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The Dog Dominance Myth
Dominance in dogs is just a few simple positions and postures… or something deeper, invisible to the human eye? For years we have been hearing about training techniques where the owner acts like a dominant dog. This means that the person does things like eating first, walking the dog next to or behind you instead of in front of you, not letting your dog sleep in a high position in the house, such as on the bed or sofa etc.
While these techniques can help you bond with your dog, especially when used by novice owners, they don’t always work. I have seen inconsistencies in this theory based on my experience not only training dogs, but also observing my own dogs. I have found that in many cases these so-called dominant positions mean nothing, and more importantly, they don’t always work.
For example, my 4-year-old Belgian Malinois is a fairly dominant female, and for the past 3.5 years has only been submissive to an older female hog hunter in my yard. Any other female I bring into my court, regardless of their dominant position. No matter how big they are, he wants to dominate them and if I let him, he would fly into them and attack them without hesitation. The same applies if I keep these females in my yard for many years, there will always be a battle for dominance between her and the other female. This is regardless of what kind of dominant behavior the presented female is attempting.
About 6 months ago, an interesting thing happened in my yard. This Malinois was posing as an 18 month old female bulldog that I raised in my yard. This Malinois has dominated the female bulldog all his life. Now this female bulldog is doing the same dominant pose as all the other females. But… for some reason it worked for him and the female Malinois submitted…
Another example that comes to mind is when a friend of mine visited Sydney. I had my dog training class and ended up needing one of my new clients to fill out some forms. This client, a husband and wife, had a 12 month old female German Shepherd over whom they had absolutely no control. While filling out the forms, the husband, a large guy, handed over control of the dog to the much smaller man’s wife. I asked my friend who has owned a dog for years to help him if he has a problem with the dog.
Barely a minute passed before this dog jumped on the lady. My friend correctly instructed the lady to check the dog with the staff. He did it right, but the dog still jumped on him. Seeing this, my friend took control of the leash and controlled the dog. To his utter shock, this crazy out of control woman dropped to the ground and looked up at my friend intently. He submitted it using the exact same method that didn’t work for the lady…
While making house calls for people with problem dogs. Too often people have commented on how calm and well-behaved their dog is around me. I hear things like, “I can’t believe it, he usually jumps at whoever walks in the door.” Or he’s not doing it now for some reason.” How can that be when all I did was walk into their house or yard?
I believe that there is something that dogs see or feel that makes them submit to another animal or obey a human. And all these so-called dominant positions are secondary to the “VIBE” that someone or some dog gives off. Why else would my female Malinois submit to a younger female who has held a dominant position all her life and not submit to other females who would do the exact same thing? Why did the female shepherd submit to my friend and not her master when she used the exact same technique as the master? Why do uncontrolled dogs act differently when I enter the house?
If we trace this “VIBE” back to dog training, I guess “VIBE” can also be called “respect”. A dog won’t listen to you if it doesn’t respect you. Now to be clear. I think not letting your dog sleep in your bed commands a certain level of respect. And if you feed your dog right, your dog will respect you. Having your dog walk next to you and not in front of you will also increase his respect for you. So these things go into your respect bank account and affect your relationship with your dog. But I also want to make it clear that if your dog has the utmost respect for you or has the “VIBE” then you can let your dog pull on the leash or feed it as it pleases or you can let it. sleep on the bed and he will still obey you. Because as I said at the beginning, all these dominant positions/techniques are secondary to the “VIBE” you give off.
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