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Are some dogs more dominant than others?

Discussion in 'Dog Behaviour and Training' started by Josie, Oct 31, 2018.

  1. Josie

    Josie Administrator Administrator Registered

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    Today I tried to introduce a collie mix called Dixie and a golden retriever called Bella. Both girls have been spayed but both are very vocal.

    Dixie is a very typical collie and can be quite snappy round the face of other dogs. Not in aggression but in excitement.This obviously doesn’t come across too well with others. She has walked with both Dennis and Perry but both are very submissive. (She does stop when you say no)

    Then there’s Bella the Golden R who is very growly when she first meets Den and Perry but then settles down and we have a great walk (she growls every time they first meet even though she knows them)

    Introductions between Dixie and Bella did not go to plan! (Bellas owner had her and I had Dixie)
    I thought after initial reactions they would settle and I gave them both treats next to one another without a problem but the minute that stopped Bella started growling again :-( so Bella went home again.

    Is this because bella is dominant?
     
  2. JudyN

    JudyN Well-Known Member Registered

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    Dominance is a very misunderstood term. I never remember the exact details, but it relates to who has access to a particular resource in a particular situation - it's not a character trait. It's more likely Bella's response is down to fear/insecurity. A true 'alpha dog', if there is such a thing, earns respect from other dogs from doing very little. He/she doesn't need to go around picking on weaker dogs. I've known one such dog, a large greyhound - all the other dogs adored and worshipped him, and he would just stand there and look regal as they fell at his feet ingratiating themselves - he didn't lift a paw or curl a lip.

    However, one thing I've wondered about Jasper - when he meets a young male upstart, he seems to have to 'put them in their place' and then having established that they're not going to mess with him, he's absolutely fine with them. I've even seen him put a paw on another dog's back, resulting in the other dog lying down, then J glaring at him for a few moments and, having got his message across, leaving the other dog alone but happy to be near it. No growling or snarking at all, no sign of fear. It looked for all the world like he was saying, 'I'm the boss round here - GOT THAT?'

    So I'm not quite sure how that fits into the new understanding of dominance/status/hierarchy.
     
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  3. Josie

    Josie Administrator Administrator Registered

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    I think you’re right with the anxiety/fear. She comes across aggressive because she growls and barks but actually is very nervous!

    Perry the Vizsla is a very nervous dog but she shows it through submission and blending in to her background!

    Interesting about the top dog bit! Den always gets respect from the others in the gang!

    Thanks for replying
     
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  4. Flobo

    Flobo Well-Known Member Registered Partner

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    I know I do one to one walking, so may have a slant but, some dogs just don't like walking with others, some it suits some it doesn't... just like us people, some more sociable than others, doesn't mean anything is wrong necessarily, just different.
     
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  5. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    .

    Dogs who live together for long periods - lifelong or for years - often develop a pattern of deference, but it’s context specific.

    Ex:

    One of them loves balls - any size, any material. The other has a mad passion for stuffed toys. // Typically, the ball-mad dog is deferred to whenever there’s a ball present, & the stuffed-toy fanatic is deferred to any time there’s a stuffed toy.
    This is classic differential allocation of resources - “the one who wants it most, gets it”, often with no preliminary show of threat or exchange of signals. The dogs know one another well, they’re aware of the other’s preferences, & they minimize conflict by using deference. :)

    Dogs who are complete strangers will also typically defer to another dog, rather than argue - let alone escalate to a physical fight. Normal dogs don’t want conflict; they want a quiet life, they don’t want to get hurt physically, they don’t want the angst of tension that comes with repeated conflict, even if it’s only mutters & hard looks. Who needs it?

    That desire for a peaceful resolution is precisely why dogs have their huge collection of signals & body language, everything from a hard glance to a dropped ear, a flash of sclera, a rigid posture with a metronomic tail held upright (that’s a bad one! - look out when U see a stiff flagpole tail slow-wagging, all H*** is about to break loose), the rocking-horse gait of play, & all the rest.

    If dogs spent one-half the time that the Dawg Wrassler thinks they spend fomenting struggles for ‘dominance’, we’d all be spending 4X as much as we do on vet bills —- to get them patched up. :eek:
    When U walk around with 42 assorted knives & ice-picks in yer mouth, restraint becomes crucial as a social skill. ;)

    Also, if k9 signals were unimportant, pups taken too soon from their dams & kept as “only dogs” would not be so prone to various problem behaviors, vis-a-vis other dogs — they are very likely to be dog-reactive, or OTT rude & intrusive, or downright dog-aggro, in larger numbers / a larger fraction of them, compared to pups who leave their dams & sibs at 56-DO / 8-WO, or who enter a household that already has a resident dog, to teach them the ropes:
    How to politely approach, introduce oneself, signal “yer scaring me, tone it down”, “Wanna play?”, “It’s mine!”, & so on, to make interactions with other dogs as friction-free & communicative as possible.

