Dominant Dog Behavior and Aggression
Dominant dog behavior
is behavior that dogs engage in to protect access to the stuff they
want - food, favorite beds, and attention from their people are some
examples of they stuff that dogs value. They want to be able to get
these things first before others do. This 'domainance-aggression' is
the 'dominant' dog will display to others that are ranked below him.
Not all bad or rude behavior means that a dog is dominant. Sometimes
they're just spoiled and used to getting their own way. In other dogs,
however, they are willing to assert themselves over other dogs in
order to get the stuff they want. For example, a dominant dog might
decide to mount another dog. If the other dog is submissive, they
may just allow it or try to move away, in which case the dominant
dog might snap or snarl to show to put the other dog in its place.
If the other dog is also dominant, however, it may snap or snarl
and a fight could start since neither dog is willing to back down.
Other behaviors like growling, snapping, or freezing when
someone gets near coveted food or toys, or doing stuff the dog
doesn't like (grooming, picking them up, etc)... or refusing to
acknowledge commands that the dog clearly understands... are
ways to assert dominance over people. For example, the dog might
decide to lay on the coveted couch. When his owner tries to remove
him, he may freeze and show his teeth, making the person back off.
On the other hand, some behaviors aren't necessarily dominance.
Let's say the dog is on the couch. His person sees him, shouts at
him to get off and approaches the dog aggressively. The dog may
also show his teeth - but not necessarily in a display of dominance,
but in a display of fear because he's reacting to how his person is
behaving. It may not occur to him to simply get off the couch
since he is afraid.
If your dog displays dominant-aggressive behaviors, you can
avoid situations or triggers that cause these behaviors... and
use cheerful "happy-talk" to help defuse the situation.
However, learning how to work with your dog to re-train and
manage him is a better option. Look for a qualified dog trainer
or behaviorist with experience in dominant dog behavior. The
trainer should focus on positive methods rather than harsh
corrective methods. Properly dealing with dominance issues
can lead to both happier dogs and happier pet owners.