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So many new owners of puppies come here and ask for advice and input in how to deal with 'dominant' pups, that they see as refusing to submit to them. Puppies, of course, are not being dominant or stubborn, they are babies playing and interacting with their world the only way they know how. Yet the idea that puppies are challenging humans for dominance is strongly ingrained in our collective consciousness, and all puppy behaviour then gets seen and analyzed throught that filter.

My question here for discussion is: Where did the concept of puppy dominance come from? Was this something you have always heard about? Read in a book? Seen on the internet? Was taught to you by a mentor?
I never thought much about puppy behaviour, nor about their motivation, prior to finding this forum: never did have a puppy to raise, always adopted older dogs. But this forum really did open my mind and understanding to what makes puppies tick and how to read and understand their behaviour, that it was somewhat surprising to see so many 'dominance theory' beliefs being expressed by newcomers over the years. It is so prevalent, that I wondered, "Where do these ideas come from?"

So let's discuss, where did the idea that a puppy is being dominant or willfully defiant originate, and that we humans have to 'put them in their place'?
 

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Looking back on it and its been a while-with my last puppy I didn't see her as dominant and she wasn't described as the dominant pup in her litter-she learned quickly and even as a pup enjoyed it-she is intelligent-just a fun puppy and I think a lot of pups are like that- I will write more later -
 

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I thank my lucky stars for this forum and for having access BEFORE we brought our puppy home because I would have been screwed up with my thinking.

Growing up my understanding coming from my dad (bless him:)) was puppies noses are pushed in the carpet, THAT will teach them not to pee in the house. You must show you are "top dog" Alpha or your dog will disrespect you. I will also say my dad had a heavy hand with our dogs growing up no training just "do as I say", they were well taken care of & loved but SO SO unruley looking back with adult eyes & a dog of my own it was so messed up. LOL
 

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I think the idea sprung up because it's easier to have a "problem" to fix than to admit that a relationship with your dog can be difficult and something that you have to work on. Humans seem to do this a lot and we like to have something that we see as fixable rather than something that we have to accept as "the way it is." Labeling a dog or a puppy as dominant or defiant takes any responsibility off of you for undesirable behavior and puts you into the role as "problem solver." It also takes the responsibility off the person if they have to re-home or give up said dog. It's not that they failed, it's the they had a "dominant/issue" puppy.

Mind you, this isn't everyone nor is it the only reason but it's the one that I see most often. Luckily, I was never flooded with this message but that's probably because I was just lucky as well I did my own research. I found the right books early on (Patricia McConnel and the like) and was able to find a great trainer to learn from with my first dog. She's still one of the most "dog savvy" people I know and I now see how lucky I am to have had her as a mentor before I got all the different dog theories :)
 

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I honestly think people don't realize that a puppy is like an infant. All it wants to do is eat sleep & play. It doesn't know or understand rules. I think the word "dominant" or "alpha" just gets thrown out there too much. Years ago without the Internet you didn't even think about labeling behaviors like that, you had puppy plain & simple.
Lakota just turned 2 in January. She is the 5th dog I myself raised from 8 wks (kiya was 14wks). I often refer to her as a "dominant" female, but with other dogs. With people she is the sweetest little thing. The first time I brought her to visit her brother, she was probably 5 months or younger. They played so nice, it was great. Then I don't know what happened or why but she went "gremlin" on him. Gremlin is the best word to describe her actions. I found out that even as a pup, she had exhibited this behavior with the other pups, fighting to be first.
Unfortunately that behavior continues to this day with the other dogs. I can not say I ever felt like she or any of my other puppies tried to "dominate" me.
 

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How about "stubborn" instead of dominant?

There has to be some type of word/description to describe how some puppies are so much easier to raise than others who are much more "Independent"?

Just like in a pack of dogs, some will more willingly go along with the rest while some of the dogs would much more like to do what they want to do when they want to do it.

With the 8 or 9 GSD's that we have had over the years with some at the same time, I have noticed a great deal of difference in what it takes to get one or the other to do what I want them to do when I want them to do it.

How about we call it "Trainability" not "Dominance" (the latter is SO emotion filled it tends to set folks off one way or the other).

Maybe "Biddability".
 

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I think "defiant" needs to be defined. People assume that when a puppy continues to do what they don't want the puppy to do he/she is being defiant.