    Pups reared with adult dogs with decent social skills, who can both model apropos behaviors in context, & correct the pup for any egregious errors, will also grow up to be socially acceptable to other dogs, more than 90% of the time.
    Only dogs are a lot more likely to become another, dreaded, “Oh, he just wants to play...” intrusive monster, jumping on other dogs, being physically pushy, mouthy, humping when they don’t know what else to do, & so on. :(

    Social signals are critical to a happy life around other dogs - they aren’t as necessary for dogs to live successfully with humans, ‘cuz we’re pretty blind to any but the crudest & most glaringly obvious, like growls & snarls, LOL. ;)

    - terry

    .
     
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  6. JudyN

    JudyN Well-Known Member Registered

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    Though they can't both defer - if one dog typically communicates to other dogs, even with just a hard stare, that he's 'da boss', and the other dog says, 'Sure thing, whatever,' or even rolls over onto his back, and then the two are fine together, how do we describe the 'boss' dog, which would previously have been called dominant? Mostly Jasper is polite with other dogs, and even sometimes long-suffering if they try to get him to play, but with young cocky males, he's likely to show stiff upright body posture, a tail higher than I'm comfortable with, and posturing, but it's very rare that it goes any further. And he's yet to do this to a dog that will then turn on him. There does seem to be an agreement of hierarchy, or status, of some sort.

    @Josie, I wonder if other dogs respect Dennis because they know he belongs to you and you're in charge? Or would they respond in the same way if their owner was doing the warning?
     
  7. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    Dr Ian Dunbar was a researcher b4 he became a trainer - & one of his interesting findings was that bitches & dogs who live together long-term, have completely separate hierarchies.
    He was studying a large group of F & M dogs who lived as a colony in a large open space; they bred freely, chose their own mates, their own friends, their own sleeping spots, etc.

    In M dogs, rank is pretty simple: older Ms are deferred to by younger Ms, so AGE determines status; not strength, speed, level of aggro, etc, which are immaterial factors.
    In F dogs, rank is roughly determined by repro status: bitches with litters pull more rank than Fs without, bitches in estrus have more ‘social collateral’ than Fs who are between estrous cycles, & Fs who have yet to cycle are at the very lowest level, in the ‘teen pool’.

    But remember, this is a group of dogs who literally lived their whole lives together; dogs who meet at the dog-park, or who live as pets in a blended household & who arrived at various ages or stages in their lives, do *not* have these long-term stable relationships, where one dog is in relative ascendency to the other, in most circs (M dogs) or in some circs (F to F relationships).
    Moreover, bitches attach so many codicils & “howevers” to the rules, that U might as well just leave any issues of dominant / submissive pairs at “it depends...”, & leave it at that.

    Humans LOVE hierarchy, & we like it to be fixed & simple; pecking order (hen A above B, who is above C & all others but below A...) innately appeals to our love of status & rank.
    We know who salutes whom 1st, who kisses whose ring or butt, who we open the door for, & who fetches the beverages at any meeting. :rolleyes:

    But even among hens, pecking order isn’t as fixed as it was portrayed in the original research; hens have close friends, frenemies, acquaintances they recognize but neither like nor dislike, hens they cannot get along with, & some who bully them, despite any efforts to appease.
    If U take a hen out of her flock for a week, she may be at a completely different status once she is reintroduced. If U take the lifelong underdog from one flock & put her into a new flock, she might be somewhere in the middle, or in the top 3 - anything can happen.
    She is not DOOMED to be the miserable Untouchable for her lifetime. In new circs, or even in changed circs in the same flock, she can move up, down, or sideways, in relation to any other hen.

    Dog relationships are generally fluid, even within the same household; for instance, if one dog who usually acts as the intruder alert, barking first & being joined by the other dog’s voice in a duet, is not feeling well, their k9 housemate will bark at the intruder, & will not wait for the ‘guardian’ to react.

    There are fixed things (which dog passionately loves which sort of toy) & relative things (which dog is most hungry or thirsty ATM; which dog is tired & wants a nap right now).
    Mostly, they take cues from one another, & try to avoid squabbles. :)

    - terry

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  8. Josie

    Josie Administrator Administrator Registered

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    Yesterday I walked with...

