What is Dominant Behavior in a Dog?

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Dogs have a pack instinct to see who is the most powerful individual to serve as pack leader. Dogs who act dominant toward other pets or toward family members are trying to be that leader. Curbing dominant behavior takes time and consistency, but helps keep peace around the home.

Signs of Dominance Toward You

Dominant dogs try to boss their owners. Signs to look for in your dog include trying to block your way as you walk, rushing out the door in front of you and standing over or putting their head over you when you're sitting. If your pooch won't listen to you, hides or guards items from you, and acts aggressive, she's showing her dominance.

Signs of Dominance Toward Dogs

It's natural for dogs to want to dominate one another -- someone's got to be the pack leader. If your dog mounts, tries to stand over or acts aggressive toward another dog, she's trying to assert dominance. If your dog displays these signs, be cautious around other pets. Play fighting at the dog park can escalate to a real dog fight if two alpha dogs meet.


If your dog tends toward dominance, certain behaviors can accidentally encourage her alpha status. For example, if you play games such as tug-of-war and you let your dog win, you're reinforcing her belief that she's in charge. Avoid roughhousing and tumbling with your dog, even if she's a teensy puppy or a lapdog breed. You don't want to encourage pet aggression.

What to Do

To curb dominant behavior in your dog, encourage a power shift. When your pooch sees you as the alpha, she will take commands from you. Encourage this by making your pup work for food and treats. Giving a simple "sit" command before you feed, walk or pet her helps her see you as alpha. Likewise, establishing rules, like not allowing dogs on the furniture, helps your pet understand her place in the home.


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