How to train a dominant dog

How to train a dominant dog
How to train a dominant dog

Just like human beings, dogs are individuals and the character and personality is different from one dog to another. Some are timid, some are relaxed some dogs are submissive and will always try to please you. Then there are the dominant dogs. Dogs who knows what they want and who tries to impose their wills on other dogs or on people in order to get what they want. When buying or adopting an older puppy or adult dog, you might be able to see if a dog is dominant by observing how it behaves around other dogs. With an 8 or 10 weeks puppy this might be a little more difficult though.

Dominant behavior in a dog is not a problem in itself and naturally some dogs show this behavior. In a pack of wild dogs (or wolves) there is always a leader and dominant dogs tend to take this position. In your “pack” (that is your family) you are the one who should be the leader and not your dog. All the members of the family should be above the dog in the hierarchy. If you have a dominant dog then you will just have to put a little extra energy into asserting yourself as the Pack Leader. In this post I will explain how to deal with a dominant dog, what to avoid and why a dog is dominant around its family and other dogs.

Why are dogs dominant?

First of all, some dogs get considered to be dominant simply because they do not obey. This is not necessarily due to that they don’t want to listen to you but it might be because they are not properly trained and they don’t understand what you want from them. Dogs do not speak our language so it is important to learn how dogs think and how they function in order to raise and train them properly.

In order to properly train a dog you must first establish your self as The Pack Leader. Once your dog considers you to be its leader it will be easy to train. This is true with all dogs, dominant or not. Then you need to be clear with want you want from your dog and set boundaries. Rules for what the dog may or may not do must be consistent and all members of the family must act the same way.

dominant dogs

This forms the basics of all dog training and with a dominant dog this is even more important. A dominant dog who does not see you as the pack leader and who has no rules or boundaries to follow will soon make its own rules and consider him/herself to be the Leader of the Pack.

This can in turn lead to a difficult and sometimes even dangerous situation. This dominant dog might become aggressive when it is defending its toys, food or favorite place on the couch.and be very difficult to control. Therefore, you must show your dog that you are the leader to avoid ending up in a situation like this.

Showing a dominant dog that you are the leader

The following are some tips on how to show your dog that you are the Pack Leader. This is important for all dogs but especially if you have a dominant dog. These methods are really gentle and effective and are NOT about physically dominating your dog.

For dogs, there are some things that leaders do and control and certain ways they behave. When you act and behave like a leader then your dog will consider you one. When it comes to dominant dogs this principle remains the same but you might have to be even clearer and firmer in your behavior

First of all a leader (or leading couple) controls the food. In the wild the leader/leaders eat first and when they have finished the others will eat whatever is left of the food. So when you and your family has eaten you feed the dog. Before giving him/her the food make him/her sit first. Once your dog is sitting nicely, you give him the food bow. At the moment your dog finish eating and goes away, immediately take the food away.

This is important because a leader controls the food so you should not leave it for the dog to finish later. Once he is finished take the food away. If you give your dog a bone you do the same thing, that is once your dog has finished chewing it, take it away. A bone is to be considered food and your dog should not be in control of it. You give it, you take it back when the dog is no longer chewing it and you give it back when you decide to. You are the leader, you decide.

Teaching a dog to heelSecondly, when walking, you lead. When you leave your home, you go first, because in a dog’s world the leader goes first so you should go through the front door before your dog. Then when you walk, your dog should walk next to you he should not pull ahead. Teaching your dog to heel and walk nicely beside you is important. It puts you in control and in charge.

Thirdly, remain calm and in control at all times. If you are calm and appear to be in control, this will make your dog calm and he will have confidence in you and your lead. With a dominant dog this is even more important and you really need to show calmness and confidence. Dogs are very sensitive to our moods and if you are nervous and lack confidence your dog will feel it and will have doubt in your leadership. A dog in this situation might feel that he/she must take over role of the leader.

Fourthly Activities should be at your initiative. It is you who decide when it is playtime or time for some cuddles, not your dog. You call your dog over when it its time for play or cuddles. In the wild, the leading dog does not approach the other dogs, the other dogs come to him/her.

Now once your dog becomes submissive and really does see you as its leader it is not a problem to let your dog take initiatives to play or cuddle sometimes but in the beginning, when laying down the foundation for your leadership it is important to be consistent.

Make your dog work

Courtesy of WikihowTraining where your dog get use your head is an excellent way of making him calm and focused. With a dominant dog it will also reinforce your leadership as your dog must follow your commands. A dog trained to use his head will also be smarter and easier to train and control. Things such as agility or hide-and-seek are excellent and there are also a number of games where your dog needs use his head to solve problem. You can also give your dog a little job such as carrying a bag or object when you are out on the walk.

