How to Train a Dominant Dog – How to Be the One in Control

If your heart sinks every time you see another dog approaching while on a walk with your dog, then you have a problem!  I had a miniature dachshund named Maggie for 11 years.  She was a scrapper!  Every time she’d see another dog while we were out, she turned into Cujo – and would viciously attack!  I can’t tell you how many Dobermans I had in headlocks trying to save my doxy…lol!  Luckily for Maggie, the (very!) large dogs she attacked usually just seemed confused as to what the heck she even was (are you a dog?  a woodchuck?) – and they would be very tolerant of her and not bite her back.  Meanwhile, however, I would be having a heart attack!

I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now

Learning the best way to train a dominant dog is something I wish I had accomplished years ago. I now know that if your dog is dominant, the answer is not to just look for an exit strategy every time another dog comes around. The thing that so many dog owners don’t understand is that training starts at home.  If you’re giving the correct messages at home, then that training will follow through when you leave the house.  Dogs are simple animals.  They are about survival, first and foremost. They instinctively feel the need to protect the property, and the pack, especially when they are outside.

Dogs are Pack Animals

Dogs understand that there are leaders and there are followers.  The leaders decide what is dangerous and take the initiative to protect the pack. So what do you think happens when your dog thinks that they are the pack leader and they walk down the street and see another dog coming? That’s right – Protect! Protect! Protect!  But what starts that reaction to begin with is the fact that your dog somehow got the message at home that HE has to be the pack leader.

checklist for a new puppyThe Secret is This: YOU Need to Be the Pack Leader

All dogs are different.  Some dogs are naturally more dominant than others, and there are some who are content being more submissive. It doesn’t really matter what kind your dog is.  Once you establish for your dog that you are the pack leader, all of your training efforts will begin to work.  All it’ll take is a gentle pull on the leash, a distraction with a treat, a gentle word of warning.  You need your dog to turn to YOU for guidance when another dog shows up.  If he sees YOU as the pack leader, he will let YOU decide whether there is danger or not.  Whatever your reaction is to the other dog (calm, relaxed, inviting), your dog will be able to relax and follow your lead.

checklist for a new puppyThe Pack Leader Foundation Has to be in Place FIRST.

Read this article, How To Be the Pack Leader, then visit The Online Dog Trainer. Learn how to become the pack leader, and everything else will be easy.  In the meantime, here are some tips to help you on the walks:

Use food distractions.  This approach is effective with some dogs.  The key, though, is to use it as a distraction – don’t give food as a reward after your dog has lunged toward the approaching dog.  Use something extra yummy, like chicken or cheese, not their regular milk bones.

Take it slow.  Don’t expect miracles overnight. Until you have put the pack leader rules in place, things will be slow going.  Pushing things too fast will result in your dog getting the wrong messages.  Whereas, going slowly helps to build the dog’s confidence.

Be the one in charge.  Make sure you’ve got control of your dog before any other dogs come into sight. Keep a firm handle on the leash and keep the dog close to you.

Stay focused on what you want.  It’s easy to get upset by your dog’s behavior, but remember you need to show your dog exactly how you want him to behave. Stay relaxed.

Be ready to take over.  Stay focused on the best result, but be ready to step in and quickly guide your dog away or gently tug or correct him. Once you’ve done this, remember to relax immediately, again showing your dog what his reaction should be.

Learn How To Become the Pack Leader

One of the things I love about the concept of becoming the pack leader is that it works with the dog’s natural instincts. It’s natural, in doggie land, for one dog to be dominant over another.  You can’t take that instinct out of your dog.  But by positioning YOURSELF as the pack leader, your dog’s instinct to try to be in charge will be greatly diminished.  He will be able to relax and enjoy himself, without having to worry about being the decision maker, or being the protector.  He’ll trust YOU to be that.  Believe me, it makes for a much more enjoyable life for both of you!

dog trainingFor More Help

The Online Dog Trainer offers more than 250 easy to follow, step-by-step videos on every aspect of dog training, including becoming the pack leader.  It is a training resource I wish I knew about 20 years ago!

checklist for choosing the right dog

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4 thoughts on “How to Train a Dominant Dog – How to Be the One in Control”

  1. Hi Debra,
    I would just like to say that I have bookmarked this page so that I can show my wife also. We own a total of 4 dogs and sometimes things get out of control with them.This article gives me another way to train them and listen to be better dogs when out and walking around the neighborhood.

    Yours Truly,
    Carlton

    1. With four dogs (and I’d guess many, many more in your future), I’d strongly suggest visiting The Online Dog trainer and signing up for the training videos. Believe me, you and your wife’s lives will be much easier! 🙂 Thanks so much for the comment.

  2. This is great stuff! I’ve got a pit mix who used to dominate me. It was stressful taking him to the dog park because he’d become aggressive pinning down other dogs when they approached me. I’d have to agree with everything you’ve said. My now husband stepped in when we met and became the “pack leader”. He taught me a lot and it basically lines up with what you’ve said. Things are much better with my dog now 🙂

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