Is my Dog Dominant or Submissive?
No matter what the breed is, any individual dog can be dominant or submissive. It's all in the temperament of the individual dogs. Collies can be very dominant and Rottweilers can be very submissive, or the other way around. There's never a clear cut answer as to whether a dog is going to be one or the other until you meet it and see it interacting with you and other animals.
There are many signs of dog dominance and submission that you should be aware of when choosing a dog so that you know whether the pup or dog will fit into your family and training experience. You should be very alert and watchful of the signs so that you can correct any problems that may arise in the future.
Any dog breed can be dominant or submissive, and neither temperament type is going to sex-determined, meaning both males and females can be dominant or submissive. Below you'll find basic signs of both temperament types and a few precaution measures and training techniques that you may want to consider.
Signs of Dominant Dog
If your dog shows some of the below signs of dominance, you want to nip it in the bud before it gets worse. You'll probably find it easier to re-train a puppy or young dog who shows signs of dominance rather than an older dog, but that's no excuse to not correct the situation before it gets worse.
Remember that it's very important that you are alert for the signs of dominance because in most cases, it's just not going to pop up out of nowhere when the dog is, say, 4 years old. There will almost always be signs prior to any incidence and shows of dominance.
- Protectiveness of possessions (to include toys, food, and even people); snarling and snapping when the dog feels someone or another dog is too close to his things.
- Snarling or snapping when you try to do something he doesn't like (grooming, teething brushing, picking him up, etc.)
- Tries to stare your down
- Repeatedly ignores well-known commands
- Gets on the furniture when he knows he's not supposed to and refuses to get down
- Refuses to move out of the way when you ask
- Nudges or mouths you insisting to be petted or played with, trying to make you comply to his wants
- Resists handling by you, groomer, vet, etc.
- Chase other dogs or animals in play.
- Persisting to walk in front of you or go out of a door before you.
- Growls, bares teeth, or snaps under any circumstances
Being stubborn, hard-headed and willful, demanding, pushy, forceful, and greedy
Some of these signs may seem simple and like nothing to worry about, but if they persist and the dog starts to feel like he can control you in order to get what he wants, you're going to have some issues later on.
Dominance is unlikely to go away on its own. It' best that you seek assistance of a trainer or behaviorist so that you can correct any potential problems. If you recognize any repetition of dominance signs in your dog, you'll want to take precautions to ensure safety of people and other animals.
Dominance may not turn into aggression, but you want to be prepared for anything.
- Avoid situations that may bring out aggression.
- Avoid baby talk when your dog becomes dominant or aggressive (When you say in a happy tone "it's ok Fido, calm down baby," you're telling him it's ok. Dogs recognize tone before they do what you're saying. If you talk in a happy-go-lucky tone, he's going to think what he's doing is ok.)
- Closely supervise and/or restrict activities when children or other pets are around.
- Never leave the dog in a situation, unsupervised, that may result in an incident.
- Use a head halter and/or muzzle to help control the dog when outside. If you can keep your dog under control, and show him you can handle the situation, you can reduce his want to take charge.
- When inside, control where the dog can go by using baby gates, and crate the dog when you can't watch him.
Dominant does not always mean aggressive, and it does not mean that the dog will 100%, without a doubt hurt someone or something. But, you want to make sure that you do your best to prevent any potential mishaps.
Signs of Submissive Dog
You may think that it's better to have a submissive puppy or dog than a dominant one, and depending on your experience that may be the case. Just remember that submissive dogs bite just like dominant ones do. They can bite out of fear when forced in to a situation that makes them utterly uncomfortable. It's actually pretty common.
Submissive dogs can become fear biters, so you want to diagnose your dog as being submissive and try to help him build more confidence.
The more common signs of submissiveness include:
- Rolling over onto his back with the belly showing when another dog or person walks up to him.
- Urinating, especially when meeting new people or animals.
- Keep tail ducked or at a low sway,
- Keep the head down and ears flat.
- The dog may avert his eyes so as not to look at you or another animal.
- Lick other dogs or people to show he is passive and means no harm. They'll usually lick in the face.
- Lick their lips frequently.
- When playing, they will usually lower the front of their body, stretch out their paws, and raise their butt high, in a play bow.
Some dogs that have submissive tendencies may just be nudging you to get your attention or rolling over for a belly rub, but those dogs that use it as a means of self-protection are genuinely fearful and timid are a whole other situation.
Submissive dogs are generally very gentle, but you want to evoke confidence in your dog. You don't want your dog to be easily intimidated easily. You don't want your dog to use his submissive temperament as self-protection (although you don't want him to jump and attack for self-protection either).
You can build confidence by stop babying your dog. Don't encourage your dog to be submissive.
the dog rolls over, don't immediately rub the dog's belly. Walk away
until the dog calms down before petting him. By immediately rubbing his
belly, you're telling him to roll over and be submissive.
- Be calm and assertive but not frustrated and angry. Use a normal voice when giving commands; don't yell and bark orders.
- Praise your dog when he obeys.
- Don't baby talk him when he shows signs of submission because you're telling him it's ok.
- When he shows submissive behaviors, just ignore him, and when the dog is back to normal, or at least changes his behavior, get down and pet him.
- Try confidence building games such as tug of war, letting him win once in a while. Just be careful of playing too rough because it can be bad for the dog's teeth.
- Grooming and exercise can build confidence. Brush and handle the dog for a few minutes and day, and take him for at least one long walk a day. Walks will help the dog get used to other sounds, smells, and sights than what he experiences in your home and yard.
- Socialize the dog more with other people, animals, and
experiences. The more the dog sees, the less he will have to be scared
and submissive to. Generally, dogs are more submissive to new things,
so by socializing him, he's gaining experience. If the dog shows
submission to something, tell him in a normal voice, "it's alright" and
walk past it again. Don't baby talk the dog.
take time to build confidence and re-train how you act when your dog is
submissive, but over time you can help your dog. He will have a happier life, as will you.