Someone, somewhere, put that word to use in this situation and didn't take into consideration that "defiant" means the puppy is fully understanding what owner wants and is blowing owner off.

That is simply not the case. Just like with children consistency, patience and repetition are the key.

Defiant is a word that never should have been used.
 

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I think the idea sprung up because it's easier to have a "problem" to fix than to admit that a relationship with your dog can be difficult and something that you have to work on. Humans seem to do this a lot and we like to have something that we see as fixable rather than something that we have to accept as "the way it is." Labeling a dog or a puppy as dominant or defiant takes any responsibility off of you for undesirable behavior and puts you into the role as "problem solver." It also takes the responsibility off the person if they have to re-home or give up said dog. It's not that they failed, it's the they had a "dominant/issue" puppy.

Mind you, this isn't everyone nor is it the only reason but it's the one that I see most often. Luckily, I was never flooded with this message but that's probably because I was just lucky as well I did my own research. I found the right books early on (Patricia McConnel and the like) and was able to find a great trainer to learn from with my first dog. She's still one of the most "dog savvy" people I know and I now see how lucky I am to have had her as a mentor before I got all the different dog theories :)
I totally agree with this statement. People use "dominance" as an excuse for everything they can't explain properly. I hear this day in and day out in my business. I do my best to explain to people that their dog isn't "dominant" and you don't have to stare your dog down or alpha roll it to get results. They believe everything they see on TV, from behavior explainations to dog food ads. That's why I call them "sheeple". Even as a professional, you can't change minds.

I, personally, have never had a dog be "dominant" in a pack situation. I rule my house and my rules are strict. I don't use any kind of adverse method such as "alpha rolling" my dog to establish my rules. I use NILIF and if they bicker, they lose privaleges to bedding, toys, treats. This snaps them out of it quickly. Of all the dogs I foster, dog sit, adopt, (I have a huge turnover in my house) I have never had an all-out fight based on "dominance". I've had spats over the best toys or places to sleep when a new dog comes in. I've taken beds out of my house completely and re-introduced them via a "claiming ritual". The claiming ritual is that "I" sit on the bed and when I want the dogs to join me, I invite them over, just like you do with the human's couch and beds. This ends all the problems. Periodically, I will walk over, sit on a bed and ask my dogs to remove themselves. Just a reminder that I own that bed and I let you "dwell" there for as long as I'm ok with it.
I've collected the toys that were stashed around the house and taken them completely away. I will reintroduce a toy while I play with it and invite my dogs to come play,too. If a new dog comes in and tries to claim chews or anything, I manage it by taking all chews away and swap them among the dogs. I take them all away and give them each other's chews to munch on. After 15 minutes, I take them away and offer them to the next dog. It's musical chews. I have taken some hefty resource guarders into my house and have never had spats because of this method.
My dogs know there is no "second in charge". Humans rule the roost and all dogs are on the same level. No one tries to "take alpha position" from another dog because nothing belongs to them and there is no reason to do that as no one owns anything.

I'm sure I'm going to get flamed for what I just wrote, and I'm ok with that. This method works for me and I rarely have any issues, no matter what kind of temperment a dog has. I expect my dogs to comply, as a new dog has to learn these rules. That's why I go through the rituals when they come in, to show them what's expected. I've fostered all breeds of dogs and many different behavioral issues. Resource Guarding, people aggression, and dog aggression are the most common ones I take in. This works for me but it might not work for anyone else.

EDITED TO ADD: my dog share everything. They wait patiently to share affection, no pushing to get in on the action. They wait patiently for food, treats, they work together as a pack and accomplish a lot. They are laid back because they don't have to fight for anything they want. It's provided to them as they have earned their stuff. I spoil the crap out of my dogs, my husband says I spend more on them than I do on myself and that's true! They deserve it because they have worked hard for it. It's not easy for them with the turnover in my house, sometimes they meet the one dog who will challenge me. They enforce rules like counter surfing and jumping on people. They know they can't do it so other dogs can't do it either. They will correct but that doesn't mean they are "Alpha" because they correct. It's not that THEY don't want a dog counter surfing, they know I am the one who doesn't allow it.
 

