top of page

Is my dog being dominant?

Updated: Mar 5, 2019

If our dog misbehaves we often think that our dog is being ‘dominant’

This is incorrect. Dogs do what works for them. It is as simple as that, if your dog is getting reinforced for a behaviour weather we see it as good or bad, your dog will repeat that behaviour again!

"My dog steels food off the kitchen counter, he is being dominant.”

Wrong, your dog has worked out that food is on the table, no one is around, he steals it, eats the yummy human food which he is not normally aloud, it’s a win-win in your dog’s eyes!

“My dog jumps up and lies on the sofa he is being dominant towards us!’”

Incorrect, the sofa is nice and comfy and they want to be close to you! Your dog jumps up on you and visitors because he is being reinforced for it, even if its negative attention you are still reinforcing the behaviour.

“I need to be a pack leader in order for my dog to be well behaved, balanced and happy?”

Incorrect. Dr. Ian Dunbar, one of the most well-known and respected veterinary

behaviourists, says, “Notions of a “dominance hierarchy” with an “alpha wolf” being the all-powerful, supreme leader are simply incorrect. Such a muddled and simplistic view is a bit of an insult to the wolves’ most complex and sophisticated social system. This is not the way that wolves live together. Wolves live together in large groups based on family units — in fact, not that much different than the way large groups of humans live together.” Dr David L Mech first termed the word ‘alpha’ when referring to wolfs he studied in captivity back in the 40’s. He then went on to study wolfs in their natural environment and realised that wolfs are not pack animals at all. They form family units much like our own family units and everyone helps each other on a hunt.

“Are dogs pack animals?”

No dogs are not pack animals. There are studies of free-ranging street dogs in Romania, sub-Saharan Africa, South America, India, Mexico, Bangkok and Moscow determined that while dogs briefly interact with each other and may be drawn together when food or resources are present, they then go on their merry ways, separately. Dogs do not form packs. Dogs are social animals and like the company of being with us and other animals, this is why they have fitted in so while into our family.

So how do we stop unwanted behaviour?

By finding out the motivation of our dog’s ‘bad’ behaviour is the key to making lasting change. We must educate ourselves on why dogs do what they do instead on labelling them dominant, and thinking we need to resort to punishment to fix unwanted behaviours. By managing unwanted behaviours and teaching our dogs behaviours we would like to see more of by reinforcing ‘the good stuff’ We will help our canine friends to live a happy and well behaved life with us.

Something Kathy Sdao said in one of her seminars: She was listening to a gardening show, one of the questions on the TV show was “how do you stop weeds from growing in the flower beds?” The answer from the gardener was simply “plant more flowers!” “if you have lots of flowers growing in the flower bed, then the weeds won’t have space to grow.” What does that have to do with dog training you may be thinking.. Well lets look at the weeds as being our dogs unwanted behaviours. If we reinforce all the good behaviours then there won’t be space in our dogs ‘behaviour tool box’ to practice unwanted behaviours aka ‘the weeds’

If you liked this blog post and would like to be kept up to date with more dog training tips and advice sign up to my mailing list

185 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page