Dominant Dog Behavior

Remember all those dominant dog behavior exercises that some trainers and veterinarians recommend -picking the dog up and keeping his feet just off the floor until he quits struggling, holding him on his back until he gives up, not letting him go through doors ahead of you, making him wait to eat until after you have eaten, making him stay off the furniture, and especially not letting him sleep on your bed? By the way, all this is known as “alphabetizing.” It’s all baloney and based on a complete misunderstanding of pack dynamics and dog behavior. None of that stuff happens in the dog world!

Yielding is a concept based on the fact that among group dwelling animals, it is the more dominant animals that control space and that the higher the dominant dog behavior the greater and more specific space is controlled. How does an animal control space? By making other animals get out of it through dominant dog behavior. The corollary to this is that the ability to control space bestows status.

Watching My Own Dogs
For Dominant Dog Behavior

This led me to begin watching my own dogs. I noticed that the higher-ranking ones spent time causing the lower ones to get out of their way. A low ranking one would move off the couch, for instance, when a higher member approached. I also noticed that ranking was not a fixed thing, but was rather a constantly shifting phenomenon. The ability to cause other animals to yield space (i.e., to move out of the way) seems to be a matter of force of personality rather than one of physical size or strength, though they sometimes go hand in hand.

Dominant Dog Behavior
Dog trainer Chris Amick

Along about this same time, I was becoming disenchanted with the usual dominance exercises that we dog trainers had been taught and were teaching. Many (most) of them were more confrontational than was needed, desired, or even helpful. What we were doing was not the things that happened in a stable group of dogs. Living with a stable pack of dogs for any length of time, and observing them, will teach you that appeasement is a much more prevalent mode of interaction than confrontation. “To get along, you go along” … dogs figured this out long before people ever did. A dog’s aim is simply to get through the day as easily and with as little hassle as possible. This is achieved by appeasement rather than confrontation. Dog trainers, most at least, had missed this. They, along with behaviorists and etiologists, had completely missed what was really going on.

Case in point, as an example, the alpha roll. There is no such thing. There is a cinnamon roll, there is rock and roll, and there is a roll mighty river roll on, but there is no alpha roll. What there is a beta roll. The higher ranking dog, except by his personality and presence, has nothing to do with this behavior. It is physically initiated and performed by the lower ranking animal as an act of appeasement. Dog trainers who have attempted alpha roll techniques with dominant, ready to fight, dogs have learned and have the scars to prove, that this is a really spiffy way to get yourself bitten.

What Does Yielding Have To Do With Dominant Dog Behavior?

Initially I practiced Yielding with my own dogs. Then, when 1 would borrow an untrained dog to demonstrate with at class, I’d have him move out of my way a couple or three times before I demonstrated what I had borrowed him for. I noticed a couple of things almost immediately. After a couple or three Yields the dogs gave me their attention. This was not always the case before I started having them Yield to me. Also, they caught on to what I wanted them to catch on to quicker. This change caused an almost 100% improvement in the results that my students were getting with their dogs. The command we use to have the dog Yield is “move.” I call yielding “the magic move.” Having taught the dog to move out of your way makes everything else you will ever attempt to teach him easier to teach.

Yielding Makes Everything Else We Have
Done In The Past To Establish Our
Leadership Completely Unnecessary.

With my own dogs, if they get to a door before I do, I let them go through first if they want. I regularly and deliberately feed my dogs before I eat. I let them hang out on the sofa, the easy chairs and my bed. I purposefully violate every principle in alphabetizing. But, at random times through the day, as our paths intersect, I have my dogs Yield the right of way to me. I do not have aggression toward me problems. I do not face challenges. I do not even have over pushiness. Neither do my students once they start this procedure.

Yielding does not seem to affect the (rare) psychotic dog. Alone, it does not stop fear-aggression. But, used in conjunction with balanced training to give the dog some structure and discipline in his life, we are having very good improvement with older fear aggressive dogs and absolute cures with dogs under a year.

During the first week we have the dogs Yield as we approach them from the front. The second week we come in on both shoulders. The third, we come at about diaphragm level on both sides and the fourth week from an angle behind the dog intersecting him at his hips.

Procedure the first week (and you can extrapolate to the other positions) is to stand in front of the dog with him on a loose lead. Saying, “move, move, move,” walk into his face. Do not kick the dog. Do not move him with the leash. Do not knee the dog. Try not to step on him. Do not stop walking into him until he moves. As soon as he moves, even the slightest, quit moving forward.

Give him relief. Praise and pet him. Teaching Yielding is negative reinforcement training. Folks with little dogs need to “Charley Chaplin” into the dog with their toes turned out and their heels together. Later, you have him move farther to get relief. It is never farther than out of your way.

Yielding works best when it is practiced at random times throughout the day as opposed to being drilled. When you get through with that first cup of coffee in the morning and are going to put the cup in the sink, plot your path through the dog. Have him move. Go rinse the cup out. Later, when you get through playing on your computer, take a moment to have the dog Yield to you. Tell him “move” and go through him. When you get off the phone with your mother-in-law and just really, really need to vent some frustration, walk through the dog. “GET OUT OF MY WAY!!!”

Except for mom-in-law, Yielding is non-confrontational. It allows you to interact with the dog in a way that dogs interact with one another. And, it says to him in a language that he is hardwired to understand, “I am the leader, You are the follower.”  You are– in a very subtle way, demonstrating dominant dog behavior.

I consider yielding one of the most important things I am doing. The instant the dog moves the first time, the relationship between that dog and you has been put on a basis that you are leader and he is follower. When the relationship has been properly ordered, you have the dog’s respect.

He’ll work for you. You can train him. Pure and simple, dominant dog behavior will be a thing of the past.