Dominant dog - Pros and cons? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 58 (permalink) Old 10-17-2019, 12:56 PM Thread Starter
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Dominant dog - Pros and cons?

Hi All!

My first time posting on your forum. I've probably read 1000+ messages.

I possibly might have a dominant dog or it's my dog clearly taking advantage of my handler inexperience (my first time owning a dog and I question my sanity for getting a shepherd)!
MY QUESTION: WHY would anyone want a dominant dog? What are the advantages and disadvantages of having one? My arms are tired of being bruised and biting abrasions.

My pup (male, neutered) of 8.5 months now, Tofu, was previously assessed 2 months ago as being dominant and territorial by a head trainer and I followed their private trainer on applying corrections with a Halti/gentle leader to control the biting that I was getting from frustration, refusal to obey, leash reactivity and redirection. This trainer felt that Tofu responds well to Halti corrections and didn't feel the need to move to a nylon slip or prong collar, despite my asking.

I STILL find that I'm constantly having power struggles with Tofu. I have since contacted a Schutzhund Club in the vicinity. The representative spoke to me at length. Via my description, she agreed that he's dominant because there's always a 4 second hesitation before executing a command SLOWLY and she said it's the dog thinking if it's "worth doing or to disobey". He's mouthy when I tell him to get off furniture and there are fights when I need to remove garbage out of his mouth because he won't drop it (no amount of Halti tugging/trading helps). When I escalate the corrections, Tofu strengthens his biting/lunging. She noted that that dominance cannot be untrained and it's a lifetime of management to keep the dog from getting one up on me. She owns two dominant dogs herself. She suggested an experienced Schutzhund trainer and we're going for an evaluation today. Fingers crossed that the evaluator today will just tel me that his reactions are just because I'm an inexperienced handler and that he's truly not dominant.

Background: I'm his second household and got him at 18 weeks from a family with 4 young children under the age of 6 years old. The mother said she was diagnosed with cancer and didn't have the energy for the puppy. Claimed that Tofu was never dominant. They admit to never having trained him at all; clearly he didn't know how to walk on a leash and was goin gup on furniture. Tofu has a pink mark on his nose and I now wonder if he was severely punished at one point and hence never showed dominance there. I initially followed a purely positive trainer for teething biting but I think that might have increased his confidence when I'd yelp or remove myself from room as instructed. I've gone through 3 private instructors with multiple lessons. I had a phone conversation with an online trained that I respect in Washington State, Sean McDaniel, who advocated using a nylon slip. In none of his training does he promote this, but he says in his private practice he's had a lot of experience with dominant/aggressive dogs. He said it'll only take 2 occurrences for a dog to normal understand that I am in charge. I haven't escalated up to this yet. We living downtown and he's not spooked by any of the people, noise and cars. He's extremely friendly with strangers and plays well at the dog park (provided that the other dog enjoys having it's neck pulled). Per weekday, we are out 4hrs and walk 12km (7.5 miles) of city walking, 30-45 minutes at dog park and 30 minutes training. We do more on weekends.
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Last edited by adora155; 10-17-2019 at 01:35 PM. Reason: TO CLARIFY that I'm looking for an answer about dominant dog pro & con.
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post #2 of 58 (permalink) Old 10-17-2019, 01:07 PM
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Put an e-collar on him and have a trainer show you how to use it properly. Your dog will learn the "drop it" command very quick

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post #3 of 58 (permalink) Old 10-17-2019, 01:37 PM
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I'm going to guess that you don't have a truly genetically dominant dog and that the dog has learned to take advantage of your handler inexperience. The first clue is that you have a white GSD. While I suppose it is possible that a white GSD could be genetically dominant, I think the odds are low because of the focus of breeding being primarily on coat color and not strong temperament. True genetic dominance has value in the right amount and in the right hands when the dog is being trained in bite work because the right amount of dominance can add power to the bite work. You probably have what you would see on every episode of Cesar Milan's old show, where the dog has taken the leadership role because of the handler. It is also revealing that the person who assessed your dog as dominant and then recommended a gentle leader. A gentle leader on a truly dominant dog is ridiculous. The person in the schutzhund club sound like she gave you bad information and an inaccurate assessment of your dog. I seriously doubt your dog had any good foundation training where food and or prey drive were used to shape behaviors and increase your dog's motivation to be obedient. The pink spot on your dog's nose is likely related to his white coat/pigment. You most likely have a persistent, challenging dog with no foundation training paired with an inexperienced handler. Seriously dominant GSDs can send their handler, even experienced ones, to the hospital. Your dog likely waits four seconds to follow a command because he wasn't provided a motivational foundation. When that occurs, if the dog knows the command and is still hesitant, he gets a fast sharp correction on the prong, but that takes timing and skill and requires experience. Many sport trainers looking for very fast sits and downs still give prong corrections even though the dog had a proper foundation and knows the command. They are punished because the command is followed too slowly. It is not a brutal correction and the dog is not phased. Plus, dogs that have never received proper corrections early often act like they are being killed and get reactive because they have not learned from an early age that a prong correction will not kill them and they manage to work through it, unless they have significant temperament issues. Biting at 8.5 months is common and there are different ways to deal with it, and it will go away with maturity and correct handling. The other good news in addition to not having a truly genetic dominant dog is that you described your dog as social and not dog aggressive, with decent nerves. You are going to have to get some help from a competent trainer, which obviously, is not that easy to find. Then you need to go back and work on foundation training using food and a toy if he has decent prey drive, as well as positive punishment with a prong collar. the problem, I'm guessing, is that you don't have the skills to know what to do. Knowing how to correctly size and use a prong collar takes experience. The problem is fixable, but you need the right help and so far, it sounds like you have received incompetent evaluations of you dog and bad advice. In one photo it looks like you have a harness on your dog, which allows you no control over the dog and gives him a greater advantage in disobeying you.

