Dominance in dogs?

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

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Rocky *CGC*- With the- angels.

Gone but never,- ever forgotten- xxx
Barked: Sat Oct 13, '12 12:02pm PST 
I'm currently reading Dominance in Dogs, Fact or Fiction? By Barry Eaton and I have to say... I have been thoroughly educated!

I no longer believe in dominance when it is referred to dogs... I don't believe that dogs are aggressive towards people to raise their status within the 'pack'. I no longer really believe that dogs are pack animals!

It's a short book but filled with a lot of great information...

Have any of you guys read this book? Do you believe in dominance in dogs?

I like go hear other opinions puppy

we will dance in- the ring without- words
Barked: Sat Oct 13, '12 1:35pm PST 
If you are interested, a bit more reading for you:



(there are some nice articles here).
Rocky *CGC*- With the- angels.

Gone but never,- ever forgotten- xxx
Barked: Sat Oct 13, '12 1:38pm PST 
Thanks Asher puppy

It's so interesting! I've been reading about it none stop, even when I get a spare five minutes puppy

I'll definitely check those links out... Thank you puppy


When the night- closes in I will- be there
Barked: Sat Oct 13, '12 7:14pm PST 
Not sure I buy the common dominant/submissive definitions as applied to dogs but like people some dogs are more assertive. I have had dogs blatantly challenge my authority but that isn't the same thing. And oddly usually when people tell me about their dominant dogs what I find are insecure, scared dogs or pushy, rude dogs. Sabi is dominant in that she is very strong willed and assertive with other dogs-with me she is a puff- in that she gets the choice spots, she gets the best toys, she marks out their toilet area and she guides the off leash wanderings. I have seen my dogs function as a pack, with Sabs in the lead, but that may just be a result of them living together and learning to function as a group.
She is definitely an 'Alpha' type personality, but I can't really say that makes her dominant. It's more like she is self assured and the other dogs are comforted by that and drawn to it. But she responds poorly to disrespect, as most senior ladies do.

Barked: Sat Oct 13, '12 10:35pm PST 
Hmmm... I do believe in pack behavior, I think it's an important thing to consider whenever you are interacting with a dog but I think sometimes people use the different terms to mean different things.

To me a dog being a pack animal means that it thrives only when part of a pack type setting. Some animals are perfectly content to be alone most of the time, but dogs seek familiar companionship.

Dogs change when they are in packs. Just like teenagers. They tend to follow the crowd. Knowing this lets you prevent problems and use it to your advantage. Dogs can learn good things from each other or bad things.

Is there a pecking order like horses clearly have? I think dogs are smarter than horses and better with relationships so theirs is more advanced, but yes, somewhat.

Some dogs within any pack are more leaders than others. Most dogs are looking for a leader and friend to follow and they don't really care who it is, they just want someone to love, care for, protect and direct them.

I think in the end all dogs feel more comfortable and happier when there is a clear leader in the household that will love, protect and direct them. The dogs that are seen as more dominant are often very smart dogs that won't just follow any unfair or inconsistent person and for good reason! Not that the dogs don't want to... but they don't feel safe or trust their leader so they have to fend for themselves and it makes them seem more dominant.

Skarlet would fall under that category. I think she would be considered very dominant in the wrong hands, but she's not. She just has to have a good reason to trust and follow your judgement over her own.

I don't know... just my thoughts from personal observation.
Jackson Tan

Lad about town
Barked: Sun Oct 14, '12 12:48am PST 
Well, I certainly do believe in dominance and submission, in the way that you will come across more assertive specimens in all species who have the ability to sway others, whether it be through force, nous, manipulation or simple respect. I see it in people all the time, in these crazy game shows like survivor and big brother, in the work place, in my family, on the street ... the same goes for all mammals, I think. They are fluid roles too, depending on who is around you and what resources are available. Its a give and take thing.

Some of the most interesting videos I have seen are of street dogs fighting for territory, usually between two equally headstrong males, and the repertoire of dominant postures they go through. These dogs seem to form temporary packs and allegiances, and are unlike wolves, so I agree that the wild dog is not a 'pack' animal in that regard.

Interspecies dominance? I don't buy it in the way that CM does, that's for sure. I don't see stupid things like jumping up and walking in front as challanging behaviour. But I will always believe there are more stubborn, assertive individuals who will push you to see how much they can get away with. laugh out loud Testing the boundaries - finding their place in the world. I do believe dogs (some more than others) like to know where they stand with others, the same as I do!

ETA: I used to live with someone deeply involved in the bdsm/leather scene, who changed roles in relationships as often as he changed his pants, and could tell you stories about rituals that were at the same time bizarre but deeply instinctual in a way, but I don't think this is the place for it, lol. THAT'S something that gets you thinking about dominance and submission in a big hurry though, lol. I'll never look at a dog collar and lead the same way again, for sure. laugh out loud

Edited by author Sun Oct 14, '12 12:57am PST

Rocky *CGC*- With the- angels.

Gone but never,- ever forgotten- xxx
Barked: Sun Oct 14, '12 2:00am PST 
Lol, JT... I can only imagine what it was like to live with a 'Mr Grey' type person *shudders*
I'd be scarred for life puppy

Anyways... I now believe that dominant behaviour in dogs can always be explained as something else. For example, a wolf pack is actually a family unit. The first breeding male and female have cubs, the cubs grow up but stick around. The only reason wolves live in packs it to enhance their chances of survival. And contrary to popular belief, the 'Alpha' hardly ever shows aggression and certainly does not rule the pack with aggression. No one challenges his authority and challenges and tries to take over his role as 'alpha'.

