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Dog Tales

When your dog  is ‘dominating’

‘He’s being dominate.” “Don’t let your dog out the door first, she’s dominating you.” “She never comes to me when I call; she’s being dominate.” Sound familiar? I’ll be honest here, I cringe at the word “dominant.” It’s misused, especially by some well-liked, commercially popular dog trainers. It’s over used and gives dogs a bad rap. I prefer the well-documented behavioral science explanation instead.

Dogs don’t try to control us, nor do they rule, govern or dictate. If they did, then how could we also believe they love us unconditionally? These two scenarios cannot exist together. You can’t provide unconditional love while trying to control. Besides, I’ve said this before, dog’s brains are very simple.

Dogs that don’t come when called aren’t trained to come when called. It hasn’t been made worth their while to come. Dogs that jump on you are super excited to see you. They are trying to lick your face, not dominate.

Hundreds if not thousands of years ago, dogs would lick the inside of their mother’s mouths so she would regurgitate food. Dogs don’t need to do this any longer since we provide them with a food dish each morning. But, the behavior has become part of their ritualized greeting. Ta-da, dogs now want to lick our faces as part of their ritualized greeting, not to dominate us. When your dog is calm, bend over and let her lick your face once or twice, she’ll be happier for your efforts.

I understand that most people do not understand the body language of dogs, just as I do not understand Spanish or, for that matter, any other foreign language, but we have to stop imposing our human behaviors on our dogs.

Dogs are not human, they do not speak English. They are a different species. We bring them into our lives selfishly to better our lives. Let’s cut them a break and admit our mistakes: We haven’t spent enough time training them, teaching them English, exercising them, grooming them, providing them with much-needed doggie stimulation such as runs in the woods, hunting opportunities, squirrel chasing or even rolling in the grass. Most of us expect them to stay home alone 8 hours a day, then when we come home exhausted from our work day we expect them to be well-behaved, to not eat our leather shoes, remote controls or get into the deliciously smelling trash. And when they do these completely normal doggie behaviors, we label them dominate. Or we tell our friends they are spiteful, resentful and that “He knows what I want him to do, he’s just choosing not to, he’s being dominate.”

Dogs are lovely, simple-brained, live-in-the-moment creatures. Let’s cut them a break and spend the time they deserve, teach them a few English words, exercise them, let them run in the woods, groom them and understand their language. It’s not all up to them. We need to stop dominating our canine friends.

Certified Professional Dog Trainer Denise Mazzola is the owner of Denise Mazzola’s Everything Dog. She has been training dogs and people for over 20 years. She offers private lessons, group classes in Rindge and Swanzey, board and train as well as day training services. She lives in Keene with her partner, Amy Willey. They share their home with five dogs and three daughters. For more information, see www.everythingdognh.com.

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