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So many new owners of puppies come here and ask for advice and input in how to deal with 'dominant' pups, that they see as refusing to submit to them. Puppies, of course, are not being dominant or stubborn, they are babies playing and interacting with their world the only way they know how. Yet the idea that puppies are challenging humans for dominance is strongly ingrained in our collective consciousness, and all puppy behaviour then gets seen and analyzed throught that filter.

My question here for discussion is: Where did the concept of puppy dominance come from? Was this something you have always heard about? Read in a book? Seen on the internet? Was taught to you by a mentor?
I never thought much about puppy behaviour, nor about their motivation, prior to finding this forum: never did have a puppy to raise, always adopted older dogs. But this forum really did open my mind and understanding to what makes puppies tick and how to read and understand their behaviour, that it was somewhat surprising to see so many 'dominance theory' beliefs being expressed by newcomers over the years. It is so prevalent, that I wondered, "Where do these ideas come from?"

So let's discuss, where did the idea that a puppy is being dominant or willfully defiant originate, and that we humans have to 'put them in their place'?
IMO it's an old school way of thinking that catches on with a lot of folks because it means that the dog has the problem. Whereas if you tell the same people it's because the owner is not clearly communicating what they want and giving the pup enough of a reason to do it, then the responsibility for the situation lands on the shoulders of the owner. People don't want to be blamed for training shortfalls. It's much easier to point the finger at the puppy.
 

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How about "stubborn" instead of dominant?

There has to be some type of word/description to describe how some puppies are so much easier to raise than others who are much more "Independent"?

Just like in a pack of dogs, some will more willingly go along with the rest while some of the dogs would much more like to do what they want to do when they want to do it.

With the 8 or 9 GSD's that we have had over the years with some at the same time, I have noticed a great deal of difference in what it takes to get one or the other to do what I want them to do when I want them to do it.

How about we call it "Trainability" not "Dominance" (the latter is SO emotion filled it tends to set folks off one way or the other).

Maybe "Biddability".
I think this is the closest to what I have observed. Some dogs constantly push the rules to the limits while others, once they know exactly what is expected, comply freely and willingly. I don't think in some of these cases it is the dog not "knowing" what is expected. My most "rebellious" dogs in that regard seem to be the smartest ones and the fastest learners.

I think there is a real balance there, too. I wanted a dog with the capacity for that trait "intellegent disobedience" that is a dog who will blow me off when he knows he has located his target odor vs. a dog I can talk out of or talk into a false indication.........but I also want "genetic obedience"......and I think to some extent these requirements conflict with one another.

I have tried to stay away from the term "dominance" but some dogs are definitely more of a handful than others......I think.
 

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My guess is it was Cesar. Before Cesar fans get on my case, I will say why. My brother got Tori when she was 9 weeks old. I paid for puppy classes and they did take them to four of them (missed week one, and gave her back to be before week six). At class 5 they were discussing alpha rolls with the instructor. I was happy to get her back. Their complaint was that she was defiant. She would potty outside, and then come in and potty again inside. They are huge Cesar fans.

Tori will be six in August. There is not a defiant bone in her body. She is NOT dominant in any way shape or form. She is an affectionate dog, with a strong willingness to please. My brother was just not accustomed to what it takes to raise a puppy, and maybe just a little too quick to think that his case is extreme, whatever it is.
 

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I thank my lucky stars for this forum and for having access BEFORE we brought our puppy home because I would have been screwed up with my thinking.

Growing up my understanding coming from my dad (bless him:)) was puppies noses are pushed in the carpet, THAT will teach them not to pee in the house. You must show you are "top dog" Alpha or your dog will disrespect you. I will also say my dad had a heavy hand with our dogs growing up no training just "do as I say", they were well taken care of & loved but SO SO unruley looking back with adult eyes & a dog of my own it was so messed up. LOL

It was truly surprising to me how many people called me crazy for raising my pup like I did (not rubbing his nose in an accident, not demanding respect via alpha rolling or other antiquated methods, etc.). It seemed like every person I know was spouting off advice about how I needed to do things and all of the advice leaned toward the "You have to show the dog who is boss" methods.

I will say that it's really nice to watch them eat their words when they see that my 5-month old is already better behaved than their dog(s). :cool:
 

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Chance&Reno.

Your method is too time consuming.

I use the Fonzi method.

