Is Your Dog In Charge?


If your dog grabs your slice of pizza and runs under the bed, and you reach under there and try to grab it and he growls at you, that is your dog establishing priority access to a resource: pizza. This is dominance. [If your dog does grab something he shouldn’t and growls at you when you try to take it back, your dog definitely needs training. Trade for a treat if you have to, to avoid being bitten, but get qualified, professional help and teach your dog to bring you items instead of hoarding them.]

Not dominance? If you always give your dog attention when he jumps on you—even if it’s yelling at him—you’re paying him for jumping on you, so he will always do it until you finally stop rewarding him.

In either case, it may very well be that your dog is in charge of your relationship, but instead of worrying about dominance, a better question is, who is training whom? Where have you set the bar for training? If you ask your dog to sit and he lies down, do you give him a treat anyway? If you call him to come to you and he looks you straight in the eye before walking in the opposite direction, do you chase him? If you wish he would stop barking while you fix his dinner, but feed him to shut him up, who is training whom? 

Dogs are not diabolical, but they are opportunists. If your dog barks at you and you give him things, you’re teaching him that barking works. If you’re watching TV and he keeps dropping the ball in your lap until you finally throw it, you’re teaching him that pestering you works. 

Make sure you are only rewarding behavior you like. Set rules and stick to them. You can be a leader without being a jerk. If your dog has behaviours you don’t like, get professional help, avoiding trainers who prattle on about dominance and alpha-ness. Go ahead, spoil your dog. Just don’t spoil him so rotten that he exhibits dominant dog behavior issues and makes all the rules!


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