The Dominance Label In The Dog World

Dog driving a car

You will yield to me!

Have you ever picked up your favorite brand name product at the store, only to find out when you got home, it wasn’t what you thought? The labels on the products are similar looking, and most likely they are right next to one another on the store shelf, but they aren’t the same. Labels in the dog world can be very deceiving as well.

There are a few labels, that when applied to dogs, are hard to remove. Labels like dominance display and aggression, are misapplied to dogs all the time. Often, the people applying the labels are ill-informed about the ingredients required, to label truthfully, a dog as dominant or aggressive. The unfortunate consequence for many dogs, is the application of another label, euthanasia.

Many of the popular TV shows today would have you believe that a dog is a four legged status seeking machine, constantly looking to challenge his owner and his packmates, for alpha supremacy. Behaviors such as jumping, running out the door, humping, and many others are labeled as dominance displays or flat out aggression. The truth is that the VAST majority of dogs displaying these behaviors are not trying to be dominant or
aggressive. Usually, the labels that should be applied in these cases are, “Relieves Tension,” “Nervous Energy,” and “Never Been Taught Different!” Even in the face of evidence to the contrary, like this paper from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, people still use the wrong labels.

So before you let anyone label your dog, be sure they really understand dog behavior. If anyone labels your dog’s behavior as a “Dominance Display,” get a second opinion. Ask your vet to recommend an animal behaviorist in your area. The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants has a searchable database located here. You can also do a search for certified trainer at the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

Whatever you do, please make sure that the labels applied to your dogs, list the true ingredients contained.

I welcome all comments on this post.