Dominant or Submissive?

Most pet owners know without question that they (and, to a lesser extent, their human family members) have to be Pack Leaders when interacting with their pooch. He should be submissive even to younger children so aggression and other problem behaviors don’t arise.

But different dogs have varying inclinations toward dominance or submission, so how much you’ll need to work to establish this role won’t be the same with every dog.

Understanding your dog’s natural inclination can help prepare you, but how do you discover whether they’re more likely to be dominant or submissive? One surefire way is to socialize them with other dogs and pay careful attention to their behavior with the rest of the pack.

Here are several things to watch out for:

Dominant dogs

  • Mounting other dogs (male or female, it doesn’t matter)
  • Stealing or guarding toys and food
  • Getting attention from all the other dogs — even when they don’t want it
  • Pushing their way to the front whenever walking with other dogs
  • Making other dogs wait for them
  • Almost never licking other dogs on the mouth
  • Always winning when the dogs play tug-of-war
  • Starting staring contests — and winning all of them

Submissive dogs

  • Sometimes showing submissive urination when greeting other dogs
  • Turning away when other dogs stare
  • Allowing other dogs to win at tug-of-war
  • Providing attention and affection to other dogs, especially by licking their mouths
  • Backing off when other dogs want to take food or toys
  • Rolling on their backs to display their belly

A dog doesn’t need to follow all of these behaviors in order for you to consider her “dominant” or “submissive.” Most dogs won’t because they fall somewhere in the middle of the dominant-submissive spectrum, and the degree of dominance that your dog displays will likely change depending on the group of dogs that they are with.

However, by watching how they socialize over time and with different groups, you can get a pretty good sense of their natural inclination.

Generally speaking, dogs who tend to be more submissive are easier to keep at the bottom of your family pack structure and will fall in line with less work on everyone’s part. Those who are naturally inclined to lead and dominate other dogs may require more effort and structure to keep them happy and balanced in a position subordinate to your human pack.

Understanding how your dog fits into the pack can also help guide you towards safer socialization with other dogs.

Is your dog dominant or submissive? Let us know in the comments below!


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