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What Is Dominance

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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.

What is dominance?

The important thing to understand about dominance is that dominance happens because there are limited resources and ONLY when there are scarce resources. It is simply a form of aggression and social structure which decides who gets the access to the resources first. Who gets access to the resources second. Who gets access to the resources last. It is very much related to the limited resources and some mechanism to settle into a nondestructive, nonfighting way to sort out limited resource.

Why do animals show dominance?

In animal behavior, dominance is a  high status in a social group, which involves the tendency to take priority in access to limited resources, like food, mates, or space.

An important concept to understand about dominance is that it is a relative measure and not an absolute property of individuals. It is a very complex term and cannot be easily assigned. On top of all of this, dominance hierarchies change when resources change, or there is a change in the group, it is a fluid concept.