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Do Dogs Display Dominance Over People

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Dr. James C. Ha, Ph.D., CAAB is a professor of applied animal behavior at the University of WA and a certified applied animal behavior with over 30 years of experience in animal behavior teaching, research, consulting, and expert witness services.

Do dogs display dominance over people?

There are a few breeds of dogs that still have a very strong sense of social structure, limited resources and so on and in very VERY rare occasions, some members of those breeds may actually get into a social structure, a dominant situation over limited, what they perceive a limited resource with a human. In fact, most likely it is going to be with members of their social pack. Where I tend to see it in my clinical cases, most likely with owners.

But this behavior VERY rare. Very very very unusual. I can’t say it doesn’t happen, that dogs try to dominate a human, but it is certainly very rare kind of behavior.


Do dogs show dominance in human-dog interactions?

We have co-evolved alongside with dogs and have formed a relationship that is based on cooperation. The belief that humans can act like dogs or as a wolf to exert dominance is simply wrong. In most cases the dog becomes confused, thinks he is being attacked or becomes fearful of his owner. Dog owners can confuse fearful or anxious aggressive behavior as dominant behavior in their dogs. Your dog exhibits these behaviors to protect themselves and to communicate their emotional state, not to show dominance over you.

The other side to dominance is that we are finding out that wolves in the wild do not gain their high rank by fighting their way to the top. Instead, a male and female breed and the pack is a family unit comprised of the parents and the offspring. The parents naturally become the leaders. The offspring usually follow their lead. As a result of this discovery regarding pack structure, wolf biologists no longer even use the term alpha with wild wolf packs.