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Managing Dominance


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Hello Good People of Greytalk,

 

My boy Hester is proving to be a super dominant dog now that he is settled in and feeling secure. When he greets all other dogs he absolutely requires submission and a respectful approach by the other dog and no dog is permitted to hold its head above his. He approaches will his head held very high and his ears erect. It is rarely a problem as most dogs immediately comply and it is a very happy exchange.

 

My concern is over the dogs that have no manners or dogs that are themselves dominant or resist being dominated. In the case of the former Hester usually just produces a low rumble from deep in his chest and the rambunctious dog will drop and give a wide circle approach. (One unneutered Whippit who was a bit bold in his approach let out a yelp and dropped into a sit - hilarious.)

 

In the case of resistant or dominant dogs, if necessary Hester will escalate things to showing teeth and growling. He is not satisfied until he holds his head above the other dog. As of yet there has been no lunging or snapping but he has made some quick aggressive head moves.

 

My question is what should I do? Should I just let the dogs sort things out or should I intervene? I know if I tap Hester's shoulder or neck he will stop and I would be able to simply lead him away when he is on leash. But I worry about leaving him defensless or interfering with his natural behaviour. I have yet to interfere as it is usually so quick that things are sorted out before I have a chance and other owners always seem to understand. However I don't feel quite right about the situation. I don't think it is right for the other dogs to be frightened and I dread meeting a dog that won't back down (hasn't happened yet but surely it will).

 

After the greeting regardless of the original level of conflict if he likes the other dog Hester will stand proud and allow the other dog to explore him at will. The females tend to lick his muzzle and the males will sniff and lick his nether regions (go figure). If he dislikes the other dog he will just walk away.

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Not a dominance issue - typical greyhound (ie. dogs who are not always completely socialized to other breeds because of their farm/track upbringing) reaction to rude/impolite dogs.

 

Here's a nice article to give you some perspective.

 

I generally don't allow my dogs to greet other dogs on lead - too many potential issues for disaster, not the least of which is that the humans tighten up on the leashes, preventing the dogs from moving through the natural greeting progression (a brief nose to nose sniff, then each gradually moving down the dogs side until they are nose to butt, at which point they will generally slowly circle as they sniff) and sending tension down the leash, which the dog picks up on. Also far too easy for leashes to get tangled and a now trapped dog to freak out. If both my dog and the approaching dog seem completely calm and their body language is indicating friendly interest, then I may consider letting them meet if the other owner says it's okay, but the meeting is kept brief (a few seconds to start) and then I CALL my dog away, rather than pulling on the leash. All of my dogs get rewarded (including food rewards) for positive interactions with other dogs.

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Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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Guest Greyt_dog_lover

I think you may be misinterpreting his behavior. You say that if a dog approaches him, are you saying that when other dogs approach his FACE? When I had my boy for the first few months, he reacted the same way whenever dogs approached his front half of his body, regardless of if he was on or off leash. You see it is a very aggressive thing for a dog to approach another dog face to face. Unfortunately humans teach their dogs to do just this, but greyhounds raised as a pack animal, don’t have that experience. So until your boy gets used to the fact that other dogs have no manners, he will continue to show what you say is dominance, but in all actuality it really is a fear-based reaction to the expectation that another dog is looking for a fight. What you should do is not allow other dogs on-leash to approach your hounds face. To do this, simply ask the person with the other dog to let them sniff each others butts. If you don’t want to do that, then put yourself between the other dog and your hound and let them meet on each side of you, this will encourage them to maneuver to each other's butts.

Edited by Greyt_dog_lover
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Not a dominance issue - typical greyhound (ie. dogs who are not always completely socialized to other breeds because of their farm/track upbringing) reaction to rude/impolite dogs.

 

No, he will exhibit dominance over all. Not just the impolite. He will react the same with other greyhounds if he deems it necessary though most seem to pick up his cues right away and don't challenge him.

