"My dog is dominant, I can't let him go in the presence of other dogs."
Who has ever heard this sentence? Many doggie owners think that a dog with a very high tail and ears up is an alpha dog, a dominant dog who will constantly try to get the upper hand over his fellow dogs. But if this statement is true, what about dogs with no tail or floppy ears? We will try to identify the truth from the false.
Talking about "dominant dog" is a purely human vision of our canine friends. Qualifying a dog as dominant will most often be an excuse not to go further in the reasoning: this word immediately puts a barrier in the analysis of the behavior of our doggies.
However, we have all witnessed situations where a dog will take over a fellow dog...
How to explain this? A dog can be dominant, but it depends on the moments, the environment and the context. Dominance is always the result of a situation! It is by no means a qualifier like color or size. A dog does not dominate to dominate, it is an interaction for a specific reason: a ball, a stick, the best place to sleep, a treat...
To make things clearer, let's take an example with two dogs: one dog considered dominant, a fighter, who is over-fed for a week, and a second dog, considered submissive, who is starved for the same amount of time. Don't worry, our canine friends are always pampered with Tout Pour Le Toutou, it's only a picture to better understand the concept! If we put these two dogs in the presence of food, the two roles will be totally reversed. The "dominant" dog will have no interest in fighting for food while the "submissive" dog will have a huge motivation to react to get the food he has been missing for a week. It will be the "submissive" dog that will take over the dominant dog.
So it's all about motivation! The greater the dog's motivation to obtain something, the more he will tend to give himself the means to obtain it and therefore to dominate a fellow dog who could take him away from his goal. And if the fact of dominating at a specific moment allowed him to obtain something, he will remember it and will not hesitate to reproduce this behavior in the future in order to reach his goal. It is therefore advisable to avoid this type of conflict as much as possible, it is all a matter of anticipation. We must not forget that a dog does not have a single behavior but a whole panel, he will not hesitate to test several things to know what works best, clever doggies ;)
Some breeds also have the reputation of being dominant. This is the case for example of the American Akita or the Sharpei. They are often considered unpredictable and aggressive. Yet the reasons are very simple: their morphology and their way of communicating. They play an important role in the way they interact with other dogs. Some of their behaviors are more difficult to read by their fellow dogs who will have difficulty interpreting their intentions and emotions. In short, nothing to do with dominance.
Dominance is therefore only a relational state that will appear depending on the dog's motivation to get something, his experience, depending on the moment, the environment and the context. It will therefore be more judicious to learn to observe your doggie rather than sticking labels that can do more harm than good. So in order to get a better idea in your mind, oust the idea of the dominant dog and do not hesitate to talk about it around you!