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Rewards and Punishment

Introduction to Aggression

Good Dog. Smart Dog






















Dog Behavior Library

General Principles Of Canine Behavior
and Human Leadership

Neotony means - the preservation of the behavioral characteristics of the young. When wolves were first being domesticated, humans unconsciously selected dogs for breeding that were playful, stayed close to the human, and were easy to work with. A wolf after puberty is aggressive, uncooperative and generally pretty nasty toward people. The concept of neotony explains how our pet dogs are so much more fun to own than real wolves.

How We Are Like Dogs
Dogs and people show similar thoughts and emotions.
Consider how you and your dog respond to:

People? Dogs?
· Food Treats
· Play
· Jealousy
· Fighting
· Safety
· Freedom
· Fun
· Fear
· Punishment
· Love
· Sex
· Friendship
· Home
· Possessions
· Leadership

How We Are Different

People Dogs

People are Democratic

Dogs are Hierarchical

People use written and verbal communication

Dogs use Body Language

People are bipedal without tails Dogs are quadrapedal with tails

Unusual Behaviors Reflect The Species Point Of View
Rolling in filth seems unthinkable to humans. However, to dogs it might mean:

  • A means of Deception (e.g., in hunting, covering one's own scent)
  • A way to spread the News (to those back at camp)
  • A form of scent Overindulgence (perfume in the nose of the beholder)
The irony is that we humans unintentionally fall right into subordinate behavior, and give the dog the incorrect message that the dog is the leader and we are the follower.

Pack Theory:  Using The Wolf As Model For Dog Pack Instinct
The "Pack Theory" is referred to as a theory in the same way as the "Theory of Relativity" is a theory.  All recognized behaviorists agree that dogs are descendants of wolves. It follows that studying wolves in their natural setting helps us gain some insight into the instinctive portion of the canine psyche. Dogs have NOT retained all wolf instincts.

The Genetic Origin Of Dog Breeds
When we call an animal a Working Dog, it means a specific behavior has been selected from basic wolf instinct to perform some task(s) for the human leader.
Note that in each case, through selective breeding, only one characteristic from the original pack behavior is selected, and the instinct to kill the prey is always avoided:

Bloodhound Leads the hunt by smell. Shepherd Herds by trying to fan out in a circle and direct the prey's movements.
Sight Hound Leads the hunt by sight. Retriever Brings the food back to camp.
Pointer Selects a specific target. Terrier Digs up prey escaping underground.
Setter Selects a specific target. Pet Wants to share the favored sleeping spot, and follow the owner (leader).

Pack or Group Leadership
One of the most important concepts in "Pack Theory" is "Pack Leadership". If a pet dog gets the idea he or she is the leader, it often leads to behavior problems because they are then conflicted when we don't always allow it. Here are some criteria to identify the leader in a pack based on observation of a wolf pack.

The Leader The Follower/Subordinate
  1. Leads others out to hunt.
  2. Selects a specific target.
  3. Eats first, choicest parts of the kill.
  4. Chooses favored sleeping spot, where others sleep nearby.
  5. Controls and allows grooming (and breeding)
  1. Follows leader to hunt.
  2. When prey is selected by the leader, joins other followers by fanning out to circle the prey.
  3. After the kill, gives up choice food to leader, then eats when permitted.
  4. May carry food not consumed at the site back to camp (for puppies or to eat later).
  5. Grooms leader more than the reverse.

Making A Pet Dog Status Aggressive (VERY RARE)

With some dogs if we unintentionally tell the dog we are a subordinate follower (lower in status), the dog may assume the leader position in the family. In this situation, it becomes the dog's "job" to threaten or control (bite) lower pack members (family) who might act in what the dog considers an insubordinate way, such as moving the dog off the couch, hugging or kissing the dog. This is a dog who does not show fear, or submissive body language. It is a very confident dog and it typically doesn't present until 12-18 months of age.

Dogs show abnormal behaviors as a result of stress, as every creature does.  Overeating or not eating, inappropriate urination or defecation, aggression, etc., are often stress-related.

(For these dogs) Humans Unintentionally Allowed Control ...

  • Permit dog to lead on walks and through doors. (Leaders lead!)
  • Give up our food (either from the dog food bag or worse, from our plate).
  • Allow the dog up on our favored resting spots, yet rarely take over the dog bed.
  • Pick up the feces while he watches.
  • Follow orders such as, "Let me out. Let me in. Pet me now. Etc."
  • Allow dog to intentionally block pathways, causing us to move around dog
    (who gives in?)
  • Freely and/or excessively praise and stroke (subordinates groom higher status dogs).
  • Play tug-of-war and allow dog to win (leader controls favored items).

Depending on genetic tendency ("predisposition") , some dogs are more likely than others to try to assume leader role, causing Status Related Aggression . This is most common in dogs bred to be "guard dogs", even so it is very rare.

If this happens, it can be gradually undone by following leadership exercises which demonstrate to the dog that the human is the leader. For example, the dog must sit or lay down before dinner, or attention, or coming inside, walks, etc.

The essence of leadership is controlling the valuable resources, and only allowing access to those resources in exchange for deference.

Dog Play Body Language
Dogs use a variety of body language signals to display playfulness. An individual dog may show any combination of these play signals:

  • Play Bow - slapping both front legs on the ground with the rump up in the air.
  • Exaggerated Looking Away - focusing on you while pretending to look away
  • Raised Front Paw - the solicitation gesture that roughly means "Please."
  • Prancing SIG And Zag Leaps - lots of energy and joy.
  • Chase Behavior - canine equivalent of starting a tag game
  • Play Facial Expression - distinct once you start looking for it.
  • Frequent Role Reversal - Pushy dogs act submissive to signal non-threatening play

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