Parenting 101—Pick and choose your battles. Do not engage in a power struggle over everything or a parent will lose their sanity. Training a four legged “fur-child” is a bit different, yes, but should the philosophy remain the same? Does a dog owner have the luxury of picking and choosing their battles? Not if they live with a dominant personality.
When an owner lives with a dominant character, it is important to remain firm and steady with boundaries at all times. This strong willed dog will challenge the pack leader if there is any indication of weakness. It begins small. So small, in fact, most owners don’t notice the subtle pushing of the boundaries. A dog who charges past the owner to get to a particular area first, might be an annoyance to an owner. In a dominant dogs mind, however, it is a challenge he has won toward pack leadership.
A dominant dog may attempt to restrict an owner’s movement within the home, barking at the stairs, blocking the kitchen doorway; or may lay in an owner’s path, forcing a person to step over them. These are slightly more obvious attempts at pushing the boundaries, testing the leaders resolve. An owner should never step over a dog. That is signaling to the dog that he is in charge and too important to move. An owner should always make the dog move out of their way.
In addition to charging through doorways and restricting access to certain areas of the home, a dominant dog will attempt to climb to a higher area to show their dominance. This strategy is usually reserved for couches and beds, places humans enjoy spending time. The dog gets comfortable and often will refuse to move when asked, resulting in baring of teeth, growling snapping or even biting.
It is human nature to allow rewards for good behavior. Six months of gold star performances, the dominant dog has displayed incredible submissive traits; an owner may allow the dog back up on the couch or snuggle in bed for a movie. This seemingly innocent reward could possibly undo all the hard work that has been put into establishing pack leadership. Instead of easing up on the rules, which will send the wrong message, heap praise where praise is due. Don’t hesitate to treat the dog when he’s caught doing something good.
While a dog owner shouldn’t indulge in picking and choosing their battles, they can indulge in giving credit where credit is due. Most dogs respond heartily to love, praise and positivity. Be a loving, firm pack leader the dog will want to respect instead of challenge.