Warning: the contents of this blog post are completely honest and based on my professional experience in professional canine training! 🙂 I also hope it gives you a good chuckle.
Confessions by a dog trainer… It drives me absolutely insane when someone tells me their dog is dominant. Here’s what goes through my mind every time someone says this to me about their dog:
Do you even know what your’e saying to me? I mean, really. Do you even know what you’re actually saying about your dog? Dominance is defined as power and influence over others. Submission on the other hand, is defined as the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person/animal. Are you telling me that your dog has a supreme power and influence over you? Because the last time I checked we are the species with opposable thumbs, meaning… anything your dog wants, needs or desires, he depends on us to get it or make it happen. Yesterday morning when I woke up I’m pretty sure my dog depended on me to let him out, feed him, give him attention, praise him, love him and give him his favorite plush toy. If your dog is dominant, does that mean you are saying you are submissive to his all so powerful influence? You feel like, everyday you yield to his imposing superiority and authority? That must be exhausting! I mean, like…. you must be completely miserable being powerless to the four legged animal that you share your home with. Because after all, he’s so very dominant.
I know what you’re thinking. How could all of that possibly go through your mind every time you hear someone call their dog dominant, Dee? Well, trust me. All of that goes through in under one second, and then some 😉
Yet, what prospective clients, friends, and other non-professional dog behavior people are REALLY trying to communicate to me is likely one of the following:
I am really frustrated because my dog is stubborn, assertive, crazy, driving me insane, aggressive, hyper, ill-trained… and the list goes on.
But again, what do pet owners REALLY mean by all those things? Does it even matter what they really mean? Nope. Not really. I’ll let you in on a secret (shhhh, don’t tell too many people ok?!)… your dog is…. ready?
Your dog is being…
“OMG what! This is explains SO MUCH about my dog!”
Yes, I know. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you all along. Your dog is just being a dog. He’s an animal. We can spend all day labeling, or regurgitating catchy phrases we heard on a popular dog training TV show 10+ years ago (yes, it’s already been THAT long) — but the reality remains that your dog is just acting like dogs act. They like to skip and scamper and jump around. They like to eat things that are edible. They like to put things in their mouth. They like to keep declines bones to themselves. They enjoy barking, running, digging, and other such shenanigans. This is only a problem because he is living in your human house and human houses have no place for typical silly dog behavior. Stop and think about that for a second. Because I’m being honest. We train our dogs to make our lives with our canine companions enjoyable. Yet, I want you to stop and think about how you have a duty on the other side of that statement. You are your dog’s caretaker and are responsible for making his life, as a canine, enjoyable with you! That’s where my skills as a canine behavior professional come in.
Me and my training staff don’t just train dogs to fit the human ideal of how a family dog should act, but we do our fair share of human training to make sure that you know how to be the best home possible for the dog you have. This may mean you have to change your lifestyle a little bit, but that’s only fair seeing as how much you’re asking your dog to change his instinctual behaviors and preferences in order to make your life easier.
Now. Take a deep breath. Feel relieved that your dog isn’t dominant. You can feel even more relieved that we’re here to help you if your dog is acting to dog-ish for your lifestyle. We’d be happy to teach you how you can create a well mannered family dog who will willingly follow your rules and guidance. Like I said, the secret is all in our opposable thumbs…
p.s. Keep in mind that dogs DO have a dominant/submissive relationship with other dogs. Dominance hierarchies can only exist within same-species relationships. And, in wolves specifically, these hierarchies exist purely as they relate to age. Look it up if you don’t believe me! Reading a scholarly article never hurt anyone. Keep in mind that your dog is not a wolf, however. That is a whole other topic (that also exhausts me!).