Feb 18, 2011

Let's Deal With Dominance

Cute Dog
Now that the Westminster dog show is over for another year, I am hoping I do not have to hear people talking on the TV about "dominance" in dogs anymore. Like that would happen! Unfortunately, the show has millions of viewers, which helps to continue to spread this myth. Remember - if it is on TV, then it must be true...

Just because your young pup is eager to learn everything about the new world outside and tries to get out the door before you, is it dominating you?

If the dog gets on your new Tempurpedic mattress, thinks it's the softest place on earth that also happens to smell like its favorite person (you!), and does not want to get off, is it dominating you?

If your dog is pulling on the leash while you walk slowly behind, letting your dog think he is pulling you along, is it dominating you and trying to be the "pack leader?" Or is he playing a great game and winning, because it's obviously working - you're moving, aren't you?

Let's say you have a dog that has not been properly potty trained, and you have tried to rub her nose in it (or worse, given her a smack). When she gets so scared the next time she does have to go that she hides behind the sofa and does her business, is she really thinking that she is dominating you?

What about when you leave the dog alone at home, and being a highly sociable animal, he thinks you've left forever? He starts to get scared, which can escalate into serious anxiety. As chewing has a calming effect on dogs, he decides to relive some stress and chomps on the furniture. Is he exhibiting dominance and paying you back for leaving him, or just trying to comfort himself?

We really need to stop using this word "Dominance" to explain all of our dogs misunderstood behaviors - it's just too easy. We need to start looking at things from our dogs point of view. Let's put ourselves in their shoes, try to figure out what actually happened and what we did wrong, and then attempt to make it better for them. This will hopefully fix the issue, and prevent us from just using a blanket term - dominance - to explain away unwanted behavior.

I've put a few links below to show the scientific research on this subject:

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