Look at it this way, it's almost like a 16 year old boy, fighting with and kicking his dad out of the house so he can become main man.. It just wouldn't happen. That 16 year old boy would then mate with his mother to sire his own 'pack'... That's just wrong and the same applies for wolves. If a cub grows up, he can leave the pack and go in search of a female to start his own pack but why would he try to take over the alpha's position?

Like I said, being a pack is purely cooperative... Not all wolves for packs. But sticking together as a family to enhance the chances of survival... That's what a pack is...

Now, feral dogs on the other hand. Yes, they're sociable, but they hardly ever form true packs...

It has also been found in studies by Coppinger and Coppinger, that feral dogs act more like scavengers than hunters. Dogs have evolves so much from wolves that yes, they can survive in the wild, but their predatory motor pattern has changes so much that, without human scraps or aid... Feral dogs wouldn't last long at all.

With all the information about the pack, above... Why then would a dog, who also knows you are not a dog, challenge and try to take your status? Sure, some people may say that a dog who shows food aggression towards their other dog at meal times is dominant, because in the pack, the alpha eats first..

Another myth! The alpha does not eat first... If the kill is big, the pack will eat together, if the kill is small, the cubs actually get to eat first. If the cubs are newly born, the alpha has to do the hunting in order to keep the cubs alive e.t.c... The social structure within a wolf pack is so diverse and changes are often made not through dominance but for survival reasons...

The conclusion is that, a dog may show aggression towards another dog at mealtimes, but this is not dominance. It is purely resource guarding... The dog will weight up the chances of beating the other dog and the chances of keeping that food... If the chances are in the guarding dogs favour, that's when the aggression will show. That being said, the same dog that shows aggression over food might get his ass kicked when it comes to playing with a toy. The victim dog then might turn against the food aggressive dog because he knows that when it comes to chasing a ball, he is faster, more agile and wants it more...

So see? Within your 'pack' at home, dogs challenge eachother but it's not to raise their status. It is not dominant. Dogs purely weigh up the chances of winning that resource they really want and then they go for it... It has nothing to do with being alpha!

*sigh* okay... I'm done now. Big well done if you actually read all of that lol puppy
Jackson Tan

Lad about town
Barked: Sun Oct 14, '12 2:34am PST 
Haha, I did read it all.

He wasn't my mister gray, thank dog. He, was my mister gay. That added its own unique splash of color to the situation, lol.

Agree with everything you said about wolves! Have a look for the book 'wolves at my door' by Jim Dutcher, its the story of a captive pack in the sawtooth mountains, Idaho. Now, they use the terms alpha, beta, omega, but if you can bear that (lol) it tells the story of the most benevolent leader, who did not rule his family with an iron fist (or paw, lol), juxtaposed against the classically 'dominant' behaviours of his insecure mid rankers ... it's a wonderful book, anyway, and the ending made me cry.

Dominance and submission will always remain one of my favorite branches of study, as I am fascinated by social dynamics, (of both animals and people!), but I am no 'dominance theorist' (god, its like a dirty word, isn't it?) simply because it makes no sense. Dominance, true leadership, whatever word you want to put to it, is a soft subtle thing. Dictators who inspire fear in their subjects tend to meet stickier ends than most for these exact reasons. (And they tend to go mad with power, although that's really a different conversation... lol.) Anyone who studied the Julio-Claudian period of Roman history in school could ascertain a pattern there, heh.

And people who act like deranged swaggering tin gods with their dogs, jabbing and crowding, inevitably tend to get bitten .. as was discussed recently EVERYWHERE. laugh out loud

ETA: JT has been labelled as dominant with other dogs many times. He's not. He's a craven coward, completely insecure in himself. He challenges out of fear, not out of any feelings of authority. The truly relaxed, assertive dog is usually the most stable with others, I find. (I don't.bother trying to explain that, however, lol ... its not worth the breath. I usually just get the hell outta there.)

Edited by author Sun Oct 14, '12 2:42am PST

Rocky *CGC*- With the- angels.

Gone but never,- ever forgotten- xxx
Barked: Sun Oct 14, '12 2:55am PST 
Gosh Lol... That really does add another splash of colour to that story lol... Maybe Mr Rainbow? Lol...

Oh, I need to have a look for that book, I love a good tear jerker and I'm sure I will be able to look past all the Wolfy titles puppy

I really love studying the dominance theory in dogs too... I've educated myself so much and now, when I watch CM, I roll my eyes and turn it over before I get angry puppy

I agree that dogs who fight other dogs, is mostly out of fear. Attack or be attacked mentality... They are definitely not trying to raise their status or take over. They're scared... Alpha wolves never show aggression towards their pack members, nor do they show fear... They interact through body language and facial expressions...

Another slice of information:

Wolves have over 60 different facial expressions. German Shepherds have 12! How then can dogs intersect like wolves with other dogs? Add to that, human interventions within breeds, like cropping ears and docking tails and it's even harder for dogs to interact the same as wolves puppy

I'm crazy about this book lol... You should definitely check it out... It's very short but packed (excuse the pun) with information puppy
Jackson Tan

Lad about town
Barked: Sun Oct 14, '12 3:11am PST 
That is an interesting slice of information. thinking Actually something I have never considered before ... like, ever. laugh out loud

CM annoys me too, he's grabbed onto one concept and run with it, that's for sure! His start with pitbulls is what has done it, I'm certain. They just send to throw more calming signals than other dogs, probably part of their people pleasing makeup. He's seen that and a little lightbulb flashed above his head. One thing he has unfortunately failed to grasp is that not all dogs throw the same body language at the same rate. He would certainly label a stoic breed like a chow dominant, I'm sure, because he would be searching for something that isn't going to eventuate. Oh well, all the worse for him, I guess.

I will look around for the book! It sounds an interesting read. smile
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