It is a concept cloaked in a veil of myth, legend and science.
Dominance is an extremely complicated social dynamic. For general purposes, however, it is useful to think of dominance as leadership. The top member of a social hierarchy is commonly referred to as the alpha. The alpha is the leader who has ultimate responsibility for the pack. Every social animal from pigs to humans has hierarchies, and "dominance." The reason for social hierarchies in the wild is clear. Hierarchies keep the peace. In the wild, there are limited resources. A species fighting among themselves over resources would not thrive.
Since hierarchies evolved to keep the peace in a pack or herd, it is interesting that people often attribute aggressiveness or other problems to alpha behavior. A true alpha dog is confident enough in his strength and leadership that he very rarely feels the need to prove it. In my experience, it's the middle ranking dogs that are most likely to exhibit aggression. The top and bottom rankers have little call for it.
It is not only aggression that people often incorrectly attribute to dominance. I've heard clients cite dominance for just about every behavior from herding breeds nipping to submissive urination. There are many day-to-day behaviors that are not driven by a dog's desire to dominate. Most behaviors can be attributed to instincts or tactics the dog has learned that work at getting what he wants. However, just because your dog isn't lying awake at night devising plans to become the alpha doesn't mean your leadership isn't important.
In the "pack" created by you and your dog, your leadership (or alpha status, if you prefer) is critical in deciding the behavior, mental state and general wellbeing of your dog. Being a consistent leader will make your dog feel secure and curb many behavior problems. The key is to be a leader that your dog loves and respects.
Leadership is a way of life, not a series of confrontations that the dog must lose. Every interaction with your dog is an opportunity to establish leadership. To determine if you are the leader, ask yourself: "Who is influencing whose behavior?" Do you eat quickly in your dog's presence? Do you throw the ball so he will quit barking? If so, your dog is influencing you. Your dog is making important decisions for himself and will be less accepting of your direction in other situations.
To assert your leadership, control all the things that your dog wants: attention, couch space, food, walks, toys and bones. If you are the leader, your dog should be doing what you want in order to get what he wants. Don't throw the ball until he sits. Eat at your leisure and only share food with a calm dog respecting your space. By being mindful of what your dog wants and making sure he only gets it for listening or behaving correctly, you reinforce your leadership and encourage your dog to offer good behavior.
Consistency and training
Dogs learn which behaviors get them what they want. Behaviors tend to be repeated because the dog will want something again. If your dog jumps and barks and the food dish gets set down, he is likely to jump and bark the next time he wants to eat.
If your dog has been getting what he wants through obnoxious behavior such as barking and jumping, and you would like to change this behavior, fasten your seatbelt. Remember, you have given him what he wants for his behavior in the past, so it makes sense that he will try harder with the same behaviors. Stand firm. Wait calmly and aloofly for the behavior you are seeking; or nonchalantly give him a time-out to illustrate his behavior is no longer going to result in what he wants.
It would be convenient if all it took to declare your leadership was rolling your dog over onto his back. However, good leadership requires skill and dedication, hard work, patience and compassion. But what you get in return is a happy, well-behaved dog, a special bond and a peaceful household.
Anne Hendrickson is the owner of Downtown Dogs Daycare and Boarding,
Hershey Kisses, In charge of getting Ed out to the dog park so that he gets some exercise.
Me! I'm dominent in my home (with the dogs that is) SU and I share rotating dominence amongst the humans Skippy is the dominent dog among the 2 dogs, and Emilu is just weird!