Last edited by Chip Blasiole; 10-17-2019 at 01:40 PM.
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post #4 of 58 (permalink) Old 10-17-2019, 01:42 PM
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deleted double post

Last edited by David Winners; 10-17-2019 at 01:57 PM.
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post #5 of 58 (permalink) Old 10-17-2019, 01:42 PM
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Dominant is not a trait but a behavior. E.g. you can only be dominant in certain situations like if you have people under you and you assert yourself to them. But then if your superior calls you to his/her(!!) office, you can't show dominance unless you want to be fired. True dominant behavior is not offensive or aggressive; it is assertive and confident. They don't instigate fights but won't back down either from a thread. They are stable and fair (among dogs). But if you give dogs the reins, they will rein you.
Most dogs that people call "dominant" are untrained, unmanaged and allowed to be bullies.
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post #6 of 58 (permalink) Old 10-17-2019, 01:43 PM
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post #7 of 58 (permalink) Old 10-17-2019, 01:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfy dog View Post
Dominant is not a trait but a behavior. E.g. you can only be dominant in certain situations like if you have people under you and you assert yourself to them. But then if your superior calls you to his/her(!!) office, you can't show dominance unless you want to be fired. True dominant behavior is not offensive or aggressive; it is assertive and confident. They don't instigate fights but won't back down either from a thread. They are stable and fair (among dogs). But if you give dogs the reins, they will rein you.
Most dogs that people call "dominant" are untrained, unmanaged and allowed to be bullies.

I disagree. There is the trait of genetic dominance. It is not that common. You are describing a learned behavior which is a learned dominance, if you will, and is not genetic or a trait.
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post #8 of 58 (permalink) Old 10-17-2019, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Chuck94! View Post
Put an e-collar on him and have a trainer show you how to use it properly. Your dog will learn the "drop it" command very quick

I think the poster is too inexperienced to get into trying to properly learn how to use an e-collar and should try to master other tools and approaches first. Too many people don't know how to correctly use an e-collar.
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post #9 of 58 (permalink) Old 10-17-2019, 02:12 PM
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Most people have never seen a truly dominant dog. IMO, a dominant dog will fight you instead of doing something against his will. I don't mean nip at you to try and punk you out. I mean truly fight you with intent to do you harm.

The chances of a white GSD being a dominant dog are pretty much zero. That isn't a negative comment towards white dogs.

You don't want a dominant dog. A hard dog, confident dog, towards the extreme end of willful and courageous, sure. If you have the experience and support to handle a dog like that, they are a blast.

I think the OP needs a couple one on one sessions with an experienced trainer and a plan to work on OB and good manners.

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post #10 of 58 (permalink) Old 10-17-2019, 02:28 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the detailed posts and analysis. Glad to know that a white shepherd isn't normally, genetically dominant. I feel that it's very likely that my dog is taking advantage of me. During a training session on the Halti, the moment when I handed the leash to the trainer, my dog whipped his head around and was completely aware of who was holding the reigns. Trainer noticed the change in focus. It's been 2 months that we've been using a Halti; previously, it was harness (because we have ignorant laws here that forbids collars on dogs >45 pounds, citing painful to dog). I'm willing to risk the fine and start on a prong collar.

I bought a Herm Sprenger 2.5mm today and hopefully will get a lesson today on fitting it. I like Tyler Muto's video on introducing prong pressure
I understand that if the prong excites the dog too much to redirecting on me, that I might need to move to a nylon slip collar. I will save any e-collar training for a much later date for off-leash proofing.

@David Winners: All my trainings have been private one-on-one sessions to address biting. Like Chip Blasiole said, it's really hard to find a GOOD trainer and hence why I'm going to see a 4th trainer today that is an hour drive away. I've been following a lot of Michael Ellis for the basic obedience and luring.

Did anyone watch the video put out by Ed Frawley on Leerburg "Dealing with Dominant and Aggressive Dogs"? He gives some insane (according to me) 7/10 corrections on prong. Is this normal?

This is us with out basic commands at age 7.5 months:
Does anyone have comments? Any suggestions for my training? Am I too nice?
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