Dealing with Dominant Aggression

Dominant Aggression Header 2

By: Tina Thurston

A dog is considered dominant aggressive when they become aggressive towards you, the owner. This differs from fear-based aggression where the dog is typically aggressive towards others.

With dominant aggression, a dog shows aggression when protecting anything they find valuable, or if they are going through an unpleasant experience.

Usually they have been taught –unintentionally– that if they show aggression what they don’t like will stop.


Dominant Aggression is caused mainly by problems in the hierarchy. In the wild, dogs live in packs, and the pack always has a leader. Even though your dog is domesticated, it is still hardwired in their brain that they need to have a leader, someone to protect them and make the difficult decisions. That leader should be you, but if you as the owner are not fulfilling that role, then the dog will begin to take charge.

If there is more than one dog in the house, it is usually easy to pick out which of the dogs is the dominant one. A dominant dog is the one that always has to be first. They don’t let other pets around their food or toys, and they can show aggression when other dogs try to seek out affection.

Sometimes even the cats are the dominant ones in the house! They don’t let the dog do anything.

It is also common to find one person in the house who is more dominant than the others. In many cases, it is a male that is looked to for direction from the dog. Men typically have stronger body language, deeper, louder voices, and don’t typically baby the dog. But that doesn’t mean it will be like this forever!

 Knowing Who’s Boss

First thing’s first: Dominant aggression can be tricky and potentially dangerous to work with.

Many dogs don’t want to be the leader, so if you step up, they will be happy to step down. However, some dogs are not as cooperative and will fight back. Don’t underestimate the power of your dog.

Yes, it is your dog. You live with it every day, and you know his or her personality. But, in the end it is still a dog. They have teeth, and they have the power to bite at any time, especially if they are being challenged. The last thing you want to happen is for your dog to take their aggression out on somebody else and cause an injury.

There is no simple way to tell you how to fix dominant aggression. It takes careful training and corrections, but it can be done.

Please do not give up on your dog! Just about any situation can be resolved with the proper training and dedication.

Preventing Aggression

Here are some preventative tips to keep you from having problems in the future. IF YOUR DOG IS CURRENTLY SHOWING ANY SIGNS OF AGGRESSION, CONTACT A PROFESSIONAL TRAINER; there is no guarantee that these steps alone will make the aggression go away.


  1. Make sure that your dog gets lots of exercise. That is always #1!  An exercised dog has less pent up energy to put into being aggressive, and an outlet to expel stress.
  2. You control all play, toys and affection. The toy belongs to you and you decide when play starts or stops. I know it is all too easy to give into that nose nudge and those puppy dog eyes, but if you are in control, you are showing you are in charge!
  3. Don’t give your dog free reign of the house. Crate training is always recommended, so they can have a comfortable, private space of their own.
  4. Don’t let your dog be pushy and controlling of your space. You should always go first when going through doorways. Always make them move out of the way– Don’t walk around them.
  5. Your dog gets their meal when you tell them they can have it. Make them work for their food. Give them some commands and they will get their food as a reward. When they are puppies, take their food away when they are eating and reward them if they do not react to it. Praise them, give them a little treat, and then give the food back.
  6. Spay and neuter. Especially for male dogs, it makes a huge difference.
  7. Do not force the dog into anything they do not want to do.
  8. Be confident. Low toned voices and upright body language will be really helpful.


Again, these are just things to work on to prevent dominant aggression and help you to become the leader of your dog. If your dog is already showing aggression, please consult a professional dog trainer to help you. By Your Side Dog Training is always willing to help with all of your training needs. For more information about Tina Thurston and By Your Side Dog Training, please visit

If you have any topics you’d like Tina to cover in her next article, please send your request to or through our Contact Us tab.





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