    Perry the nervous Vizsla
    Dixie the vocal collie cross
    Dennis the chilled Lab

    Although at the start of our walk Perry was nervous again of Dixie by the middle she was following Dixie all over the place and really finding her confidence. I think Dixie realised that Perry didn’t want to play with her so just did her own thing.
    I wonder if it did help Dennis being there like you mentioned @JudyN... Both Perry and Dixie really love him and always look for him when I pick them up.

    8596497D-E31A-4AD1-9C14-395979D3FF7C.jpeg
     
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  9. Nanny71

    Nanny71 Well-Known Member Registered

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  10. Kara 1

    Kara 1 Active Member Registered

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    Dixie is stunning ..she looks like my friends malinois X
     
  11. Nanny71

    Nanny71 Well-Known Member Registered

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    Interesting reading. Dudley spent most of his first six months with my daughter's staff. He is very sociable and well behaved around people and dogs when loose. On his lead a little different he will either bark or hide behind my legs.
    He has been attacked twice by loose dogs in the street whilst he was on his lead.
    Also he knows who he likes
     
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  12. Nanny71

    Nanny71 Well-Known Member Registered

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    What a lovely photo and what beautiful dogs
     
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  13. Flobo

    Flobo Well-Known Member Registered Partner

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    Lovely, Dennis reminds me a bit of Jake, giving off that calm air really does affect others in their company, it may take a while for them to notice but when they do it all kinda fits in to place and everyone gets on with just being.. or is that the hippy in me...:rolleyes:...
     
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  14. Josie

    Josie Administrator Administrator Registered

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    Thank you :)
     
  15. Josie

    Josie Administrator Administrator Registered

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    She loves running through the woods and pops out further ahead and I always have to do a double take because I think I’ve spotted a wild dog/fox!
     
  16. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    I know thru many past clients, that APOs / Average Pet Owners often completely misread their own dogs when they try to determine ‘relative rank’ among their own dogs. :(
    I’ll give just 2 examples, as illustrations-

    A couple in Va Beach had 3 dogs, 2 Labs, 1 older s/F, 1 a 2-YO n/M, & a n/M JRT.
    They both insisted the terrier was “very dominant”, bossy with their own dogs & others’ dogs, & that the Labs were ‘perfect’ - well-behaved, friendly, polite toward nonfamily dogs, etc.

    The 1st time I met them & their dogs, after an initial telephone call & receiving their completed intake forms (a questionnaire covering age/s, where & when dog/s were acquired, health, repro status, any training, etc, as well as the primary complaint) was at night.
    The husband was a cardiac surgeon, his wife did not work, but both had extremely overscheduled lives, so i went to meet them & their dogs at 9-pm on a weekday.

    I had asked them to have the Labs confined, & the JRT on a leash, as he had bitten more than 6 ppl, & I did not want to be the next victim. :eek: When I walked up the stairs to the house door on the 1st floor, it was immediately obvious they hadn’t followed instructions.

    All 3 dogs began barking insanely when I knocked, & then followed a long period of ROARING anger from the husband, shouting “SHUT UP!... f’ing goddam dogs, QUIET!...”, etc, while I stood outside the door on the landing in total darkness, debating whether I even wanted to keep the appt. :confused: The intensity of the man’s verbal rage was stunning, & it went on for more than 5 minutes as I waited.
    At long last, his wife came to the door to let me in; the Labs had been put in another room, & I was astonished to realize that her husband had been roaring from the very far side of the house, in the living room that overlooked the beach - over 30 feet from the front door, down a dogleg hallway. :eek:
    It had sounded as if he was 5 or 6 feet from the door! — in fact, he was in a lounge chair by the back wall, diagonally opposite the front door on the left front corner of the house. To be any further away, he’d be in midair, 30 ft above the beach.

    The JRT was loose in the room, & as soon as I reached the door, he charged at me, barking furiously... hackles up, lips lifted to show every tooth, his eyes entirely surrounded by white sclera - & the man, who had just greeted me WITHOUT attempting to stand up (a calculated bit of rudeness, down South), began roaring again, so loudly that I could not hear the dog’s furious barks. :confused:
    It was simply insane. :rolleyes:

    I finally convinced the owner to **shut up**, carefully approached the dog who immediately fell to the floor & wet himself, & slipped a looped leash over his head from above. // Once I had the dog on a leash, I turned away from him, sat sideways to him on the floor, & spoke very quietly to the owner, while the dog cringed, licked his lips, avoided my glances, drooled nervously & swallowed constantly, & basically exhibited the body language of a terrified, traumatized dog. :(
    I tried to explain this to the owner, who interrupted me, overtalked me, & ignored my (paid for, solicited, requested) opinion. // Sheesh.
    After 20- minutes, I still hadn’t succeeded in getting him to take a tidbit, but he had *sniffed* a few times, which was an improvement over lying there frozen, vibrating with tension, panting & swallowing drool. :( Poor dog.

