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How to stop my dog being dominant...

dominant dog jumping on owner cartoon
So you're asking yourself - how do i stop my dog being dominant? Why does my dog think he's higher in the pack than me? What have I done wrong?

The answer is simple!

Stop looking at things that way!

Problems are best solved by really understanding what's going on at the root level. If you're thinking about your dog being dominant, then it's likely that you're thinking of them as being bad or arrogant or something like that. Usually what that does is make us feel angry and frustrated, or let down in some way. And usually, that stops us thinking clearly. It's highly unlikely, for instance, that you can really FEEL how your dog is feeling. Put yourself in your dogs' paws - how would you FEEL if these things that you're doing to stop your dog being dominant were being done to you? (Honestly - write a list of what you are presently doing to try to stop your dog doing something and send it to me), or post here if you're reading this in Facebook etc.

So, instead, it helps to.... start to think about your dog's behaviour from a different point of view. Start to think about how he feels when he's doing whatever he's doing. Start to think about how you can make him feel differently. Start to think about how you could entice him, gently, to choose a better behaviour. Once he feels differently then he's not likely to want to continue the same behaviour.

But why is my dog doing these things? Surely he's trying to be higher in the pack?

Er, nope, sorry! Dogs have been with us for at least 10,000 years, and their population has grown from strength to strength, with probably about 800 million dog in the world now. They have done this by being successful. Food, Shelter, and emotional stability are key needs in life. By choosing to live near by people, they secured an easily available food source. Then humans, being the caring kind of animal that we are, started to look after them more, providing shelter, food and companionship. Their population has exploded by filling that niche - their place in the world - being a happy human companion & workmate.

So why dog dogs do thing?

Simpless! They do things to make themselves FEEL better. If they're hungry they eat - and feel better. If they're scared they run away or fight their corner - and FEEL better. If they're hungry and you take their food bowl away, they growl, you step back - and they FEEL better. If they're bored and wanting your attention, they bark and jump on you, and get your attention - and they FEEL better. If they're pulling you along on the lead, they get to the park more quickly - and they FEEL better.

The problem is communication! They are just trying to figure things out for themselves. They just don't know any better. We need to teach them how to live with, communicate with, and how to have fun with humans.

So, whether he's toileting in the house; barking at the door; barking at passers by; jumping on you - or being aggressive when you try to sit on the couch - try to think - What is he getting out of this? If I was doing that - why would I be doing it, and how would I be feeling? What would I be wanting?

The problem with dealing with dominance is that it really stops us thinking. We've got a label for the behaviour and we can follow those common pack reduction rules!

You've probably read or been told - eat before your dog - don't let him through the door before you - get into his bed - don't allow him on the couch - don't let him walk in front of you - and above all - never let him start a game - and oh - don't play tug - it teaches him to win and be dominant.

Now, here's the problem with this thinking. Solutions work best if you can imagine the impact of what's being done - if you can FEEL it yourself.

Ask yourself:

How would you feel if your family all ate before you - with you standing watching and waiting? Every day. Every meal. Well, you might start to feel subservient - but would you be feeling good about yourself and happy with life? You might not be bothered. You might do that every day anyway. You might start to get annoyed and fed up (to put it politely). Was there anything wrong with your dog's eating habits anyway? Perhaps there was. But if he was being aggressive over his food bowl and you're now keeping that from him - is that going to help him feel better? Or, worse?

Dog rushing through the door? Why? What does he want that means that he needs to get there before you? If there was a million £20 notes that had been soaked in yummy rabbit flavour lying outside on the grass - who'd want to get out the door first? Well that might be a tough one, but you'd certainly be bashing through that door. Outside is a fun place to be if you're a dog - there are leaves and balls to chase, things to dig for, places to run to. It's much much more fun than the TV.

So what do I do to fix my dog's behaviour problems?

Times have changed. Science has moved on. Emotional understanding has progressed. Stop thinking dominance and start FEELING. When looking for help from a trainer or behaviourist, look at their qualifications. Look on their web sites to see if they're talking dominance. Applying pack leader rules to your dog is old hat. I"m not saying that some of the dominance reduction things don't work - they may - in some circumstances. But why not take advantage of the enhanced knowledge, and the hours of reading that qualified behaviourists and trainers and scientists have invested. The up to date approach is to work with your dog's problems by looking at their emotions and their general emotional stability, and to build their self-confidence and communication skills with you.

Want to know more?

Dogz Thinkz Differentz book
Have a look at Dogz Thinkz Differentz - a wee fun book that helps to clarify how dogs actually think, explains the confusions of dominance, socialisation, stubbornness and so on and provide some excellent advice on how to fix your dogs dominance!

And more free dog training and behaviour notes here

If you're looking for dog training or behaviour help in the Scottish Highlands, Pawsability can help - click here

Otherwise, please look for a behaviourist at
The International Companion Animal Network or
CAPBT (COAPE Association of Pet Behaviourists and Trainers)

SAFETY NOTE: Dog aggression is dangerous. Don't try to deal with it yourself by reading books, watching the TV, searching the internet. This approach will just confuse you and your dog. Get some professional help - or at least ask a professional behaviourist for advice on what dog behaviour and training books to read. Otherwise please speak with your vet for a referral to a good behaviourist or trainer, or look here to find a qualified dog behaviourist close to you.

Look here for recommended books to help you deal with your dogs dominance.