The Dominant Dogs

Canine society is like a cast system : undemocratic, unequal and unfair for many of its participants. The pack is dominated by one or two individuals, which with a pet dog in the house must be a human. If a dog is allowed to dominate people, he can literally bite the hand that feeds him.

The rules of dominance in dogs are quite clearly defined, so it should be easy to turn the tables and establish authority over a pushy dog as follows:

Keep a Height Advantage

Never allow the dog on chairs, laps or beds as this brings him up to your level and height, reinforcing social rank. Ideally, exclude from bedrooms and even upstairs.

Don’t be Pushed Around

If the dog initiates any activity, even friendship, ignore him. Later, YOU command “come”, “sit”, then stroke the dog, when it suits you. Become cool, aloof and regal – make the dog respect you.

Enforce Every Command

You are the boss, you make the rules and must make sure they are obeyed. Otherwise, don’t give commands, but remain silent.

Handle the Dog

Especially around the head, shoulders and paws.

Games are Serious

Don’t let the dog win or even play tug-of-war, or rough and tumble on top of you. Controlled games such as “sit” (throw) “fetch” are better. Chase games are fine so long as you are the one doing the chasing, and that you are not chasing the dog because it has your favourite slippers.


The basic “sit-stay-come-sit” (reward) sequence is easily trained with a head collar and extending the lead. If not, join a training class but you must do the homework.

Walk Ahead

Pulling dogs are in control : make dominant dogs follow, and enforce the “heel” command. If you have difficulty training “heel”, use a head collar rather than a choke chain.


Substitute indulgent “human-type” food by basic rations of a complete dry dog food. No more table scraps, nor reward begging. Dominant dogs eat first, so ensure the family eats before the dog.


Males are more likely to dominate than bitches, and castration reliably reduces dominance. Progestagens (pills or an injection from the vet) can also be helpful in the short term.

Complementary Remedies

Bach Flower Remedies – Vine  Homoeopathic – Nux Vomica, Hyoscyamus

Be Careful

Don’t seek unnecessary confrontation, and if grooming, nail clipping or similar activities are unavoidable, first muzzle the dog. Behaviouralists generally give no specific advice about a potentially aggressive dog without seeing it in its own environment. If in doubt, don’t put yourself in a position of danger – consult an expert about your dog’s particular problem.

Problem Avoidance

  • Choose a less dominant breed.
  • Bitches are less dominant than males.
  • Establish clear rules of management from the earliest puppy days.

Dominant dogs can be enjoyable characters, memorable for their spirit, so long as YOU remain in control.