What to Do About a Bossy Dog

Is it wise to encourage one of your dogs to boss around the others?

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
4-minute read
Episode #92

If that sounds good to you, here’s a sketch of how to achieve it. Teach all your dogs basic good manners--a stay; waiting for permission to go out the door; a cue that means “Leave it alone.” Manage situations as needed to keep your dogs on the straight and narrow--if Ziggy frequently takes Dogalini’s bone away, then crate Ziggy or keep him behind a baby gate while the old lady enjoys her chew. Supply attention and affection to polite dogs and withdraw attention and affection from rude dogs. Say Dogalini always crowds out Zippy during ear-moosh time, make it a policy that Dogalini gets ear-mooshes only when Zippy is around and getting them too. 

My next article will cover in more detail how to handle mild jealousy between your dogs and teach your pushy dog that politeness and deference are the best route to get what he or she wants out of life. Meanwhile, check out a wonderful guide to living with multiple dogs--it’s “Feeling Outnumbered?,” by Karen London and Patricia McConnell. I’ve drawn on it extensively for this article and my admiration for it comes from personal experience. “Feeling Outnumbered?” was a huge help to me in defusing dangerous conflict that arose between my dogs Juniper and Isabella.

You and your peaceful household can follow The Dog Trainer on Twitter, where I’m Dogalini, as well as on Facebook, and write to me at dogtrainer@quickanddirtytips.com. I welcome your comments and suggestions, and I may use them as the basis for future articles. That’s all for this week. Thank you for reading!


For a provocative discussion of “dominance” as a learned behavior, see John W. S. Bradshaw, Emily J. Blackwell, and Rachel A. Casey, “Dominance in Domestic Dogs -- Useful Construct or Bad Habit?,” Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2009) 4, pp. 135-144. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).