Download the Chapter on Dominance vs Unruly Behavior

Dominance Chapter Thanks for visiting Dr. Sophia Yin’s animal behavior website.  To learn the myths and facts about dominance in dogs as well as how wolf behavior relates to our understanding of dogs, download Chapter 2 of Low Stress Handling and Restraint of Dogs & Cats by clicking the link below.

The Dominance Controversy

Virtually everyone who started as a dog trainer over 15-20 years ago started out using traditional dog training techniques: similar to those used by Cesar Millan (National Geographic’s The Dog Whisperer). This is how most dogs were trained back then. As a result we have first hand experience as to why and when such punishment-based … Continued

Dominance in Dogs is Not a Personality Trait

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Anyone who hangs out with dogs and their owners has probably heard this or similar comments a million times-“My dog is dominant, he ignores our commands and plays too rough with other dogs.” To the general dog owner, this statement seems pretty normal, but to researchers studying social hierarchies in animals ranging from lions, to macaque monkeys, to bulls, the statement is likely to solicit a pause followed by a “huh?”

Handling Dominance Aggression in Dogs

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Do you have a dog with dominance aggression? Is he confident and aggressive over many types of resources? Is he outgoing, one moment as charming as Casanova, the next more like Mike Tyson? Read on.

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Low Stress Handling® – From the Veterinary Technicians’ Perspective

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  Every year hundreds of veterinarians, veterinary technicians, animal behaviorists, and others search for new and better ways to treat and train animals both in the veterinary practice and in the home. A few years ago pioneering animal behaviorist and veterinarian, Dr. Sophia Yin, developed a system for recognizing brewing fear and aggression, while reducing this … Continued

Low Stress Handling® Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs & Cats

With more than 1600 photos and 3 hours of video, the Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs and Cats book (with companion DVD, not sold separately) offers tips, tools, and techniques for recognizing brewing fear and aggression, while reducing this through specific handling techniques that decrease stress by improving patient comfort and safety.

This book and companion DVD also serves as an excellent companion to the Low Stress Handling® Silver Certification program

Dog Behavior Issues

Quick Jump: Aggression: Dog Bite Prevention Aggression: Fear and Anxiety Aggression: General Aggression Aggression: Inter-dog Aggression Aggression: Possession Aggression Aggression: Predatory Aggression Aggression: Toy Aggression Aggresssion: Dominance Agility Barking or Whining Biting Body Language Chewing Choosing the Right Dog Cognition/Intelligence in Dogs Cold Weather Safety Come When Called Dog Classes Dominance in Dogs Electronic Collars … Continued


The Old Way: Conflict and Coercion We’ve all heard advice that relates dog behavior to wolf social behavior: “Always eat before your dog and go through doorways first because that’s what a dominant wolf would do.” “If your dog growls or barks inappropriately or otherwise misbehaves, put him in his place by doing an alpha … Continued

phil_pull2Dominance is Not the Root of Bad Behavior

It is also now clear that dominance is generally not the cause of bad behavior. This is evident once you know the definition of dominance. In animal behavior, dominance is defined as a relationship between individuals that’s established by force, aggression and submission in order to gain priority access to resources. A dominance relationship is not established until one individual consistently submits. With this definition in mind, it is clear that most of the unruly behaviors we see in our pets are not due to a desire to gain higher rank. Consequently, dominance theory becomes irrelevant for most behavior problems in our pets.

Leadership Without Force

So what is the root of unruly behavior? The psychology studies on learning and behavior of the last 60+ years have shown us that animals (and humans) behave in undesirable ways because these behaviors have been reinforced. To change behavior we have to remove the rewards for undesirable behavior and focus instead on rewarding good behavior.

The simple approach, along with attention to the nuances of timing, body language, and motivation, forms the basis for establishing a relationship of trust between the human and the pet. Training becomes a joy rather than a chore and the methods open up a whole new connection with your pet.

I invite you to read more about the techniques you can use to practice this refined handling philosophy and establish better connections with your pets and clients. This web site has many free videos, photos, and resources for you to explore and use right away.


Sophia Yin, DVM, MS