Dogs don’t always get along. Pack dynamics dictate that one is always superior to the others, even if there are only two. While it’s natural for one dog in a pack to be dominant, you can train a dominant dog to behave more appropriately with his domesticated partner.
Observe your dogs as they interact freely. Watch them play, feed, sleep and pay special attention to how they behave when people come and go. By doing so, you’ll get a clear picture of the pack dynamic. It is most probable that the disrespectful behavior stems from one dog’s need to dominate the other. Dominant dogs typically assert themselves by feeding first, taking toys from other dogs, pushing past them to greet humans and similar behavior. This is natural pack behavior, so you can't expect to stop it. Simply aim to control it.
Note the stimuli that cause your dog to display disrespectful behavior. For example, the disrespectful dog may try to eat the other’s food; he may nudge the other out of the way to get fuss from you; he may steal the other's toys. By writing down the things that cause the behavior, you can quickly issue corrective remedies.
Put the dominant dog on a loose leash. Leave sufficient slack that he can roam almost freely.
Allow the dogs to interact freely but, as they do, introduce some of the stimuli that cause the unwanted behavior. For example, give the submissive dog a toy.
Walk the dominant dog away, say “no” and put him in a room by himself for five minutes if he becomes disrespectful toward the other -- for example, if he attempts to steal the toy.
Reintroduce the dogs and see what happens. The dominant dog's disrespect may appear again, so walk him away, say “no” and isolate him. With sufficient repetition, the dog will learn to curb his behavior to avoid being put in isolation.
Reintroduce the dogs again. Praise the disrespectful dog whenever he demonstrates restraint, resists the urge to behave disrespectfully or behaves in a polite manner toward the other. Repeat this exercise every day, extending the length of the exercise by two minutes each day.
Allow both dogs to interact freely, without a leash. Encourage the submissive dog to approach you, and give him fuss. If the disrespectful dog barges in to steal the fuss, say “no” and gently guide him away by his collar for a time-out. If he waits his turn politely, throw him a food treat as a reward. He’ll never lose his dominant instincts, but with sufficient repetition he’ll learn that behaving in a certain way gets him rewards and behaving in other ways results in being isolated. By employing positive and negative outcomes in response to his behavior, he’ll eventually choose to behave in a more respectful manner.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- Give the submissive dog a chance to stand his ground. Every dog has his limit and some will eventually tell overly dominant, disrespectful dogs to back off. Others will simply roll over. Don't rush in before the subordinate dog has a chance to assert himself.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.