Leadership v. Dominance

Dog owners need to be “alpha” and dominate their dogs to make them obey.   Anytime a dog does something you do not want them to, they should be labeled as dominant, bad dogs and their owners are not fulfilling the “alpha” role these dogs need.

This way of thinking is outdated and, in my opinion, borders on dangerous.

The relationship between a companion dog and its’ human family needs to take into account numerous variables including genetics, social skills, learned behavior(s) and individual physical and personality traits.  

The role of a leader is to lead, teach, motivate and care for their pack members.

Inter dog communications are subtle, yet very clear.   Most dog owners are uneducated about how their pets communicate with them and how to best communicate with their pets.   Simple canine messages are missed because they are subtle and vanish quickly. 

Communication is hindered when the meaning and intent behind each species’ communication methods are misunderstood. 

Consider the following:

  • Your dog acts or reacts because they believed it was the best response at the time
    • Unless taught a different response, they will most likely not change their response the next time.
  • When dogs do not respond to a known command, their desire to do something different is stronger.
    • If you want to change your dogs’ response you need to offer them something that is higher value
  • Anxious and fearful dogs generally have low quality social skills
    • They need to learn to trust their leader.  If they do not trust their leader will care for them, in all circumstances, they will not be able to relax and be polite.
  • Most humans, including many self-proclaimed “trainers” have never learned the proper techniques to communicate with dogs.
  • Dogs, like people, have preferences.  This does not make them bad dogs or dogs that need to be forced into enjoyment.
    • Some dogs do not enjoy dog parks and some dogs should never go to dog parks.  
    • Not all dogs can handle the energy, volume or tactile stimulation from children.
    • Car rides can be stressful to some dogs.

When forced dominance is applied everyone loses – the dog, the owner, veterinarian, dog groomer, etc. because the human-animal bond has been damaged.  This creates additional stress, anxiety, uncertainty and fear for the dog. 

By watching and listening to your dog, you can help your dog become consistent and predictable in all situations.  If you are your dogs’ leader, you can alter the outcome and help your dog understand what to do.

Dogs use body posture and facial expressions to indicate what they are thinking, and thus how they will act/react.  They watch what we do much more than they listen to what we say.

Always strive to be a leader who talks less, sets limits, is consistent and predictable.  Care for your pack members by providing for their needs; attention, exercise, play, social interaction and even quiet time.