These are ways to help you minimize dominance issue that may arise over your pups life. I find that the leading cause of aggression cases I deal with arise from owners not dealing with dominance issue in their dog. Unchecked dominance issues lead to dog aggression as they age.
Note: I want to point out that several of the following behaviors my dogs do or are allowed to do on a daily basis (except for one, which I will discuss below, that I personally believe leads to aggression in a large amount of dogs) so by no means am I stating they should not be allowed or done. But your pup needs to understand its place or issues will arise as they age.
1. Furniture/Bed- Who does not love to cuddle with their pup in bed or on the couch? My personal dogs have free range to the couches and the bed (as long as I am not in it) but they also know their place in the family unit. The reason for this has a lot to do with being eye-level and sharing the “best spots” in the house, where only the Alphas of a pack should get the best spot. Again, this is something that needs to be considered if you have a overly dominate pup or dominance issues arise.
2. Spayed/Neuter- This one is simple biology and applies to both sexes. Will it always fix the issue? No, but it tends to help in a lot of cases.
3. Socialization- I get a lot of confused clients on this topic. First, A lot of people believe that dogs only need socialization with other dogs. If your dog will only be around other dogs and never need to meet new people then this would be true. Second, having two or more pups also does not socialize your pup. Imagine the only other person you ever saw was your spouce, would you be well socialized or crazy? This is best done at an early age where you can still control the pup easily. But a lot of us adopt and don’t always get to do this when they are young, in this case you will need control first so please see number 6.
4. Free Feeding- This is the one I mentioned at the beginning that I truly believe almost always leads to food and toy guarding later in life. Your dog needs to understand you are providing the food, by always leaving it out or even not picking it up and letting them “graze” they believe it is just there and not that you are providing it. Food should be put down, giving them 5-10 minutes to eat, if they do not it should be picked up and given back 12 hours later.
5. Sitting on You- Depending on the size of your dog this one may be a no brainier but just as you see the dominate dogs trying to sit on or pin down the other dogs during play they perceive you allowing them to sit on you as submission. This can go back to the furniture in where you allow them to be mostly or partially on you in the bed or on the couch. I see this more in smaller breeds and the reason smaller pups tend to start the fights they can not win.
6. Obedience Training- I think we all knew I would get to this one:-) Basic Obedience Training as I am sure my clients around Atlanta would tell you gives your pup not only the understanding that YOU are in control but the relief of not being in charge. If they believe you will take care of the issue and provide for them there is no reason to be aggressive toward other dogs/people or challenge your dominance. Things such as not listening, pulling on a leash, toy guard or not releasing when told are basic commands that you need in order to have the control required to enforce a lot of the other suggestions.
Our dogs may not love every dog or person he or she ever meets but we should never settle for behavior we know is not appropriate. Most of us strive our entire life to be “better” and we should do the same for your pup.