Are you puzzled about why one of your dogs seems to tower over the other? I recently had a chat with a friend who faced a similar predicament after adopting a second pooch. He sought advice on dealing with the peculiar dominant behavior displayed by the new addition. Apparently, the new dog had a habit of standing over the older dog when it was at rest. Here’s what I shared with my friend to shed light on this potentially problematic behavior.
What’s the significance of dogs standing over their canine companions?
Dogs communicate in ways that might surprise many of us. While they can’t speak, they convey messages through barks, whines, and growls. However, their primary mode of communication is through body language, which becomes more apparent once you’re familiar with their ways.
When a dog stands over another dog that is lying down, it usually indicates an assertion of dominance. The standing dog aims to establish itself as the alpha pack leader, cementing the other dog’s position within their pack. This behavior is their way of setting the hierarchy.
Sometimes, the standing dog might go further and place a paw or chin on the other dog’s shoulder. To appear more imposing, they might even attempt to elevate themselves on their tiptoes.
Should you be concerned about this behavior?
Indeed, a dog standing over another can be seen as a form of aggression. If it progresses to more problematic behaviors, it might necessitate intervention on your part.
However, it’s crucial to consider that this behavior might also indicate acceptance and the establishment of roles within the pack. In the wild, only one dog can assume the alpha leadership position, and by standing over the other, they are demonstrating their protective role and their commitment to the pack’s well-being.
In some cases, the alpha role might be taken on by a larger male dog, while a smaller female dog assumes the submissive role. It’s usually a smooth process with no future complications.
Another reason for this behavior could be that one dog is attempting to take control of a specific situation. This is commonly observed when older dogs try to maintain order with rowdy puppies. Alternatively, it might occur when puppies want to assert themselves and feel in control of the situation.
When should you be concerned about this behavior?
If you notice signs of aggression and dominance between the dogs, it might be necessary for you to step in. As long as one dog eventually acquiesces and accepts the dominant and submissive roles, the problem should naturally resolve without causing too much worry.
However, if both dogs appear equally dominant and conflict between them escalates to physical aggression, intervention becomes necessary. It’s best to address the issue before it worsens.
How can you discourage your dog from standing over the other?
Some pet owners might attempt to rectify the situation by favoring the submissive dog, offering them extra treats, toys, or attention. However, this approach is not recommended as it can increase the chances of provoking the aggressive dog to challenge the submissive one.
On the other hand, punishing the alpha dog for their standing behavior should also be avoided. This could potentially lead the submissive dog to mimic the aggression, and it may even heighten the anxiety levels between the two dogs whenever you are near.
If aggression becomes a problem, adopting a predictable routine for both dogs can help. By taking control of when they receive treats, eat, and go for walks, you can identify triggers that provoke aggression and address them accordingly.
You might also notice the dominant dog attempting to snatch the other dog’s food. For instance, when you feed them, one dog might try to eat from the other’s bowl. To tackle this issue, start by placing the bowls at a significant distance apart, allowing the dogs to see each other but focusing on their own food. Gradually, bring the bowls closer until they can comfortably eat side-by-side without any conflicts.
Recognizing dominance directed towards you
It’s crucial to stay alert if your dog starts displaying signs of dominance towards you. If they stand over you while you’re lying down, assuming the classic T-pose, or if they place their paws on your shoulders while standing on their hind legs, they are trying to establish dominance over you as well. This behavior must be addressed promptly.
When dogs perceive you as their subordinate, they might snap, growl when you touch their toys, or disobey known commands. These are problematic behaviors that can escalate to aggression or biting, which is especially concerning if there are children in the home. Under no circumstances should a dog with aggressive tendencies be left alone with children.
Here’s what you should do if you find yourself in this situation: instead of inflicting physical punishment, calmly retreat from the area and use a happy, cheerful voice to alleviate the dog’s tension. Following that, seek immediate assistance from an animal behavior specialist who can work closely with your dog to overcome its aggressive tendencies and help them return to their regular routine. The specialist may want to observe the dog’s behavior in your home to gain insight into the most effective training methods.
Tips to mitigate aggressive behavior in dominant dogs
Preventing aggressive behavior from the outset is ideal. Here are a few measures you can take:
Spay or neuter your pet as soon as they are old enough. Doing so reduces aggression levels, thanks to decreased hormonal activity. If you opt for this procedure when the dog is older, it might take a bit longer for aggression to subside, if it does at all. If the aggression persists, additional measures will be needed.
Enroll your dog in obedience classes early on so they can learn basic commands. Positive reinforcement during training sessions helps the dog develop an inclination to listen and follow instructions.
As difficult as it might be, avoid allowing your dog onto furniture such as chairs, couches, and beds. By reinforcing this behavior early, you prevent the dog from perceiving themselves as your equal or even above you.
Ignore your dog’s begging behavior when they are looking for food. They should not receive food directly from the table, as this only reinforces their sense of entitlement. While it’s okay to offer them small bites of appropriate foods separately prepared for them, it should never be directly from the table or your plate.
With patience and effective training, you may be able to discourage your dog from standing over the other dog. However, keep in mind that if there is no aggression or food stealing involved, both dogs might naturally settle into their social hierarchy. As long as there are no conflicts, it’s best to let them establish their roles.
Remember, any concerns about aggression or dominant behavior should be addressed promptly to ensure the safety and well-being of all involved.