Question: We’re wanting to get a dog and there’s a certain breed I’d really like to get, but my wife isn’t in favor. She say’s these dogs will “turn on you.” Is that really a thing?
Answer: This is a great question and a common myth. That doesn’t mean that a dog may appear to snap seemingly “out of nowhere,” but my point is, these dogs always showed signs of dominance prior to the incident. The problem is that many dog owners misinterpret the prior, obvious signals.
About the only variable in dog behavior and psychology is where a particular pooch falls on the dominance and submissiveness scale. Since dogs are pack animals and understand a pack hierarchy, it’s only natural for any dog to instinctively attempt to ascend the pack order. But dogs on different ends of that scale will behave differently when it comes to this. A more submissive dog isn’t too compelled to try to outrank humans or other dogs in the house. A more dominant dog may be subconsciously driven to achieve higher rank. A really dominant dog will be fairly attached to the idea.
I have seen many dog owners actually notice what technically is a dominant behavior with their puppy, but because they didn’t really know what they were looking at, or how that behavior would develop in the future, they inadvertently set themselves up for an incident like we’re referring to here.
Often a cute little puppy gets a pass for something that eventually turns out to be a real problem when he grows up. But a dog always shows a propensity toward either dominance or submissiveness. The good news is, all dogs are subconsciously looking for a leader. Even a more dominant dog. And even though we humans sometimes tend to think, “If I just love my dog enough,” or give him enough treats, “we’ll be close and he’ll love and respect me.” The truth is, being an effective leader is the key to drawing your dog close to you in a deeper way.
Whether you have a puppy or an older dog, it’s important to communicate appropriate messages to him about where he falls in the pack order. As we’ve talked about many times, appropriate messages include not allowing your dog to jump on you or even put a paw on you. Max mustn’t growl or put his mouth on you in any fashion, either. He has to move out of your way when he’s underfoot too, because no higher ranking dog would tip toe around a subordinate.
And this is why your leash routine is so very important as well. Because to Max, whoever leads on the leash, is the leader. Basic rule infractions are easier to head off when a dog is little. But if your dog is a year of age or older, and you have some lingering behaviors along these lines, it’s important you try to turn them around. They won’t just magically go away, and sometimes are a precursor to a potential lifetime of issues. Of course the above indicators aren’t the only ones. There are other pushy, dominant behavioral patterns too.
Finally, dogs who simply have a “screw loose” do exist, but they’re fairly rare. In almost all cases, unacceptable behaviors can be remedied with consistency and persistence. Yes, even an older dog. And as always, the two main ingredients required in the process, are time and patience.
Originally from Louisiana, Gregg Flowers is a local dog trainer who “teaches dogs and trains people.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org orfloridadogtraining.net.