How Do Dogs Show Dominance Over Their Owners?

Dogs are incredible creatures that have been living alongside humans for thousands of years. Throughout this long history, dogs have evolved to become highly perceptive and responsive to human behavior. 

As social animals, dogs establish hierarchies and exhibit dominance-related behaviors not only within their own packs but also towards their human companions. 

In this article, we will explore various ways in which dogs demonstrate dominance over their owners and discuss strategies to establish a balanced and respectful relationship with our canine friends.

Understanding Dominance in Dogs

Dominance is a concept often associated with the social structure of dogs and their wolf ancestors. However, it is important to note that our understanding of dominance has evolved over time. 

Modern studies suggest that the dominance theory, which advocates for establishing a dominant-subordinate relationship with dogs, may not accurately reflect their behavior. 

Instead, it is more appropriate to view dog-human interactions in terms of cooperation, trust, and respect. Nonetheless, some dogs may exhibit behaviors that are commonly associated with dominance. 

These behaviors are often a result of misunderstandings, fear, anxiety, or inadequate training. It is crucial for owners to recognize and address these behaviors to create a healthy and harmonious relationship.

Ignoring Commands or Refusing to Obey

One way in which dogs may try to assert dominance is by ignoring commands or refusing to obey. 

This can manifest as selective hearing, disregarding commands they previously understood, or deliberately disobeying. 

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By challenging the owner’s authority, dogs attempt to establish their own position of power. Consistency, positive reinforcement, and reward-based training methods can help address this behavior by emphasizing the importance of obedience and reinforcing desired responses.

Resource Guarding

Resource guarding occurs when a dog becomes possessive over certain items, such as food, toys, or even their owners. Dogs displaying this behavior may growl, snap, or even bite if someone approaches their prized possessions. 

Resource guarding is a manifestation of insecurity rather than dominance, but it can be perceived as an attempt to control access to valuable resources. 

Professional trainers can assist in addressing resource guarding through desensitization exercises, positive reinforcement, and establishing clear boundaries.

Pushing and Leaning

Some dogs exhibit physical behaviors like pushing against their owners or leaning heavily on them. While it may seem harmless or affectionate, it can also be a sign of dominance. Dogs may lean on their owners to assert their physical presence and take up space. 

Establishing personal space boundaries and redirecting their attention to appropriate activities, such as playing with toys or engaging in training exercises, can help discourage this behavior.

Jumping and Mouthing

Jumping up on people and mouthing can be seen as another form of dominance display. Dogs may jump on their owners as a way to gain attention, assert their physical presence, or demand something from them. 

Mouthing, where a dog softly bites or nibbles on hands or limbs, can be a way for them to test their boundaries and assert control. 

Consistent training, discouraging jumping through alternative commands (e.g., “sit” or “down”), and redirecting mouthing onto appropriate chew toys can help curb these behaviors.

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Dominance Aggression

In rare cases, dogs may display dominance aggression, which involves growling, snarling, or even biting to exert control over their owners. 

This behavior is a serious concern and should be addressed by a professional dog behaviorist or trainer. 

It is crucial to identify the underlying causes, such as fear or anxiety, and implement behavior modification techniques to reduce the dog’s need to assert dominance aggressively.


Understanding the behaviors that dogs may exhibit in an attempt to show dominance is important for promoting a healthy and respectful relationship between dogs and their owners. 

It is essential to approach these behaviors with a mindset of cooperation and positive reinforcement, rather than enforcing dominance. 

By providing consistent training, clear boundaries, and fostering trust and respect, owners can build a balanced and harmonious bond with their canine companions. 

Remember, a strong bond built on love and understanding is far more effective in fostering a positive relationship than dominance-based approaches.