Dominance in dogs


Dominance in Dogs: Unraveling the Myth and Embracing a Better Approach

Dominance in dogs has been a topic of much debate and controversy in the world of canine behavior. Many people have heard of the concept of dominant dogs trying to dominate their owners, which can lead to unwanted behaviors and behavior problems. In this blog, we will delve deeper into the concept of dominance in dogs, debunk the myths associated with it, and embrace a more enlightened approach to understanding dog behavior and training.

The Myth of Dominance:

The idea of dominance in dogs is based on the misinterpretation of wolf observations from the 1940s. Wolves were seen as hierarchical beings with an alpha wolf leading a pack. However, in the 1970s, these observations were called into question when it was discovered that the perceived aggression and dominance among wolves in captivity were largely due to the stress of captivity and the forced grouping of unrelated wolves in a confined space.

Dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years and have evolved far from their wild ancestors, the wolves. Applying wolf observations to our beloved pets, dogs, is unjustified since dogs and wolves have significantly different social structures.

The Relationship between Dogs and Humans:

Dogs are social animals and form strong attachments to their human family members. The relationship between a dog and its owner is based on trust, mutual respect, and love. The idea of the dog as a dominant alpha that needs to dominate the owner to command respect is outdated and harmful.

The myth of dominance has led some people to approach dogs in a harsh and authoritarian manner, which can result in fear, stress, and unwanted behavior in the dog. It is essential to develop a better understanding of how dogs learn and respond to training.

An Enlightened Approach to Dog Behavior and Training:

Instead of focusing on dominance, we can better look at the reasons behind unwanted behavior in dogs and how we can effectively change this behavior in a positive way.

1. Positive Reinforcement: Rather than using punishment to correct unwanted behavior, we can apply positive reinforcement. This means rewarding desired behavior with praise, treats, and attention. In this way, the dog will learn that desired behavior yields rewards, increasing the likelihood of repeating this behavior.

2. Training and Socialization: A well-trained and well-socialized dog will adapt better to various situations and be less prone to anxious or aggressive behavior. Training should be done in a patient, consistent, and reward-based manner.

3. Understanding Canine Body Language: Dogs primarily communicate through body language. By understanding your dog's signals, you can better interpret their emotions and needs. This helps prevent potential conflicts and build a strong bond with your dog.

4. Exercise and Mental Stimulation: Sufficient physical exercise and mental stimulation are crucial for a dog's mental well-being. An exhausted dog will be less likely to display unwanted behaviors.


The concept of dominance in dogs is a myth that has clouded our understanding of dog behavior and training. Instead of focusing on dominating our dogs, we should strive for a relationship based on trust, respect, and positive reinforcement. Embracing an enlightened approach to dog behavior and training will help our furry companions thrive and flourish in our human families.


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2. Dunbar, I. (2003). Dog Behavior: Evolution and Cognition. John Wiley & Sons.

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4. Overall, K. L. (2007). Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals. Mosby.

5. Yin, S. (2009). Dominance vs. Unruly Behaviors. Compendium: Continuing Education for Veterinarians, 31(2), 94-100.

6. Horowitz, A. (2009). Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. Simon & Schuster.