Help, My Dog Thinks He’s the Boss! Dominance Behavior in Dogs

A dog in a tie presses on a laptop.

Dogs may be (wo)man’s best friend, but sometimes the friendship needs a little work. Just like any relationship, things aren’t always naturally perfect from the beginning. Dominance behavior in dogs is definitely one of those things that can affect your interaction with your furry friend, but Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates can help you to keep it from affecting your relationship.

Dominance Behavior in Dogs

In the animal world, the status of two individuals is often sorted out through force, aggression, and submission. The resulting dominance hierarchy gives priority to things like food, mates, and other resources.

When our dogs act aggressively or are otherwise assertive, we assume that they are trying to be dominant. In reality, dominance behavior in dogs is not as common as we might think. 

Because our companion canines have evolved with us over the last 10,000 years or more, they actually have very different motivations than their wof ancestors. Examples of perceived dominance behavior in dogs can include:

  • Aggression towards humans
  • Aggression towards other dogs/pets
  • Guarding objects
  • Jumping up
  • Urine marking
  • Refusing to do (or not do) something
  • Mounting other animals or humans
  • Not listening to commands
  • Not allowing handling (toe nail trims, etc.)

While on the surface these may seem like dominance behaviors, many times there are other reasons for them. 

There is a reason old school, “exert your dominance” type training doesn’t always work (and may be dangerous). Dogs are not as interested in being dominant as we like to think. 

Relationship Counseling

Naughty habits in dogs may put strain on your relationship, but there are typically reasons behind bad behavior. While some dogs are naturally more aggressive, there are other reasons that these behaviors occur that have nothing to do with pack ranking.

More common causes for dominance-type behavior in dogs include;

  • Fear 
  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • Medical issues

If your pet is exhibiting dominant behaviors, especially if they are new, it is usually time to contact us to schedule a visit. We will want to examine your pet to be sure that nothing is wrong and discuss the situation thoroughly so that one of our vets can help to determine what the root cause might be. 

In rare situations where dominance aggression is truly occurring, it is important to take steps to keep everyone safe. Work with a veterinarian who specializes in behavior to establish a plan to help your dog re-learn their place in your home. 

Most pet behavior problems, including dominance behaviors in dogs, are fixable. Figuring out what the actual source of the issue is, though, is paramount. Just like most relationships, though, with a little work often we can help you work through things, and we are always happy to help. Call today to schedule an appointment.