Hyper vs. Dominant Dogs

Aggression is more likely to arise from uncorrected dominance than hyperactivity.
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Hyperacvitiy and dominance share common symptoms; a hyper dog and a dominant dog both may be difficult to control, have high energy levels, pull on the leash, display compulsive behaviors and may require extra training. However, it’s important that you can distinguish between the symptoms to identify the problem correctly. Observing your dog in a range of circumstances will enable you to make an accurate assessment of his mental state.

Root Causes

The key difference between hyper and dominant dogs is that hyper behavior can be a response to environment, food, medical issues or lifestyle, while dominant behavior is instinctive. You can cure hyper behavior by removing the cause, such as altering your dog’s diet or giving more exercise, but you can’t cure dominance. You can only control it by teaching your dog to respect your position as pack leader.

Reaction to Stimuli

Hyper dogs are easily overstimulated, reacting with high energy to the smallest alteration in their environment. Dominance, however, is characterized by the opposite behavior; dominant dogs are unresponsive to commands, and will gladly sit and stare when something is happening, rather than spinning around in circles and getting excited.

Compulsive Behaviors

Hyper and dominant dogs display compulsive behaviors, but not all are of the same type. Compulsive tail chasing, spinning and a constant state of alertness characterize hyperactivity in dogs. With dominance, the compulsions are different. Dominant dogs habitually scent mark, mount and seek an elevated position.

Body Language

Hyper dogs have high levels of alertness. They’ll quickly prick their ears, cock their heads and run toward a sound source to investigate. They react instantly to attention, whereas dominant dogs can be highly aloof and unresponsive. Dominant dogs use posturing and facial gestures to assert themselves, while hyper dogs typically are incapable of asserting themselves in this way as they are reactive, not proactive.

Your Behavior

Your own actions are key to influencing whether the problems subside or increase. With a hyper dog, lowering your energy levels and taking care not to reward hyper behavior with positive reinforcement are key to addressing the issue. With dominant dogs, you must be more hands-on and demonstrate clearly to the dog who is the pack leader is. There is one crucial similarity as well, both hyper and dominant dogs benefit greatly from a calm, authoritative leader.

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