The term dominance is unfortunately still misinterpreted in many online articles and social media as a character trait of dogs. Typical statements include: “If your dog, puts his paw on another dog, he is dominant”, “If your dog makes himself big and carries his tail up, he is dominant”, “If your dog behaves aggressively towards other dogs, he is dominant”, etc. Unfortunately, these statements are insufficient and sometimes even completely wrong! That’s why we would like to give you an overview of what dominance really is and why it is not a problem if your dog is dominant in a situation.
What is dominance?
Dominance is a relationship trait, not a character trait. This means that your dog cannot simply be described as dominant, but there must be at least one other dog that voluntarily (not forced) submits to your dog. Since this is a relationship trait, it is necessary for a relationship to develop between two dogs. Dogs that are just seeing each other for the first time have a hard time having a dominant relationship. Your dog would be the dominant one in a relationship if, over a constant period of time, he regularly asserts his interests over those of the other dog and the other dog just as regularly subordinates himself to avoid conflict. No conflict arises between the dogs because of the dominant relationship. Dominance is therefore avoidance of conflict and not the reason for it.
Important: In a dominance relationship, the dominant can assert his goals at any time, but he can also withdraw and renounce his right to assert himself.
Is my dog dominant?
Often misunderstandings arise in the relationship between humans and dogs, which lead to the belief that your dog is dominant over you. This can of course be the case, but it would then mean that you voluntarily subordinate yourself to your dog.
However, if your dog disputes your place on the sofa or shows his teeth when you come too close to his beloved bone, this has absolutely nothing to do with dominance, but it is a protest against your actions. Here the problem lies on the relationship level between you and your dog and can be solved with the help of clear structures and training. Our professional dog trainers will be happy to advise you on this in our Trainer Chat.
Many exercises, such as “No” and “Off”, can help your dog playfully learn to exchange resources with you. A lovingly constructed dipping ritual allows you to take everything away from your dog, as he has learned that he can get it right back or even expect something much better from you. This trust is a big part of your harmonious human-dog bond. If, on the other hand, we simply take something from our dog without our friendly ritual or even threaten our dog by leaning over him and snatching his stick out of his mouth, we are crossing a line! In this case, don’t be surprised if your dog bares his teeth at you or growls.
Let’s keep in mind again: dominance is a relationship trait that avoids conflict situations. For a dominant role in a relationship, it is necessary that both relationship partners know each other and that one dog voluntarily submits to the other to avoid conflict. The dominant relationship partner can assert his needs but does not have to.
Dogs can show protest behavior towards their humans, which has nothing to do with dominance. A dog can only be dominant towards its human if the human voluntarily submits to its dog. If your dog shows threatening signals towards you when you want to take something from him or sit next to him on the sofa, you have to work on the human-dog bond and trust, you can learn how in our app.