Let’s clear up the difference between dog behavior terms “dominance” and “leader”. In animal behavior terms the word “dominance” means that there is a relationship between animals or animal and people where one or the other is in the “alpha” or dominant role. When facing another set of animals or people, the dog may not be in the “alpha” or dominant role.
The term “leader” means your dog is in the front of whatever activity. She may lead through the door or be the first out of the boat. Just because your dog goes through the door before you does not mean she is going to dominate over you.
The same is true of the myth that if you let your dog lead on a walk around the block she will take an ‘alpha’ role and dominate you. I’ve seen plenty of puppies being drug behind on a leash during a training class. These same puppies will dominate another if allowed to mix it up in a group. They weren’t leading their pet parents during the training. In fact, because they weren’t accustomed to the leash, the pet parents ended up shlepping them along on the floor.
Evidence and experience disproves this dog behavior myth. Well behaved dogs that consistently obey verbal, hand, or whistle commands will still go through the door first. They are just busting to find out what’s on the other side.
Now this isn’t to say that having a dog blast around or through people’s legs in order to get out the door is appropriate behavior. It is not and can even be dangerous. Have you every had a dog wrap her leash around your legs? Try not to hit the deck when that happens. Also, you don’t want your dog to bust out the door and dash into the street.
That’s were spending time together with your dog to train her how to calmly enter or exit a building or car is vital. Whether or not they go through it first, second or she holds the door for you is not important. Getting her through the door without injuring others or compromising her safety is essential. So the next time someone warns you that you are letting your dog dominate you by letting her lead, just set them straight on this dog behavior myth.
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