If the dog gets on the couch and I don't want them there I just click my fingers and say, "Yo get off the couch now" works everytime. :D

Oh, I hope there is someone old enough to know who Fonzi is.
 

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I think this idea of dominant puppies stems, partially at least, from the fact that a lot of people these days couldn't be alpha to a goldfish.

You have adults who let their 3 year old child rule the house

You have men and women who are completely wussified and have had so much life and confidence drained out of them that they don't know how to be a leader to a 9 week old puppy or a 4 year old human.

98% of what makes Cesar Millan dominant is his presence, his confidence, his personality, the way he carries himself. He would do just as well as a clicker trainer because he is the kind of person that dogs listen to. People who don't have that confidence try his methods and it's not going to work as well.

We're a culture that looks at our kids and our pets, throws up our hands and says, "I just can't do anything with him; he must be dominant!" (or, in the case of the kid, "gifted".)

There's also the element that wants the big, dominant dog but hasn't got the slightest clue how to manage or train one.
 

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Chance&Reno.

Your method is too time consuming.

I use the Fonzi method.

If the dog gets on the couch and I don't want them there I just click my fingers and say, "Yo get off the couch now" works everytime. :D

Oh, I hope there is someone old enough to know who Fonzi is.
That was one of my favorite shows growing up! Anyone who doesn't know how the Fonz is missin' out :)

On the original subject, it always makes me chuckle when people ask how my dogs are so well behaved or they ask for advice on how to train their dogs/puppies because the relationship I have with my dogs isn't one that I analyzed for days and hours before I did anything. In a way, I treated them the way I expected them to act. Didn't baby them or pay them any extra special attention unless we were working. It's weird to think about "domination" and "defiant" and other training theories so in depth sometimes because it's been such a natural process... Even to think about a new puppy somedays makes me a little worried because I don't remember how I got good dogs!! :eek:

On the other hand, Sasha has thrown me for a bit of a loop because she's taking a lot more thoughtful effort in training and management with her fear and reactivity stuff... makes me wonder if my first three's great behavior has nothing to do with me at all, just got lucky?
 

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I think this idea of dominant puppies stems, partially at least, from the fact that a lot of people these days couldn't be alpha to a goldfish.

You have adults who let their 3 year old child rule the house

You have men and women who are completely wussified and have had so much life and confidence drained out of them that they don't know how to be a leader to a 9 week old puppy or a 4 year old human.

98% of what makes Cesar Millan dominant is his presence, his confidence, his personality, the way he carries himself. He would do just as well as a clicker trainer because he is the kind of person that dogs listen to. People who don't have that confidence try his methods and it's not going to work as well.

We're a culture that looks at our kids and our pets, throws up our hands and says, "I just can't do anything with him; he must be dominant!" (or, in the case of the kid, "gifted".)

There's also the element that wants the big, dominant dog but hasn't got the slightest clue how to manage or train one.
Yes. :thumbup:
 

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I don't call it dominate, defiant, or challenging me. I call it testing their limits and boundries. Just like with kids they will constantly test you to learn what they can and can't get away with. I've had some dogs and some kids who test those limits far more than others but if you stay determined in the end you will have a well behaved dog or kid. :D
 

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98% of what makes Cesar Millan dominant is his presence, his confidence, his personality, the way he carries himself. He would do just as well as a clicker trainer because he is the kind of person that dogs listen to. People who don't have that confidence try his methods and it's not going to work as well.
I think that's a big part of why his show is so hugely popular - what Cesar does looks like magic to the average dog owner, who knows little about dog training or behavior. If Cesar says it's dominance it must be so. If something worked for him, it will work for them.

And of course, the public expects fast, magical results, the kind you see in an hour long TV show, not the long slow process that building a relationship and training a dog is in real life. If they don't get those speedy results while expending the least amount of actual effort - why there must be something wrong with their dog! He must be more difficult than the average dog! He must have rank issues, he is willfully defiant!

Or, you know, maybe he just doesn't understand what's expected of him because you failed to train him, to set boundaries, to establish rules and structure. :whistle:
 

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I can't see it being old school thinking.

I was a member of the British Alsation Association 40 yrs ago, and I'd never heard the expression until I joined a forum a year ago.

I've never thought I was head of the household above the dogs. I just was - no effort from me. I think dogs just love to please.
 
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