What Does It Mean To ‘Establish Dominance’ With Your Dog?

establish dominanceSomething that you will hear a lot from your friends and other dog experts is this. You need to ‘establish dominance’. So what’s with that? Does that mean that you have to be mean to your dog? Is your dog still considered a ‘pack animal’? In today’s article we are going to discuss what dominance entails and how it might be the case that some of this information should be taken with a grain of salt. Let’s discuss establishing dominance with your dog!

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How do I show dominance over my dog?

Now that is a good question. Traditionally the thought that comes to mind when one talks about dominance is the idea of a pack. The leader of the pack, you, at the top, deciding everything the other dogs do. The reality is a little different. From a veterinary perspective, the dominant dog simply has access to food and mates FIRST. Whether or not they are playing tug of war with you or acting out doesn’t necessarily go into the ‘alpha’ factor. Your dog just might like playing. So in order to discuss how to assert dominance over a dog we need to really define what we are trying to do.

How to establish dominance over a dog: The Why of it

Usually when you feel that you need to establish dominance over a dog (generally at the coaxing of friends) then it means your dog is doing something that is driving you nuts. Maybe they are chewing your shoes or barking at everything. It can be frustrating. So does this mean that you have to be mean or forceful to the dog? Certainly not. There are ways to reinforce positive behavior and to deter negative behavior that are not only nice but can be lots of fun for you and your trusty companion. :

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How do I show dominance over a dog: Techniques

When you are looking for methods on how to show dominance over your dog in a kind fashion then these are a few techniques we would recommend:

  • Dealing with ‘challenges’ – If your doggy tries to run through the door at the same time as you, gently nudge them back and walk through first. Enforce this with treats so that your dog realizes that this behavior is desirable. If your puppy is not supposed to be on the couch, then always correct them by moving them to their doggy bed or a pot at your feet if this is what you want. Your consistency is very important here so gently correct them every time so the dog is well aware where they are supposed to be.
  • Teaching manners – If your dog is always ‘begging’ when you are at the table and you wish to discourage this, try placing their doggy bed close by and placing them in the bed. When they get up, say their name sternly and tell them to sit. At first reinforce this with treats so that they understand that behaving in this manner still results in food-sharing. Lessen the treats slowly until you are able to get your dog to wait until the meal is finished before getting their reward. It’s a slow process but it will stick.  
  • The family is dominant, not just you – If your doggy is jumping on a younger family member or trying to push them around in other ways, stand behind that member and teach the dog that your authority is behind them. Get your child or nice/nephew to give a command you’ve taught, like ‘sit!’ for instance, and practice until the dog obeys. Have the family member give doggy a treat if your dog is calm in the taking off these.
  • Correct properly – Correction needs to be done constantly and properly in the first stages of training. What this means is that you cannot correct the dog AFTER they have done something bad. Your dog doesn’t have the same kind of mental associations and doesn’t know what you are mad about. This means you have to ‘catch them in the act’. At this point you can issue a stern ‘No!’ or if they are in te wrong place, move them to where they need to be for this particular behavior.
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Be a gentle Alphahow to assert dominance over a dog

There are other corrective measures that may be employed which can help to reinforce your ‘alpha’ title. If you are wondering how to dominate your dog with kindness then we would suggest the following.

  • Crate training – If you have a dog crate you can put your dog in it for timeouts when he or she misbehaves. Leave them there for 10 or 15 minutes before taking them out and don’t yell before putting them there. Simply a stern ‘No.’ and putting them in the crate will communicate what you are trying to say.

                   ” Direct eye contact is a sign of ‘challenge’ with dogs. “

  • Skin under the ears – The alpha will often bite lightly under the ears on another dog and shake them to show dominance. Lightly pull this area of skin to shake them a little (gently, not rough) and praise them when they back down.
  • Stare them down – Direct eye contact is a sign of ‘challenge’ with dogs (so don’t do this with a mean dog or a strangers dog!). With your own dog, stare them in the eyes until they back down. Once they back down, give them a treat or a friendly pet and include a pleasant tone when you speak to them.


how to show dominance over a dog

In closing

In this article we have briefly addressed the subject of ‘how to show dominance over your dog’. While opinions vary, we’d like to stress that you CAN show dominance in a gentle manner and get good results. ‘Getting physical’ when asserting dominance can harm your dog, earn you their distrust, and possibly provoke violent behaviors in your dog when they are around others. Love your dog and they will love you in return, it’s as simple as that!

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