    2 days later, by prearrangement, I came by when Dr KnowItAll was at work bullying nurses & patients, & met the dog inside the house.
    THE 2 LABRADORS MILLED AROUND IN THE FOYER, BARKING, BUMPED INTO HIM, STEPPED ON HIM, & he finally took refuge 2 steps up on the staircase to avoid being trampled by the oxen.:eek: :(
    So much for his claimed “dominance” of the 2 larger dogs. It was very sad.

    4 weeks later, I was making progress — in that the dog never tried to bite me, was usually relieved if not ecstatic to see me, & was comfortable enuf to turn his back on me while I was within touching distance.
    But his owners continued to insist that he was “dominant”, aggressive (rather than defensive & terrified), & they refused to make even one change in the way they handled, approached, & managed him. :(
    So I quit. :shrug:

    I have no doubt the poor dog went on to bite other ppl, and I only hope that one of them was his overbearing loudmothed pompous owner, who bullied his wife & dotter as much as he ever bullied his dogs. :mad:
    It was a very sad case.


    Needless to say, both parents had watched a certain TV host who was a self-named k9 psychologist, & they both believed that every word he spoke was revealed truth.
    :rolleyes:
    Ye gods.


    .
     
  17. dogpeer

    dogpeer New Member Registered

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    Our new cavoodle Moxie tried to dominate dogs the same size as her, but she is extremely submissive to larger dogs and humans. I tend to think each dog is different with their own unique personalities.
     
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  18. Biker John

    Biker John Well-Known Member Registered

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    Folly is generaly submisive to most dogs, both larger or smaller. Once they have proved themselves to her as being non aggressive she relaxes and will often play chase with them. Dogs she has met and played with before she greets easily. The two times this varies is first with large black dogs, she makes sure she keeps well away from them. Second, with other sight hounds particularly Whippets with these she is relaxed from the start.
     
  19. JudyN

    JudyN Well-Known Member Registered

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    A lot of people think dogs who try to control their owners are dominant too. I would say that a dog who will actually use threats to stop you going upstairs to the loo because he's not allowed up there with you, or to stop you getting out of bed in the night because he heard a scary sound out of the window and there might be monsters on the landing, or to stop you leaving the house because he hates being left isn't being any sort of dominant but is really scared and dealing with it the only way he knows how - like a child desperately clinging to his mother when being left at school for the first time.

    Not that I know any dogs who would resort to such desperate tactics.... ;) or children come to that :confused:
     
  20. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    More than 10 years back, I was living in Va Beach, & a woman phoned me “for help” with her 3 to 4-YO English Bulldog, an intact male who’d been an only dog since she picked him up from the breeder at 9-WO.
    The owner was an elderly widow, in decent health but not active; the dog was a layabout who was walked briefly to toilet 5x daily, on leash, & had a small fenced garden where he snoozed in the shade in good weather. // If it was too hot, too cold, too windy or rainy, they only went out for his toilet trips & came right back in.
    He was seen by the vet every 6-mos, as he had some allergies & minor skin issues as a result.

    The dog would LIE ON HER FEET any time she sat down, & if or when she went to get up, he would glare at her & growl. This was no minor grumble at being disturbed or made to move - she shifted her feet while on the phone with me, & he growled with deep threat, staring at her face as he did so. :eek:
    I made 3 or 4 suggestions, the first being to neuter him, as he was no glorious specimen of male beauty, & for every suggestion, she had a “yes, but...” reply. :rolleyes:

    It finally dawned on me that she had no desire to STOP his behavior- she said several times that he was “jealous” of the ppl who called her on the phone & pried her out from under him, that he “hated” her grown children to visit, & that he “adores me”.
    She did not call me for HELP - she was bragging about her dog’s deep love & devotion, as proven by his extreme jealousy over her time, attn, & company. :confused:

    I made a final attempt to explain that controlling her was not “love”, thanked her for the interesting chat, & hung up. // That owner, lonely a good deal of the time, had probably built her dog’s excessive overattachment herself; the controlling aspect was the dog’s twist, I think, but IMO they deserved each other. :rolleyes:
    Her grown kids only visited at a few holidays, & being literally pinned in her chair by her 60# “adoring” dog at least gave her something to complain about!, as well as company for her long days.

    I wonder how many other local trainers she phoned, to “ask for help” when in fact she was proud of his bizarre “devotion” —- oh, I just can’t go anywhere, he gets so upset, he won’t let me out of his sight, ...


    - terry

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