Disagreeing with Dominance and Building up Buddy’s confidence to Bring Balance to a Pack

By: David Codr

Published Date: January 4, 2014


IMG_8867Meet Jack (Left), Buddy (Far right) and their three Dachshund room mates.

I was called in to help stop the over excitement all the dogs showed when guests arrived at their home as well as quell the aggression Jack was showing to Buddy since he joined the pack a few weeks ago.

When I arrived for the appointment, Jack showed me some territorial and slightly aggressive behavior once I exited my car. Nothing over the line, but clearly he considered himself in a position of authority when new people arrived at the home.

Buddy on the other hand, avoided eye contact, displayed submissive or non confrontative body movements and stayed the farthest away from me. Classic signs of a dog that lacks confidence.

When we sat down to discuss the situations, all the dogs other than Buddy came up to investigate me on their own. Once we got inside, Jack’s territorial display subsided and he showed good response when given commands of corrections.

After discussing various ways to incorporate rules and structure to the dog’s lives, I went over ways to disagree or correct unwanted behavior. I believe in using a set of escalating consequences whenever a dog breaks the rules or falls out of line. By immediately disagreeing with and correcting unwanted behavior with a set of escalating consequences, the dogs learn to fall into line faster and to respect the authority of their human pack leaders.

Next I demonstrated a leadership exercise with Jack. This exercise helps the dog see his humans in a position of authority, helps the learn to focus as well as restrain themselves. It took a few repetitions before Jack understood what I wanted, but once he did he responded quickly.

I coached his owners through the exercise then suggested the practice it with all the dogs in the pack, but one at a time. The more the dogs practice, the faster they will change their thinking and perception of their humans as their pack leaders.

When we practiced the exercise with Buddy, he got it the first time, but then went into an avoidance mode after that. To help him feel more comfortable with the exercise, I had his owners take over after that. It took a little coaxing, but eventually he got it. It will be especially important that his owners practice this exercise with Buddy as well as work with him on basic commands and even new tricks to help build up his confidence.

Next I showed their owners how to add rules and structure to meal time. Since eating is a very powerful activity, controlling the situation greatly influences the dog’s perception of their owner’s leadership and authority. By controlling the order of who eats and keeping the other dogs at bay, the dogs understand that the humans are in control and not them.

Things started off great, but when it was Buddy’s turn to eat, Jack attempted to dominate him and ward off Buddy. I interceded and stopped the conflict, but afterwords, Buddy shut down and refused to eat out of deference to Jack’s authority.

While I dont consider Jack an aggressive dog, Buddy’s lack of confidence and submissive behavior triggered the outburst from Jack. Often times a dog that is new to a pack who is on the more assertive or dominant side of the fence can lash out or attack a dog that shows over submission and this was the case with Jack and Buddy.

Although their behavior reverted to normal after we ended the feeding exercise, Jack did attempt to control and dominate Buddy later on in the session. While it was another short episode, the chances of it continuing are greater until Buddy gets more confident.

I showed their owner the body communication signs to look out for as well as how to stop any further dust ups and again recommended that they work with Buddy to build up his confidence while also disagreeing with any signs of dominance from Jack.

By the end of the session the dogs laid down on the steps to the living room in a nice balanced frame of mind so I snapped a quick photo.

The day after the session, their owner called me to let me know that Jack had gone after Buddy again after I left and that it was more intense than the previous incidents. While Im sure that Jack can learn to stop trying to dominant Buddy, it will require more supervision than his current family can provide.

With a heavy heart and concern for Buddy’s well being, they decided to rehome Jack so that he can be in a family with no dogs or no dogs that are as submissive as Buddy. Often times this can solve the problem on its own. However Jack’s foster-owners made sure to detail the situation with the rescue group so that they can let Jack’s new owners know that he needs to have clear rules and boundaries. This structure along with timely corrections if they witness any signs of aggression will ensure that Jack continues to live a calm balanced life.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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