Dominance is not COOL: Cool off before you get hurt. : Happy Tails Speaks DOG
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Dominance is not COOL: Cool off before you get hurt.

by Michelle St Germain on 01/20/13

In the last few months I have been told that people are still dominating their dogs and puppies.  You have to dominate the dominant dog, it is the only way to make the dog respect you.  This is an outdated way of thinking.  It really needs to stop before more people get themselves bitten.  What a horrible example we are setting for the children that are watching you roll, pin down, him, touch as Cesar Millan does, and the number of other abusive things people are doing to their dogs.  The outcome is usually simple, the dog growls, barks, snaps, nips, bites or attacks their attacker at some point.  If that doesn't happen then the dog just lives in fear of their so called family.

Why can we not stop confronting our dogs using aggressive measures?  Why can't we see that sometimes they are going to act like dogs and not fault them for it.  We have brought them into a human world and then we expect they act human.  We do not need to intimidate and use aggressive measures to treat problems.  We have to start training more with our brains then with our strength.  How on earth do we expect a child to deal with a dog who is growling at them?  That is an accident waiting to happen, a very dangerous accident!  Guess who pays for the accident that is about to happen.  Well the child of course, with a fear of dogs and the dog most likely with its life. 

There are so many new safer ways to deal with guarding and aggression issues.  These solutions are for the peoples safety and also the dogs comfort level.  When a dog feels threatened it has a few choices in its animal mind.  We have all heard of FLIGHT or FIGHT response.  Animals do not make a pro and cons list and then make the decision from that.  They act quickly and they make the choice that makes sense to a dog, not a human.  If the dog has never had the opportunity to learn a different response.  How can be blame our dogs for acting like dogs?

I am a parent as well as a dog owner and lover.  I can see how easy it is to over react to an aggression problem, especially if our child is involved.  Attacking the family dog is not the answer that's for sure.  Making sure the dog and child are not left alone is the answer until a solution can be worked on.

So what are the solutions??  PREVENTION, MANAGEMENT & PRACTICE are some of the solutions,  it is worth checking them out.  It is also worth doing some prevention training before the problems start.  As soon as you get a puppy or dog, assume at some point it will guard something from you or growl and bark at another dog or person.  If it never does great, but if at some point the aggresssion monster rears its ugly vicious head, then you will be glad you had practiced this beforehand.

Most people feel the need to dominate their dogs when they guard something from them or growl or bark at another dog or person.  Needless to say all of these situations can result in a bite.  Caution should be taken when dealing with these issues.  That being said, you also have to look at the whole situation before going postal on your dog and throw him to the ground on his back.  What happened before your dog growled?  Did your dog have something in his possession?  Did your dog have something in his possession and there was another dog around when you attempted to go near your dog?  Is your dog properly socialized to people of all ages? Is your dog comfortable being touched everywhere?  Have you ever practiced taking things away from your dog before?  What cues did your dog give before the actual outburst?  Does your dog normally socialize with other dogs well?

Dogs always tell a complete story before they actually growl or bite.  They also give plenty of warning beforehand?  These things don't just one day happen.  We usually miss all of the preface to the actual conclusion.

Humans dominating a dog will almost always end badly.  Please consider doing things in a more calmer way before acting aggressively.  We are bigger and in most cases stronger than a dog but they do possess a large mouth of teeth that can seriously injure a person and they can inflict these wounds very quickly.  If they don't decide to bite you they may choose to bite someone else who challenges them in some way.  It may be a 3 year old child that goes to hug your dog that gets the result of the many times you dominated your dog.


  • consider trading the object of value with something else your dog may want from you.  Yes, you can and should use a favorite treat to make it more likely that the dog gives up what he has for what you have to offer him.  If she chooses what you have over what she is guarding, the reaction will no occur and the game of trade become fun not "Survival of the Fittest"
  • prevent dog fights by separating dogs when bones are food are given--if there is a history of guarding.
  • once your dog shows you she is uncomfortable in a situation no matter what the trigger is, use precautions to not put her in those situations until you get help with the problem.  If it happens once it will always happen again. The second time will be worse than the initial time.
  • socialize your dog to other dogs and all humans.
  • teach & maintain bite inhibition with your dog and puppies.
  • exercise your dog regularly. 
  • Always feed your dog in a busy area of the house, to desensitize them to people moving around their food area.
  • consider using a muzzle if you think your dog will act aggressively towards any human or dog.
  • prevention is often the best way to avoid the dog from practicing the behavior.
  • if your dog takes something and hides, always know that the guarding behaviors will be intensified and you are more likely to get bitten.
  • never try to touch or pet a dog who is growling at another dog or person, redirected aggression is often the result and you may bet bitten.  This also goes for the Cesar Millan "touch" used to "snap him out of it".
  • do not stereotype breeds.  You would be surprised at the number of bites that come from so called family dogs.
  • read a dog's  body language before approaching or handling him/her.
  • consult a trainer, veterinarian or behaviorist if you feel the problem is escalating in frequency and or intensity.


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