Dominance training is a controversial method of training dogs. While it has many proponents, it is often considered outdated and potentially harmful by many dog behaviorists and trainers. It is a theory that believes that the key to a well behaved dog is to be in charge of them, and not the other way around. The practice tries to emulate the way another dog would do it, mostly through body language -- not speech as most people use. Dogs rarely bark at each other to show dominance, they bark when excited, afraid, or angry. But the way we control dogs is primarily by "barking" orders to them using complex language, which they don't understand as readily and therefore don't accept our dominance as readily. Those who practice dominance training think using mostly body language is a much more direct and native language for dogs to understand.
Dominance training theory holds that dominance training should be done on all dogs, regardless of their breed because it can be used to treat all kinds of behavior problems. Those who oppose dominance training theory hold that dominance tactics are often harmful, that dominance tactics can make an aggressive dog more aggressive and a fearful dog more fearful, and that other techniques have been shown to be more effective for basic training in any dog, for correcting bad behavior in any dog, and for rehabilitating problem dogs.
The following is a list of methods or desired behaviors embraced by dominance theory proponents, some of which are considered effective and some of which are considered harmful under other theories of dog behavior and training:
- have them allow you to take food or toys away from them; you give them back, but they should accept your taking them and not growl
- you should walk through doors first
- you should always eat before your dog; let them smell that you are eating, but do not share (do not tease either of course)
- you can nuzzle your dog's nose, head, neck, body, in almost grooming motions, much like a parent dog would do to their puppy to clean them
- you can kiss your dog all over
- petting your dog on the top of their head (they generally don't like that)
- playing with and gently pulling your dogs ears
- playing with their feet
- when your dog is standing or sitting, put your hand over your dog's paw so you are standing on it (but not putting pressure on it of course, just the act of covering it
- growl at your dog, especially if they approach you while you are eating or beg (dominant dogs will not let other dogs get too close to them when they are eating)
- use a gentle leader leash, which simulates another dog putting their mouth over your dog's mouth
- put your hand(s) over the top of your dog's mouth like a muzzle