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What age to develop dominance?

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Birdie Wife, Jun 24, 2009.


  1. Birdie Wife

    Birdie Wife PetForums Member

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    I did a quick search on the forum and couldn't find an answer to this - I was wondering at what age do puppies develop a concept of dominance? Is it right from birth as they start to interact with their litter mates? Or later on when they start to become sexually mature? Just trying to understand my pup's behaviour and was wondering if the 'pushing the boundaries' stage is part of a dominant personality emerging or if it's just a pup being a pup :confused:
     
  2. rona

    rona Guest

    I think it is just a pup testing the boundaries, as long as you are consistent with what you want from your pup, it should settle down given time
     
  3. Birdie Wife

    Birdie Wife PetForums Member

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    Hi rona,
    Thanks for replying :) it was more a question of my own curiosity about developmental stages in general really. I don't really think my pup is starting to display dominance, she is a very energetic working cocker and gets pretty lively sometimes but we are getting on top of her behaviour through consistency and a balance of rewards and ignoring/exclusion.

    Maybe it's a tricky thing to determine in puppies, after all, most dogs might become dominant given incorrect handling by their owners but in some dogs it's part of their personality and need more leadership than others.
     
  4. Badger's Mum

    Badger's Mum PetForums VIP

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    My pup's a working cocker how old's your's? Are you going to work her?:)
    chris
     
  5. rona

    rona Guest

    I think dominance is an over used word, particularly in the development stage of a puppy.
    I believe dogs can show dominant type behaviour without actually being dominant.
    My boy is a prime example, he will sometimes approach other dogs as if he is the big I am but unless he thinks he can get away with a bit of a bully, (non aggressive) he will back down immediately.
    He will never display infront of Collies and terriers as he has learnt that nine times out of ten, they won't stand for it :D
     
  6. Badger's Mum

    Badger's Mum PetForums VIP

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    I think your right Rona Dominance is the most over used word on here;)
     
  7. Birdie Wife

    Birdie Wife PetForums Member

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    Hi chris

    Cari is about 14 weeks now. She's not going to work in the traditional sense, but I am encouraging her retrieve instinct and plan to get her doing working-type games and possibly field trialling as she has lots of FTCH in her pedigree. She's my first dog though and now having read the Gun Dog Club's puppy training manual it sounds like not the sort of thing you can really do for fun! Might be wrong though, it's been known to happen :blushing: There are shoots up here that she could get involved in. Would really love her to be able to find nests but not sure if I could trust her not to chase birds!

    Interesting comments re dominance, that's why I need you guys - I tend to do a lot of reading around a subject and it's great to have the experience of people who've been dog owners for years. So do you think there are dominant behaviours rather than dominant dogs?
     
  8. Nonnie

    Nonnie PetForums VIP

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    Are you talking about dominance in regards to people or towards other dogs?
     
  9. Birdie Wife

    Birdie Wife PetForums Member

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    Hmm, people I guess... but the same question could be posed for dogs too I suppose?
     
  10. Colliepoodle

    Colliepoodle PetForums VIP

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    I think the word is grossly overused by a lot of doggy people and so-called "experts".

    I think that a lot of people have jumped on the Cesar Millan bandwagon and spout a lot of complete nonsense, putting every slightest "misbehaviour" down to dominance.

    Dog to dog dominance is certainly possible. Dog to human dominance is very rare. Dogs are well aware we are NOT other dogs. They know that their human family is not a pack. Yet you still get the old chestnuts repeated time and again, like "eat before your dog" and "go through doorways first" and all that old rubbish.

    Dogs do what works for them, whether it be sitting up and begging prettily for a treat or showing their teeth to make a human go away. If I had my way, every forum would have a sticky section on why the dominance theory is outdated and based on flawed research, how PROPER behaviourists have more or less totally debunked it and that anyone who goes on about dominance too much should be treated with suspicion.

    [/rant mode]
     
  11. rona

    rona Guest

    Agreed but the going through doors first can be a useful training point as it is easy to teach and requires control of your dog.
    Good post :)
     
  12. Colliepoodle

    Colliepoodle PetForums VIP

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    Well yes. If I want to go through a door first I ask my dogs to wait. But that's just training. As you say, it's handy to be ABLE to ask them to wait. But then it's also handy to be able to ask them to sit, lie down etc.....

    What I am talking about is the "Oh if you let your dogs go through doors before you it means he is DOMINANT!!!!" (cue dramatic music).

    But I think you make a good point inasmuch as people teach their dog to wait before going through doors, and the dog learns a bit of obedience, and its behaviour improves through the TRAINING, and people say "Oh he's been much less DOMINANT since I made him wait for me to go through doors first...", without realising that it is the very fact that they are introducing TRAINING that is helping, rather than the dog becoming less DOMINANT (dramatic music again) :rolleyes:
     
  13. Birdie Wife

    Birdie Wife PetForums Member

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    Hi Colliepoodle,

    Your post is a real eye opener! Thank you :) I suppose, like lots of people, I took the ideas of the dog behaviourists who are in the public eye to be the accepted wisdom, without questioning much. Can you post/PM me some relevant links?

    So my other question then is, why do techniques that are based on the outdated dominance theory seem to work? Or is it a bit like Gillian McKeiths diet where she chooses the most hideously obese people to work with and really, any change would be a positive one :p?? Sorry to any McKeith followers out there!!
     
    #13 Birdie Wife, Jun 24, 2009
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2009
  14. Oblada

    Oblada Guest

    I agree with that!

