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Dominance OK?


nancy
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Fergie is not agressive; let me say that first. But, when she was younger, she was attacked by other dogs several times because she was just neutral. And attacked to the point of needing stitches both times.

 

So now (she'll be 9 in December, which no one believes because she looks and acts much younger) she asserts herself.

 

Today, she met one of her friends, a ridgeback-mix named Sarah, out in our neighborhood field. With owner, who always tells me how Sarah likes to establish her dominance. Well, she and Fergie were sniffing and playing and all, quite nicely. Then Sarah sort of mouthed Fergie. Ferg made a growl and a sort of snap - with no attempt to make contact or even actually close her mouth. Just a "watch it" deal. Sarah came to a stop and stood still, with her head slightly down. Fergie stood perpendicular to Sarah's body and laid her chin on Sarah's neck for a few minutes. Then they were ready to go off and sniff the woods and the pond.

 

Is this OK? Or should I stop Fergie from such behavior? If so, how?

 

She was never submissive to other dogs (she is to us as much as we want), but she was trusting enough to be injured. We don't want that. But we do want her to be a good neighbor.

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Hi Nancy,

 

I am not an expert on behaviour, but from what I've read, that head over shoulder posture is a natural dominance cue between dogs. One book I found useful was called "How to speak dog" by Stanley Coren. As in all books, I don't agree with everything, but he did help me figure out some 'dog language'. From what you've said in your post, it seems to me that the two dogs worked out who at that moment was 'top dog'. I honestly don't know if this is something that should be stopped. I am sure there will be varied opinions on this. I always keep a close eye on my dogs when they meet a new dog...I tend to let the dogs work things out. If some people saw the way my BC and miniature schnauzer play together...they'd think it was an all out fight....with all the 'snarling..growling, mouthing, etc. but when one has had enough...it's very clear to the other.

Sorry I probably wasn't much help. I guess each situation you encounter should be assessed individually.

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By the title of this thread, it seems that you recognize that Fergie was asserting her dominance in this particular situation. Nothing bad happened, so why would it not be okay? I'm not sure that I understand why you would want to interfere.

 

Remember that dogs aren't neccessarily dominant or submissive in every context. Dominance and subordination are often quite dynamic. Well-adjusted/socialized dogs usually take the dominant or submissive role dependent upon the intercanine communication and context of each situation. In fact it's not at all unusual for roles to switch between the same pair of dogs during a single interactive session.

 

Dogs that ALWAYS have to be dominant and dogs that ALWAYS submit, no matter the situation, context, other dog involved, are, in my opinion, dogs who have trouble with canine communication and/or who are very insecure. I'm not sure why anyone would want to promote that.

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I think many people are over-protective of anything that "sounds" like aggression and in doing so prevent their dogs from effectively communicating with other dogs. In this case it sounds like your dog gave an appropriate response to something she didn't like and the other dog understood and respected that. I would be careful with dogs who you don't know how they'll react - but in this case, I think it is fine to let them work it out. You seem to understand your dog's motives pretty well.

 

(I just have to say, this is all just my opinion based on my own experience and the books I've read.)

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