 

I think you may be misinterpreting his behavior. You say that if a dog approaches him, are you saying that when other dogs approach his FACE? When I had my boy for the first few months, he reacted the same way whenever dogs approached his front half of his body, regardless of if he was on or off leash. You see it is a very aggressive thing for a dog to approach another dog face to face.

 

No, although it doesn't seem to matter it is often Hester who will march straight up to another dog face to face and hold his head high. There is never a problem when the other dogs fold back their ears an avert their gaze. A very happy greeting usually follows. If Hester is particularely pleased he will play bow and invite play. The challenge comes if the other dog does not avert his gaze.

 

He is the same on or off leash. I wish he was easier going on this issue. Let me clarify that Hester is not compulsive about this. Many times, particularly on leash he will see another dog and simply ignore it and keep to his walking sniffing.

 

 

There have been no issues but I think there is a risk. It is pretty funny though watching him try to hold his head above a Great Dane.

Edited by KickReturn
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I agree with both previous responses. This type of behavior is not about dominance, although that is a common misconception and misinterpretation of the body language you describe. I question whether dominance has much of a role in canine social interactions at all, but if it does, a truly dominant dog would be calm and confident, without needing to resort to pushy displays.

 

The tense, pushy behavior of standing tall, head high, as well as the reactive behavior of growling and showing teeth, are often seen in over-aroused dogs that are a little insecure and unsure of themselves. As the previous posts mentioned, this type of behavior may be normal and justified when faced with a dog who is approaching too directly and impolitely. If it is also directed at dogs who are approaching more appropriately, it's more like the behavior of a bully than a true leader.

 

It sounds like many of the other dogs he meets sense his discomfort and are giving him calming signals to help diffuse the situation. Averting gaze, turning away, and sitting down are all calming signals. The dogs who show these signs are not necessarily submissive, but are well-adjusted dogs who know how to use appropriate body language around other dogs.

 

I'd suggest rewarding praising him for being calm around other dogs, and distract and call him away when he gets tense. If you need to call him away, always reward when he comes to you. You don't want to correct or punish this behavior as that may give him a negative association with other dogs and make things worse.

Edited by JJNg

Jennifer &

Willow (Wilma Waggle), Wiki (Wiki Hard Ten), Carter (Let's Get It On),

Ollie (whippet), Gracie (whippet x), & Terra (whippet) + Just Saying + Just Alice

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Summit has this issue. I see why you call it "dominance", though the way I think of it is more "wanting to be top dog" with the emphasis on wanting. I agree that it is an uncertain and insecure dog that feels the need to resort to such displays, and I also find it worse on leash and worst when only MY dog is on leash (i.e. being approached by an unknown, off leash dog). You need to work on building a strong bond with him such that he looks to YOU for guidance when he is uncertain.

 

For us we trained a "watch me" command. As soon as we see another dog approaching I start asking him for it and rewarding it. Basically I ask him to focus on ME and not the other dog. At first the stimulus (the other dog) has to be quite far away for you to be able to get your dog's attention. As you work together and he gets the idea though he becomes less interested in the other dog and more interested in you and you can get closer and closer to a stimulus and still hold his attention.

 

Summit is okay with many dogs, has a rocky start with others which can be worked out, and absolutely cannot interact with others. Over time I've learned to be able to fairly reliably determine which category a dog belongs in. Sometimes you'll be wrong, but you get pretty good at it. I have a pretty good idea based on the other dog's size, breed, gender, and body language whether there might be potential problems. If I think the chances there will be a problem are quite low I will allow a meeting if the other owner/dog are interested. If potentially a problem I will warn the other owner and we can do a brief meeting. If I think the other dog is likely to trigger Summit I give them a bit of space and ask him for his attention until we pass the other dog.

Kristie and the Apex Agility Greyhounds: Kili (ATChC AgMCh Lakilanni Where Eagles Fly RN IP MSCDC MTRDC ExS Bronze ExJ Bronze ) and Kenna (Lakilanni Kiss The Sky RN MADC MJDC AGDC AGEx AGExJ). Waiting at the Bridge: Retired racer Summit (Bbf Dropout) May 5, 2005-Jan 30, 2019

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I agree with the others that his behavior is more about "wanting" to be the dominant dog rather than being it. By his actions he is getting ready to act without being provoked.

