How to Break Dominance in a Dog

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Domestic pets, in a similar manner to wolves, often try to establish dominance over other members of their household, including humans and other animals. Dogs may be dominant if they try to keep others away from their toys or food, growl or show their teeth, do not follow commands even though they are trained, insistently try to get their owner to pay attention to them and/or act in other dominant ways. It is possible to reduce or eliminate dominance in your dog if you behave in certain ways towards your pet.

Training a Dominant Dog

Step 1

Use obedience training techniques to teach your dog or puppy manners. Teach your dog basic commands, such as staying, coming when called and sitting. Then move on to more advanced commands, such as rolling over. According to an article by Mary W. Alward on, training your dog establishes that you and other members of your household are the leaders, while your dog is the subordinate in the group.

Step 2

Talk to an animal behavior specialist, a type of counselor that deals with behavioral problems in pets, if your dog is just starting to display dominant behavior. An animal behavior specialist may be able to give you an idea of why your dog is acting in a dominant manner and give suggestions on how to stop your pet’s aggressive behavior.

Step 3

Take your dog to a veterinarian to get examined if she is frequently acting in a dominate manner around you and others. She could have a neurological condition or another health problem, such as rabies, epilepsy or dental disease, which causes her to display aggressive and/or dominant behavior.

Step 4

Try to keep your dog out of places and situations that cause him to try to display his dominance, such as public places with children and/or other dogs. Do not hug your dog, groom him, touch his face or other parts of his body, bother him when he is sleeping or act in other ways that trigger his aggressiveness. If you take your dog outside of your home, put a muzzle or harness on him so that you have control over him.

Step 5

If your dog starts to act aggressively, speak to him in a positive voice to get him to calm down. When he tries to be dominant with you, walk away or do not respond to his behavior, and do not reward him for his dominance, according to the Hilltop Animal Hospital.


  • Do not hit your dog when you are trying to train him to be less dominant because you may cause the dog to become more dominant and/or fearful, according to Alward.

  • When you are teaching your dog a command, such as to sit, do not try to force him to follow the command. Instead try to guide him with verbal and nonverbal cues, according to an article by Kathy Diamond Davis for


  • While many dogs respond to positive reinforcement methods, such as giving your dog a treat or an affectionate gesture when he listens to your command, some dogs are more dominant than others. You may need to use a firm voice with an overly dominant dog to get him to respond to your commands.

  • Warning signs that your dog is trying to display her dominance, include growling, snarling, showing her teeth, tensing her body and/or biting.

Items You Will Need

  • Obedience training
  • Veterinarian and/or animal behavior specialist
  • Pet owner
  • Dominant dog