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9 Crucial Steps to Deal With Dominant Dog Behavior (Safe & Humane Tips)

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Dogs are a man’s best friend, that is for sure. And it is also true that they are pack animals who look to pack leaders. Some dogs are more dominant than others. This can either be as a result of inadequate training as a pup or because they are naturally dominant breeds.

For example, a King Charles Spaniel, who was bred to be a companionship pooch, is usually less dominant than a Boerboel who was born to protect his master’s land from lions and other beastly predators.

However, even if you have a naturally dominant dog breed, you should not accept dominant behavior. Because the moment you do is the moment the battle begins. You need to grasp dominant dog behavior by the tennis balls. Not only does it create an unhappy family environment, but it is also very dangerous.

So, listen up and take note, because here we have nine crucial steps to deal with dominant dog behavior. They all need to be adhered to if you want any chance of preventing it.

And we have also chucked in a few extra considerations when it comes to family life with a dominant dog. Here’s how to break a dominant dog safely and humanely:

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The 9 Ways to Stop Dominant Behavior in Dogs:

1. You Need to Be Calm

Dogs feed off our energy. So, if you are anxious or nervous about Fido’s dominant behavior, he is going to pick up on that and react accordingly. Dominant dogs will see one of two things here. The first is that you are a weak leader, and he feels the need to step up to the role of top dog. Or secondly, he will feel the need to protect you. Either position is a bad one to be in.

But, there’s probably a reason that you are nervous, either because he is aggressive towards other dogs or humans, or he is unpredictable. Or perhaps you feel too weak to handle him. So often, it is a vicious cycle. But it’s one you need to break.

Understand what is making you nervous, and address it. Is it because he is aggressive towards other dogs? Walk him during less busy places to increase your confidence, then gradually phase walking times back to normal. Is it because you feel he is too much to handle alone? Find a walking partner and build up your confidence.

If you’re calm, he will be calm, too. If you arent giving off the energy that you need protecting, he will not feel the need to protect you. Although it’s easier said than done, it really can be as simple as that.

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2. Set Rules and Boundaries

Dominant dogs will try their luck with everything, be that jumping up at you, grabbing your sandwich out of your hand, or prevent you from giving your partner a cuddle. And none of it should be tolerated.

Set rules, whatever they may be, and stick to them. Never give in to naughty behavior because a dominant dog will see this as a weakness, and know that he can probably get away with it. Consistency is critical with dominant dogs.

The whole family must be on board too. Because if you set a rule, but someone else allows it, poor Fido will be confused.

3. Do Not Allow Him Onto the Bed or Sofa

Dominant dogs like pack order. And pack order is about having pack leaders, and everyone else is next in line. Beds and sofas should be reserved for the top dogs, which is you and the family. Not Fido.

Although you might want to cuddle him on the sofa, this is a small sacrifice that you need to make in order to establish pack hierarchy. The same goes for you not sitting on the floor, because he’ll see that as you stepping off your throne, and joining him on his level.


4. He Has to Work for Things

Dominant dogs like to think that they are the top dog. He might also think of you as below him in the chain of command. You need to make sure that he doesn’t think this way.

You need to act the top dog part, and you are in control. If he wants a treat, you need to make sure he sits or paws for it. If he wants to cross the road to get to his favorite place, he needs to sit. If he wants to go outside to play in the yard, make sure he waits until you tell him to go out.

Of course, you need to train him how to sit and wait first. But these are essential steps to teach him that you are in charge and that he needs to follow your direction. Once you have taught him these commands, continue the hard work.

5. Always Eat Before Him at Mealtime

In a pack environment, the top dogs will eat first, and the rest of the pack will get the leftovers. You must replicate this scenario in your home every day.

Always eat at the table, and do not tolerate any begging behavior. A great command to teach him here is to lay down or to go to his bed. Dominant dogs should not be allowed to sit in at mealtimes.

Once every family member has finished, he should be allowed to join you in the kitchen, or sit up and wait for his food while you prepare it.

