Dominance is not necessarily a bad thing, provided you don’t allow your dog to dominate you. Two dominant dogs can live together in the same house, much the same way two dominant dogs would live together in a pack. One dog will eventually establish seniority over the other. The key to a harmonious home is in understanding which dog is boss and respecting his position among the pair, while always maintaining your role as pack leader.
The Battle for Dominance
As pack animals, dogs rely on a structured hierarchy. They only feel truly comfortable when they understand their place in the pack, even if that place is not at the top. In order to establish dominance, your two dogs will perform a number of ritualized behaviors including posturing, physically dominating by climbing and fixing eye contact in order to figure it all out. There will be squabbles and raised hackles, but once the boss has established his seniority, things should calm down.
During the struggle for dominance, your dogs may engage in physical tussles, one dog may steal the other’s toys and may attempt to steal his food. This is all part of the ritual and, while difficult to observe, you should leave your dogs to it. Only intervene if squabbles become too rough or if one dog is at risk of injury. You’ll notice after a while that one dog is much more willing to submit, either by showing his belly or by ceding possession of toys.
Preventions and Solutions
If bringing home a new dog into a home with a resident dog, make the first three or four introductions in neutral territory. This enables the dogs to establish dominance away from the distraction of territorial protection. When both dogs are home, feed them at separate ends of the room, ensure there are enough toys for both dogs to play with and monitor them so you can intervene if required during the battle for dominance.
As the ultimate pack leader, your job is twofold; you need to maintain your place as the boss and reinforce the dominant dog’s position as superior to his four-legged friend. As bringer of food and giver of walks, both dogs will naturally look to you as the leader. You can further reinforce this position by consistently upholding rules with fair correction and issuing standard obedience training -- for example, by using the leash to restrict pulling. In order to help the two dominant dogs maintain their hierarchy, always greet the dominant dog first, and always leash and feed him first. By trying to interfere or act as “peace keeper” you disrupt the natural process of establishing dominance.
- Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images