    Although I think the problem with the word dominance is more what people make of it than anything else. It seems not to be politically correct to use "dominance" as if it necessarily mean total adherence to all the training rules ever based on the concept. Also a problem caused, so it seems, by deep misunderstandings around "famous" trainers/behaviourists's concepts and ideas.

    I personally think dogs (although not all) will try to test boundaries (just like we would!) and in a way thats being dominant as in trying to direct behaviour/taking control etc. Just like kids. Trying to assess what he can get away with. Also I do think that dogs need some sort of leadership in their life or they will take that position; not out of "dominant character" but just out of lack of boundaries, an unstable state basically. (just as it would be for us humans ;))

    Most dogs are not dominant in the sense that all they strive for is to lead and dominate everyone around, but most dogs will test the boundaries to ensure there is a leader out there they can rely on.;)

    Thats my understanding anyway :D
     
  15. rona

    rona Guest

    I love the way you put things :D
    I take it that you are not a fan of that man?
    You know the one in Jans signature ;)
     
  16. Colliepoodle

    Colliepoodle PetForums VIP

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    Try this link to throw another light on the sainted Mr Millan... Cesar Millan - The Dog Whisperer: Critics Answers

    I have no doubt that he has amazing success with some hard-case, "red zone", otherwise death-row dogs. He certainly has something. But I think the majority of his methods are needlessly cruel and distressing for the animal and what worries me is the way people fall for his flashing teeth and convincing lines ("projecting the right energy" has such a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Unlike "pinning a dog down until it almost suffocates") and become Cesar wannabes, advising pinning, poking, hissing and kicking and blaming everything on dominance.

    I know of several trainers and behaviourists who are getting the fallout from the Cesar fans - seeing dogs who have been pinned and poked and have turned either overly fearful or aggressive.
     
  17. Oblada

    Oblada Guest

    Getting a bit off track there with the anti-Cesar's cruisade ;)

    I think that, unsurprisingly with a behaviourist mostly watched on TV and who doesnt tend to explain in great depth his beliefs and work, there is a lot of controversy about the actual meaning of what he does and various interpretations as to what he can be seen (on TV) to be doing.
    Some people take him as someone who sees forceful dominance in every dog and tries to repress it by physically overpowering the dog... others (like me) dont see it this way at all...Unfortunately there are also idiots who not only misinterpret him but also think they can solve their own problem dog just by watching his programme...shame!

    I would say the reasons why some techniques that may seem based on dominance work is because they reinforce leadership, consistency and training...
     
  18. Badger's Mum

    Badger's Mum PetForums VIP

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    I agree with everything you have said!. from what i read in some of thread's on here it's more a human dominance issue more than dog dominance.
     
  19. goodvic2

    goodvic2 PetForums VIP

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    To the Op....

    Unfortunately these posts that involve Cesar Milan often run into pages and pages. I think the last one was about 15 pages and the one before 20. I am a fan of his, but I am not going to debate his tactics yet again.

    What I will say on the dominance theory is it depends on what your belief is about where dogs stem from and how they operate in the wild.

    My belief and Cesar's, and many other people, is that dogs are a decendant of the wolf. Wolves run in packs and at the top of the pack is the alpha male and female. These are the strongest, most reproductively successful dogs. The job of the alpha/pack leader is to provide security and food for the pack. They are the ones who would organise a hunt i.e food. In return the pack members give them total submission and respect. If a new dog comes along who over powers one of the alpha's, then that dog willl be replaced. Stability and survival of the pack is the most important thing.

    Some argue that dogs are so domesticated now that they do not think like this. That is some what true, but put a dog in a corner, when it is fearful or scared or unsure and it will revert back to instinct.

    So if you agree with that theory, then you have to agree that there needs to be a pack leader. To a certain extent, a pack leader has to be dominant in order to manage the pack. If they did not command respect how can the pack function?

    Do dogs know we are not dogs? I'm sure they do. This theory is not about pretending to be a dog, but communicating in a language they understand. Walking through doors, eating first, ensuring you walk the dog and not the other way round, getting good behaviour etc are ways of telling the dog that you are the boss. It would be nice if they understood english, but until they do, you need to demonstrate it.

    In answer to your question about dominance. I believe that some dogs are born with a more dominant streak than others. The same way some are born with loads of energy and some are not. I think that puppy's test their boundries, is this a sign of dominance .... absolutely. Dominance is not a bad word, it is just taken out of context People think dominance, and they think of a dog being pinned down or manhandled. My interpretation is MANAGEMENT and RESPECT.

    I hope this has given you another perspective on it. Ultimately it is down to you to decide whether you agree with the pack mentality or not.

    A further point..... If you have a dog from a pup and you do half of what you should with regards to training/socialisation then you should not get to a position where the dog has to revert to his instincts of pack survival. However, when you deal with damanged rescue dogs, it is totally different. A clicker and a training class is not going to help. You have to communicate to your dog that you are the pack leader and they have nothing to fear. Failure to do this will result in the dog trying to take the leader position as described above. Remember to these dogs, their survival is paramount.

    These dogs are not trying to rule the world or take advantage, they are simply doing a job that the human is failing to do.

    x
     
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  20. Birdie Wife

    Birdie Wife PetForums Member

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    Thanks to everyone who posted :) this has certainly been an eye-opener for me. I've seen the threads debating Cesar Milan's methods and I don't think we need to go over old ground here, and I won't stop watching Cesar's programmes but I definitely have a new perspective on it now. I think maybe 'dominant' is a human word that we give to some dogs and who knows how they see themselves?

    I think setting clear and consisent boundaries from an early age is the way to condition a dog to respect the owner. Maybe with rescue dogs it's more difficult because some might have been allowed to get away with things before and unlearning those bad habits takes time.
     
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