 

I might guess that some owners might not want to hear that though and may decide that they like their dog to be "dominant" rather than "fearful". The key here is to get the dog to be "confident" because in that case, they are comfortable in all situations and as a result of that, they don't need to be dominant.

 

In this case, you can help diffuse the situations by not allowing the behavior to escalate - the minute it starts, get him to focus on you and not the other dog. As others have suggested - do not do head on meetings with other dogs. i would also go one step further and keep any contact with other dogs on the street to a minimum until he can meet them without trying to be dominant. Also, training classes will really help in having the dog develop confidence.

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I agree; this is not about dominance.

 

Peyton is very much the same. His ears go up and stiffen, he is tense in the shoulders, and his tail raises high. If a dog is pushy or jumps at him, it quickly escalates into him growling and snapping if pushed. Peyton is actually unsure of himself. If a dog truly goes for him, he is a nervous wreck!

 

Head on meetings will make this worse. Encouraging dogs to meet from the side or to circle each other can help but on a leash it is difficult to manage. We actually just met a male greyhound who is the same way and I was nervous of what would happen. I encouraged both to walk around each other and sniff politely. After about a minute, both started to relax and then Peyton lost interest and felt safe enough to turn his back on the strange grey and continue begging for attention from the new humans! I praised Peyton throughout the encounter as he relaxed but I was also careful to redirect him and the new dog when they were facing head on and tense.

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Truly confident dogs don't need to act like they're superior ("dominant"). They know who they are and don't need to put on a show. It's no different with human beings. Who radiates more confidence and commands more respect in a confrontation: the person who throws his weight around, resorts to yelling and insulting or uses physical means to get his way, or the person who stays calm, won't get sucked in and all emotional, and will just walk away if the other participants in the confrontation refuse to be polite and reasonable? I always have to think of teachers in my past: the best teachers (and those were in the vast minority) radiate calm authority the moment they walked in the door. They had no need to threaten any unruly students, because they were secure in themselves. We just KNEW we couldn't mess with them, and we truly respected them without having to challenge them. I see no difference in social interactions in that realm with dogs. For some reason, humans have a hard time letting go of calling insecure canine behaviors "dominant".

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Guest LindsaySF

Truly confident dogs don't show these behaviors, but slightly insecure dogs do. I would not allow face-to-face interaction, especially on-leash. Encourage butt sniffing instead and walking alongside another dog when they meet.

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Thanks for all the great advice. I will continue to be vigilant.

 

I still wonder if I/we are reading Hester correctly. Here is one seriously laid back. calm dog. He is always calm when other dogs approach and doesn't seem the slightest bit upset by a quick argument. And it's probably only one in thirty dogs he meets that result in an issue. If he was insecure I suspect he would have more frequent negative reactions. He might only be assuming the upright stance once the other dog faces him. I need to do much more observation.

 

Funny thing is with small, submissive or frightened dogs he goes through the full range of calming signals or simply looks away and allows them to sniff at will. There have been a few hilarious encounters where he has walked away from very small dogs who continue to follow him leaping up between his hind legs to get a good whiff of his naughty bits.

 

Thanks again for the tips.

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Guest LindsaySF

He sounds a lot like my boy Teagan. Teagan is my alpha here, and usually he is unfazed by things, but I can tell he gets uncomfortable when other dogs act up or get in his face. He does the same ears up, head up, tail up thing. He's better at face to butt meetings, and off-leash meetings. Good luck!

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For what it's worth I observed about 20 grettings on a trail walk yesterday. Most greetings involve Hester ignoring the oncoming dog. Once the strange dog passes they usually do a U-turn and approach Hester from behind for a bum sniff. Sometimes Hester keeps walking and sometimes he will stop for a sniff of his own. He finishes quickly and resumes his direction. If there was any face to face interaction he would raise his head and his ears. For dogs that approached more directly as opposed to passing first and then turning, he would raise his head and ears and meet them directly. A normal greeting followed in all cases. There were zero conflicts on this day.