Key Points

Here are some key points on how to handle a dominant dog. These tips work well for all dogs even if they are not dominant but with a dominant dog they are even more important.

  • Establish yourself as the pack leader
  • Set clear rules and boundaries for what the dog may and may not do. All family members must act the same so that there is no confusion for the dog what the rules are.
  • Remain calm and assertive, showing your dog that you are in control and that you can handle things.
  • Give your dog a job, do some agility or play games where he/she must use his/her head.
  • You should take the initiative to games and cuddles, not your dog.


Dominant dogs might require a little more from owners than dogs who are submissive, however with the right approach and training, no dog should be difficult to handle. Once comes to dominant dogs it is all about laying down the right foundation from the beginning. Making sure that you act like a leader, have clear and consistent rules to what the dog is allowed and not. If you do this then raising and training a dominant dog should be relatively easy. If you would like to learn more about how to handle a dominant dog and establish yourself as the Pack Leader I suggest you to this site and sign up for a

Free Video Based Dog Training Course.

I hope you enjoyed this post and if you would like to share your experiences of raising and training dominant dogs or if you have any questions, please post them below.

All the best,


Comments 10

  • Hi Shaun, happy to hear from you

    It works the same way as with a puppy although you must be a little firmer and show even more control and self confidence than with a puppy.
    After all you are one who is in control of the food for example so you and your family eats first (in the wild the leader eats first) and then you feed your dog. You make your dog sit before you feed it. As soon as it has finished eating, take the food away. The leader controls the food so your dog should not be allowed to come back and finish it later. Same goes with a bone. If you give your dog a bone, you take it away once your dog is finished with it and you give it back later. You decide, you are in control.

    When leaving your home, you go first through the front door. In a dogs world the leader always goes first and when walking your dog should walk next to you it should not be allowed to pull ahead.

    This a few examples of things that you do as a dog owner that will tell your dog that you are the leader. These things might not mean much to us people but to a dog they are important and by doing this you will show your dog that you are the packleader.

    It is also important to always stay calm and show self confidence. To a dog this is the way it expects its leader to behave.

    All the best,


  • Awesome article on How to train a dominant dog.

    In the section Key Points, you state we should establish ourselves as the leader of a pack.

    How does that work when you’re first introduced to a dominant much older dog? One that has already been on the earth for a little while, in his/her ladder years?

    To Your Success,


  • This was very informative ,great topic as I have owned a dominant dog before, and would have loved to have had such a site to get this awesome insite from ,great information, thanks.

  • I can think of a lot of people I know who should be reading this article. Their dogs are the boss or the leader, and there is no control.

    When I went for puppy training we got taught that we have to ensure that our dog knows that we are the pack leader and not the other way around, although you are right, it can be a power struggle with some dogs.

    Some great tips you have included here, which I am going to forward to my friends. I like the one where you insist the dog sits before you give him his food. In this way, you are telling him in no uncertain terms that you are the leader and in control of his food.

    Just a quick question. If adopting a dominant dog who is seven already – would one be able to still train him in these methods?

    • Yes, you can still train an older dog this way. After all you are the one who is in control of everything the dog needs. Its toy, bed and food and it can not get them unless you give it to him/her. Just make sure to set firm rules and boundries already from the beginning and make sure you are consistent and that all family members are acting the same way. If you do this, the dog will soon accept you as the leader and it will be obedient.

  • A very valuable article which all dog owners should read

  • As a lifelong dog owner and rescuer of dogs which other people have rejected, I totally applaud your site and agree with everything you say. A dog needs to feel secure, no dog wants to be dominant but if there is no other dog/human is in charge, the dog feels it has to step up and be in control. A dominant dog is an unhappy dog and firm, patient, kind leadership is the way to change it. One of my dogs, a border collie, had been through five homes in 18 months before he came to me. It took a year to convince him that not all humans were weak and useless and we went on to have a very happy ten years together before he passed away aged 16. Great site, thank you for sharing this information.

    • Thank you for your input and your kind remarks about my site. You really know what you are talking about and it is great that you share your experiences with us. You are soo right about the leadership. A dog who resumes the role of the “Packleader” will feel resonsible for his family and will feel a lot of stress. As the dog live in “our world” there are a lot of things that the dog can not control, for example when we leave it alone in the house and the poor dog is there, all stressed up because it can not see the other members of the family and therefore it can not protect them. Once you establish firm but kind leadership, that dog will relax and feel much better because it does not feel responsible for the others, it knows you are in contol. In fact the same thing goes for a child. A child will feel much more secure and calm if you show that you are responsible and in charge of things.


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