And remember, if he wants his dinner, get him to work for it with a sit and wait command. Until he is submissive, he is not to receive his dinner.

Two dogs sitting behind the kitchen table_Fotyma_shutterstock
Image Credit: Fotyma, Shutterstock

6. Make Sure He Gets Enough Exercise

Many dominant dog breeds are traditional working dogs born to protect estates and people. Which usually means they have lots of energy. If your dominant has a lot of energy, you need to ask yourself whether you are giving him enough exercise?

If not, you need to ensure that he gets more exercise. If it means you and the family need to arrange an exercise rota, so be it. Releasing this energy might mean he brings less sass into the home, in turn, decreasing his dominant behavior.

7. Do Not Force Affection

This is a surprising step for many owners because often they will think if they can make their dog enjoy cuddles, he might just become softer. But this is not how dominant dogs think.

Dominant dogs are not cuddly. They see themselves as pack leaders, and the rest of the pack come to him for cuddles. This is what makes him the pack leader. By going to him for cuddles, you are reinforcing his belief that he is the top dog.

Instead, leave him to his own devices or ignore him. This will reverse the roles, and he’ll start to see you as the pack leader and come to you for affection.


8. Always Reward Good Behavior

If you are taking steps to deal with his dominant dog behavior and he is responding well to it, reward him. Dogs respond well to positive reinforcement training more than negative methods. And this is the same for dominant dogs.

And receiving pets and warmth is another way to reinforce your status as the top dog too. He’ll love the praise he gets from you, and continue to obey your commands for more recognition.

9. You Need to Be the Pack Leader

Ultimately, without this step, nothing will work. If your dog is dominant, you need to step up and be more dominant. Unfortunately, many owners cannot make a distinction between dominance and aggressive training.

Some are aggressive in their attempt to be dominant, which only makes matters worse. Or they perceive dominance to be aggression, so they don’t want to be dominant. But when done correctly, it isn’t.

Being a pack leader is not about being a bully, it is about being in control. One he sees that you are in control, he will drop his dominant behaviors, and everything should fall into place.

dog training

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Other Factors to Consider When Training a Dominant Dog

In addition to the nine crucial steps outlined above, there are also a few other factors that you need to consider when it comes to living with dominant dogs.

Do Not Leave Children Unattended

You should never leave any dog unattended with a child. But if you have a dominant dog who is exhibiting dominant behaviors in an attempt to establish himself as a pack leader, there is a concern that he could ‘turn’ on a child. This is why you should never accept dominant dog behavior in a family environment.

Many dominant dogs see smaller children as their siblings rather than their leaders. This is because they might be smaller than them because they hold the same eye level, or because children sit on the floor just like they do.

Canine siblings squabble for attention, and eventually, they fight for top dog position. So, never leave children unattended even for a moment.

This is why it is essential to get the whole family on board with the dog’s training. Children should give commands, give them their food after they have worked for it, and your children should join you on the sofa. Children should always be above the dog in the pack, and the dog needs to know it.

Do Not Be Embarrassed to Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, no matter how well you stick to the crucial steps, or how experienced you are as a dog owner, some dogs will not listen. This is when it is essential to enroll the help of a professional canine behaviorist.

Unfortunately, many owners give up their training because it is hard work and it requires a lot of effort from everyone in the family. The minute you give up is the moment you surrender yourself as the top dog, and trust us when we say, it’ll get worse.

Dominant dog behavior is not only frustrating and challenging but in the worst cases, it can also be fatally dangerous for both the family and the dog. Responsible dog owners will seek professional help when they have exhausted their own way of dealing with it, so please be that responsible owner.

dog dominant

Divider 3The Wrap Up

To successfully transform your dominant dog, you need to change yourself and the way you are currently doing things. Dominant dogs are dangerous to both you, your family, the wider public, and themselves.

Dominant dogs are much happier when they have a pack leader to follow and a disciplined environment to live in. And if he’s happy, you’re happy too. So, what are you waiting for? Get started right now with our nine crucial steps and you should hopefully start seeing a difference in him very soon.

Featured Image Credit: 825545, Pixabay

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