Owning and working with a dominant dog requires some different techniques than working with a middle-of-road dog, or a submissive one. Using the wrong techniques can exacerbate the situation.
Determining if you have a dominant dog can be a tricky task, especially if you only have a few “common knowledge” identifiers. For example, the most common misdiagnosis that I hear is that the dog is ignoring the owner, or not complying with a command, and therefore must be dominant. While this can be indicative of dominance (aka the “doggie finger”), this behavior should be used to support other, more accurate indicators of dominance, instead of as a primary indicator, because noncompliance can have many causes.
Marking behavior, whether inside the home or out, is a good one to start with. If your dog, male or female, feels the need to mark just about every bush and fence while on a walk, you are probably looking at a dominant dog. Other signs include the dog walking while urinating or defecating, hiking a leg to defecate, and a great deal of scratching after either elimination. The higher the mark, and the greater the marked area, the more dominant the dog. Those videos of Chihuahuas or other small breed doing handstands while urinating on something are funny to watch, but are also strong indicators of a very dominant dog.
Walking while urinating or defecating (which just makes poop-patrol SO much more fun!) are other ways in which a dog can spread its scent over a greater area, letting other dogs know that he is quite dominant.
Scratching the ground after elimination is a behavior that I am surprised so many people, even trainers, do not understand. Dogs don’t have sweat glands like humans. They sweat through their feet, and disperse internal heat through respiration. So, the larger the scratching area, and the deeper the scratches are, the wider the scent area becomes, and therefore the more dominant the dog is.
Inside the house, pay attention as to where the dog is going. What may seem like accidents might really be marking behaviors. If the dog is consistently eliminating near passageways, doors, in a particular bedroom, or of more concern, on a family member’s clothing or bed, then you dog is marking his turf, and his possessions.
Regarding exterior doorways, this is more likely a house-training issue, as the dog does not yet know how to let you know that he needs to be let out, and so has an accident. So again, take note as to where the dog is eliminating, and pass that along to your trainer.
There are obviously many more indicators, but space requires that I cover those in a future article.
As for cleanup, the two best products that we’ve found are Nature’s Miracle and Simple Solution. Both have enzymes in them that digest urine and feces, and thus eliminate the scent, which is very important when house-training, or teaching a dog that this is YOUR house, and he is not allowed to mark inside.
Jim Beinlich and his wife Bianca own Cool K9’s Dog Training in Colorado Springs. Find them at www.coolk9s.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/coolk9s.