 

The most interesting thing is that Hester was in the company of his "girlfriend", a 65 lb female brindle (see the photo below - note the size difference) and every single dog that took an interest only approached Hester and never his pal. So fascinating, there must be some explanation why she was ignored. Particularely strange because she has the best personality of any dog I have ever met.

 

atthebeachpals.jpg

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Guest Greyt_dog_lover

If all the strange dogs had been of one gender, maybe it would have had to do with that, but that's not very likely... strange.

 

I'm deathly envious. 20 encounters and not one snarl?? I can only dream of that.

 

Really?

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The dogs that approach were both male and female. It was so interesting to pay close attention to the interaction. It was tough to follow exactly was going on. Everything is so quick and subtle. I would love to understand it all. Wish my boy could talk. I am just happy he is so content now that he has settled in.

 

Yes that is a raincoat. The photo was taken early in the Spring as he was warming up for a run on the beach.

Edited by KickReturn
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The dogs that approach were both male and female. I was so interesting to pay close attention to the interaction. It was tough to follow exactly was going on. Everything is so quick and subtle. I would love to understand it all.

 

Often observation is the most important tool in figuring out interactions between dogs. As you continue to pay close attention to the body language, see if you can notice any patterns to what triggers Hester to show his tense, pushy behavior, or to growl or show teeth. Try to put aside any preconceived interpretations of the behavior (ie. dominance/ submission), and just watch what the dogs are doing with an open mind. It also helps to get really familiar with calming signals, which can be easy to miss unless you're specifically looking for them.

Jennifer &

Willow (Wilma Waggle), Wiki (Wiki Hard Ten), Carter (Let's Get It On),

Ollie (whippet), Gracie (whippet x), & Terra (whippet) + Just Saying + Just Alice

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Guest Greyt_dog_lover

If all the strange dogs had been of one gender, maybe it would have had to do with that, but that's not very likely... strange.

 

I'm deathly envious. 20 encounters and not one snarl?? I can only dream of that.

 

Really?

 

Really.

 

Wow, sorry to hear that. Have you done any desensitization training to help with the situation? It is a behavior that is extinquishable with work.

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If all the strange dogs had been of one gender, maybe it would have had to do with that, but that's not very likely... strange.

 

I'm deathly envious. 20 encounters and not one snarl?? I can only dream of that.

 

Really?

 

Really.

 

Wow, sorry to hear that. Have you done any desensitization training to help with the situation? It is a behavior that is extinquishable with work.

There are some dogs who will likely require management for the rest of their lives despite consistent training from the owner. Edited by NeylasMom

gallery_12662_3351_862.jpg

Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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I tried everything that was recommended to me on this forum and beyond. And, like Neylasmom said, I came to the conclusion that Tracker will indeed need lifelong management. I've seen a tiny bit of improvement over the course of 2 years, and I mean tiny. We live in a sparsely populated area, so it's not that important to me. The nice thing is that when he walks in a small group of dogs, even when he's the only one on leash, he couldn't care less about strange dogs. And off leash he's always fine with others, even small dogs.

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Guest Wasserbuffel
I tried everything that was recommended to me on this forum and beyond. And, like Neylasmom said, I came to the conclusion that Tracker will indeed need lifelong management

 

Jayne is the same way. She'll greet other dogs, and sniff their butts for an hour, but if she's on leash she won't let them sniff her at all. She's not reactive when off leash, or with dogs she's really familiar with. When we go to meet and greets, I just keep her away from the other dogs. When we go for group greyhound walks, I muzzle her.

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OK here's another one. The other day at the beach Hester broke up a fight. Three dogs started to bully and attack a super submissive (and gorgeous) Flatcoat. He bounded from my side, placed himself in front of the Flatcoat barking at the other dogs and then chased them off. Then he went back to the Flatcoat that was still on the ground and gave a sweet nose to nose sniff and then returned to my side. The whole thing took about 10 secconds. Very heroic and all but my bet he was just being bossy.

Edited by KickReturn
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