How To Train Dominant Dogs?
Having a dominant dog can be challenging. Many owners find it difficult to raise and train dominant puppies. And this is quite understandable. After all, these strong-willed individuals are quite confident in making their own decisions. Looking up to humans for guidance and direction does not come natural to them. Oftentimes, these dogs appear aggressive. They do not like being told what to do - and they can show their disapproval by growling, barking, snapping, and lunging. Managing dominant dogs requires dedication and perseverance. In this article, we will see why certain dogs are dominant, and why dominance is not the same as aggression.
Why Is My Dog Dominant?
Dogs are born with different temperaments. And these remain fairly unchanged throughout their lives. This is why timid puppies often stay insecure when they get older. In the same way, most playful, exuberant puppies mature into playful, happy-go-lucky dogs. Along the same lines, some canines come with very confident and assertive temperaments. These are the naturally born leaders of the canine world. Some people call them “dominant”, “alpha dogs”, or dogs that are “at the front of the pack”. Such individuals can be male or female. But they all are naturally strong-willed and assertive. If you added one of them to a pack of non-dominant dogs, they would take charge. Leading comes naturally to them.
Police- and military canine units favour these confident dogs above all others. And when expert owners and trainers of protection dogs select puppies from a litter, they aim for the most dominant individual.
This preference for dominant dogs is rooted in their natural resiliency: Their above-average levels of confidence make them perfectly suited for demanding roles. Tasks such as climbing up ladders, or chasing and stopping police suspects require dogs with a high tolerance for stress. And the same applies to the task of defending their home, or their owners: Dominant dogs succeed in high-pressure situations where most others would falter.
How To Handle Dominant Companion Dogs?
But what if you never wanted a dominant dog? Perhaps all you want is an obedient, well-mannered canine companion. Can your dominant dog fulfil that role? The answer is “Yes, absolutely.” However, you need to ensure that your dog’s dominance does not escalate into aggression. To do this, we recommend implementing a few important principles. These include building leadership, setting clear rules, and then consistently enforcing these rules.
1. Building Leadership
Dominant dogs are naturally predisposed to assume the leadership position of their group. It does not matter whether this group consists of canines, humans, or both species. As a dominant dog’s owner, you need to ensure that you are the one in charge at all times. And the same applies to every member of your household. If you have an assertive dog, be more assertive. Lead with calm consistency, and you will have an amazing relationship with your dominant dog.
Dogs with calm, consistent leaders in their lives have no reason to display undesirable behaviours such as ignoring commands, or perhaps even growling in response to corrections. Such leadership is the best method to prevent canine dominance from escalating into aggression. Once you have become your dog’s leader, you are in the driver’s seat. In this position (and only in this position), you can effectively control your dominant dog.
2. Setting Rules, Boundaries & Expectations
With an assertive, naturally dominant canine in our home, we have to step up our leadership. We need to become the firm but fair leaders that our dogs need to succeed. And we have to set clear rules, boundaries and expectations for them. To do this effectively, everyone in our household must agree on, and consistently reinforce, these rules, boundaries and expectations.
These could be things like:
Rule: Rex must go into his crate when asked to do so
Boundary: Rex is not allowed up on the sofa
Expectation: Rex has to sit and wait before eating his meal
The rules you are setting up for your dog should contain the principle that everything good comes through you. We recommend implementing this principle with any dog. But for owners of dominant dogs, it is particularly important. By making yourself the source of everything good in your dog’s life, you assert your leadership position. Dogs instinctively understand that the leader owns everything: In the wild, the pack leader decides when it is time to hunt, to rest, or to access the waterhole. The leader also gets to eat first, and they use the most comfortable sleeping spots.
Of course, your dominant house pet lives in different conditions than their wild cousins. But the principle of everything good coming through you, the leader, still applies. Simple measures can go a long way to clearly communicating to your dominant dog that you are in charge. These measures can include restricting access to toys and cosy sleeping spaces, and making your dog wait for their meal until you have eaten.
We want our dogs to have all the things they enjoy. But to successfully manage a dominant dog, we have to take charge. We have to make sure our dog understands that they own nothing in their lives. Instead, everything belongs to us, their calm, consistent leaders. And only by playing by our rules, boundaries and expectations do they get access to everything they want. This is loving leadership. And it is precisely this kind of leadership that prevents dominant dogs from developing problematic behaviours.
3. Using Training Tools
Contrary to popular belief, dominant dogs are not aggressive as such – they are merely assertive, and very confident, individuals. In social situations with other dogs, they usually get away with “dominant” behaviours like posturing and staring. Some canines may challenge these displays of power. But the average dog will submit to the natural authority exuded by a dominant canine. However, such interactions are not fun for the other dog. Dominant dogs are prone to being boisterous or over-bearing in their play behaviour. They may habitually mount other dogs, knock into them, push them around, or even pin them to the ground during play sessions. Typically, the other dogs will not enjoy this, and be reluctant to play with your dominant dog in the future.
For these situations, we recommend asserting your leadership, and correcting your dog whenever they are dominating their canine playmates. For this, you need tools which allow you to step in and stop your dog when they are getting carried away. Tools like the Ragnar Harness even has dual traffic handles. These are perfect for keeping dominant dogs under control out in public. In combination with the Ragnar Training Leash, the Ragnar Training Leash effectively prevents dogs from getting away. Whenever you find yourself in a situation that triggers your dog, simply grab the handles. This allows you to prevent your canine companion from lunging at other dogs, running into traffic, or jumping up on people.
Having a way to physically control your dog is useful in many different situations and scenarios. And it is even more important for dominant puppies or adult dogs: These assertive canines are not as easily influenced as average dogs. And training them to follow your commands, and adhere to your rules, may take some time. But by using adequate training tools, you set your dog up for success.
Owning a dominant dog can be difficult. But at the same time, it gives you the opportunity to take your leadership skills to a new level. By reading articles such as this one, you are enhancing your knowledge base. And what you learn will benefit you and your dog. Believe in yourself, and in your ability to be your dog’s calm, consistent leader. In doing so, you are setting yourself, and your dog, up to win. And before too long, your efforts will be rewarded by having a wonderful canine companion by your side.