In the wild, canines form a pack with a hierarchy that includes dominant and submissive dogs. This pack structure still exists in domesticated dogs, and puppies learn their place in the pack while growing up with their littermates. Dominant puppies are often the boldest puppies, exploring their surroundings and pushing their boundaries with both littermates and humans. Training a dominant puppy provides a challenge not found with more submissive pups, but even the most dominant puppy can be taught to be a loyal, obedient companion.
Begin training a dominant puppy as soon as you get him home from the breeder or shelter. The first few weeks of a dog’s life are extremely formative and these early lessons will help shape his future behaviors.
Spay or neuter the puppy as early as possible if he is not intended for show or breeding. Spaying and neutering removes excess hormones from the dog’s body that may contribute to dominant behavior.
Speak to the puppy in a calm, firm voice. Keep your voice in a medium vocal range, as high-pitched voices may excite the puppy and low-pitched voices may be difficult for the puppy to hear. Give commands clearly, and use the same command for each action to avoid confusing the puppy.
Take the lead when you are walking your puppy. Fit him with a snug collar and a leash, and encourage the puppy to walk next to you, keeping one step ahead of him as you move. Discourage him from moving out front. Alpha dogs always lead the pack. Walking just in front of the puppy will let him know that you are the leader.
Prevent your puppy from biting or nipping. Mouthing is a hallmark of a dominant dog and should be curbed before the puppy injures someone. If the puppy starts biting you, say “ouch” or “no bite” in a loud, firm voice. Offer the puppy a sturdy toy to chew on instead. Correct the puppy each time he bites you and reward him with a toy to show him that it is only acceptable to bite his own toys.
Give your puppy his own bed in a quiet spot. Furniture often represents a problem because alpha dogs tend to pick elevated sleeping locations. Letting your puppy climb up on the furniture can give him a false impression of dominance. If the puppy tries to get on the furniture, tell him “off,” and move him off. Take him to his own bed. Reward him with a treat there to reinforce that his bed is the right place to rest.
Feed the puppy on a set schedule, and don’t let him rush the food bowl. Fill the food bowl, and set it on the floor in the puppy’s normal eating spot. Slip the collar and leash on him, and walk him slowly toward the bowl. Stop a foot or two away from the dish and make the puppy wait a few seconds before allowing him to take a couple of bites. Call the puppy back to you and feed him a few pieces of food from your hand. Hand feeding, in combination with teaching the puppy to leave food when called, will help prevent food aggression issues.
Give your puppy plenty of exercise. Take him on walks in the morning and evening, and allow him to run in the yard and burn off excess energy. If your puppy has had all his shots and is friendly with other dogs, frequent visits to the dog park not only will give him an outlet for pent-up energy, they also allow him to socialize with other dogs.