Is dominance in dogs just a few simple positions and postures… or is it something that goes beyond, something that is not visible to the human eye? For many years we have heard of training techniques that involve the owner acting like a dominant dog. This involves the person doing things like eating first, walking your dog next to you or behind you instead of pulling in front of you, not letting him sleep on high places in the house like the bed or sofa, etc.
Although these techniques can help build a good relationship with your dog, especially when used by novice owners, they don’t always work. From my experiences not only training dogs, but also observing my own dogs, I have seen inconsistencies in this theory. I found that in many cases, all these so-called dominances mean nothing, and more importantly, they don’t work all the time.
For example, my 4 year old Belgian Malinois is a fairly dominant female and for the last 3.5 years she has only been submissive to one older hog hunting female in my yard. I bring any other woman into my yard, no matter what dominant positions they take. No matter how big she is, she will want to dominate them and if she let her she would fly towards them and attack them without hesitation. The same is true if I keep these females in my garden for many years, there will always be a fight for dominance between her and the other female. This is regardless of what dominant behavior the introduced female will attempt.
About 6 months ago something interesting happened in my garden. This Malinois was subjected to an 18 month old female Bulldog that I bred in my garden. This Malinois has dominated the female Bulldog for her entire life. Now this female Bulldog strikes the same dominant pose that all the other females have tried. But… for some reason it worked for her and the female Malinois submitted…
Another case I can think of is when a friend of mine came to visit from Sydney. He had my dog training class and at the end he needed one of my new clients to fill out some forms. This husband and wife client had a 12 month old female German Shepherd that they had absolutely no control over. Upon completing the forms, the husband, a large man, handed over control of the dog to his wife, who is a much smaller person. I asked my friend who has had dogs for many years to help her if she had dog problems.
It took only a minute before this dog started to jump on the lady. My friend correctly instructed the lady to control the dog on the leash. He did it correctly but the dog kept jumping on her. Seeing this, my friend took control of the leash and checked on the dog. To her astonishment and hers, this crazy out of control woman dropped to the ground and looked at my friend intently. He had come forward with the exact same method that didn’t work for the lady…
While doing house calls for people with problem dogs. Too often people have commented on how calm and well behaved their dog is around me. I hear things like, “I can’t believe it, he usually jumps on anyone who walks through the door.” Or he’s not doing it now for some reason.” How can this be if all I have done is enter your house or yard?
I believe there is something dogs can see or feel that makes them submit to another animal or obey a human. And all these supposed dominant positions are secondary to this “VIBE” that someone or some dog emits. Why else would my female Malinois submit to a younger female that she has been dominating all her life and she would never submit to other females who would do the exact same thing? Why did the shepherdess submit to my friend and not her owner when he used the exact same technique as the owner? Why do people out of control dogs act differently when I enter the house?
Relating this “VIBE” to dog training, I think the “VIBE” can also be called “respect”. A dog won’t listen to you if he doesn’t respect you. Now to make it clear. I think not letting your dog sleep in your bed will create a degree of respect. And feeding your dog the right way will make your dog respect you. Having your dog walk beside you and not in front will also increase your dog’s respect for you. So all of these things will go into the respect bank account and affect the relationship you have with your dog. But what I also want to make clear is that if your dog has the utmost respect for you, or if you have the “VIBE”, you can let your dog drag you around on the leash, or feed him however you want, or let him sleep on the bed and will continue to obey you. Because as I said at the beginning, all these dominant positions/techniques are only secondary to the “VIBE” you give off.