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WHY HIERARCHY IS IMPORTANT FOR A DOG


In order for our dog to be willing to obey, he must respect us, and, for this to happen, we must be at the top of the hierarchy

Hierarchy

The dog is a social animal, used in nature to live in a hierarchical order in which there is an alpha or leader dog. In our society, the dog lives with its family of humans, whom the dog considers members of its pack. As a pack that is the family, it must have a hierarchy in which the leader exists on the highest echelon. Each member occupies one step in the hierarchy, and the dog understands that he will only obey those above him. Dogs do not expect equality on our part, they are born with a social sense and with a tendency to occupy a place in the hierarchy.

The importance of a hierarchy with Australian Cobberdogs Labradoodle to facilitate cohabitating.

THE NEED FOR A LEADER

A leader is responsible for managing the resources of the social group to which he belongs to achieve the most efficient results and the best well-being for all members of the pack. The leader is the one who sets the standards in the group and can be responsible, along with other members, to enforce them. He is also the one who watches over the safety of all the members and is in charge of organising food and space for his community.

The leader does not occupy his position by imposition, but is accepted by the other members of the group because they consider him to be the member with the most capabilities to carry out the task of taking responsibility for the rest of the members.

Since we provide our Australian Cobberdog with food, water, protection, mental and physical stimulation, companionship and attend to their health needs, there would be no reason for him to want to raise his status. If he achieves the role of leader, he would be responsible for everything that this position entails, something that he cannot assume or want..

If a dog believed he was the leader of the family, he would begin to find continual threats to his "pack" that he could not control. From family members who escape from their vision, strangers who come to interact with them, someone who touches the things they consider "theirs" ... There are countless situations that would put the dog in continuous tension as leader and that would end in frustration not being able to handle them.

DOMINANCE

Despite popular beliefs which suggest that the dog is an animal that if allowed to fight for a dominant status within its family, dominance is not a very good concept when applied to trying to move up the family hierarchy.

Dominance is a concept that refers to the ability of an individual to maintain or control access to some resources. It has nothing to do with alpha male status. "Dominance" is a matter of obtaining or losing and not accessing a higher status.

This would explain why some dogs are protective with food, with their toys or if their owner tries to kick them off the couch and is aggressive. In these cases the dog has the position of control over the situation and does not want to lose it. If left to his will, a dog will do what is most rewarding to him, and if a dog has been allowed to sleep on the couch for months, it could react aggressively if someone suddenly changes the rules and denies access to its resource. That is why when this happens, we should not think that the dog wants to be a leader, but we have let him think that he has control over it.

If there are many things that we allow them to have control over, the dog can begin to feel that it has power over some aspects of its "human pack" (not the same as feeling alpha male).

Can a puppy show a dominant attitude?

The Australian Cobberdog is a dog with a temperament that fits the role of follower rather than leader naturally, is easy to teach, very diligent, wants to please, and easily conforms to house rules. But like any dog, if we teach him (although unconsciously) that he has control over resources, the dog will do what it has learned. The dog, as it grows, tries different behaviours that it can adopt for each situation that arises and takes on a role and an attitude according to the results that it finds when carrying out those behaviours. Permissiveness often results in the dog understanding that it can do what it wants and behaving authoritatively, not so much for its "dominance" but for the learning it has had, and if you try to change that attitude the dog will fight to keep their privilege to do what they want, just as a spoiled child would.

How to establish a hierarchy

When a dog does not control the resources, he immediately assumes an expectant position towards the leader who will be the one to provide those resources. Having the dog's attention and willingness to please are two consequences that stem from the leader's control of resources and provide an optimal situation for developing the bond with the dog.

  • Space
    The leader must manage those places that the dog can access and must be able to indicate if he wants him to be in one place or another. It is very typical to observe among dogs that the one who establishes himself as a leader cuts off the others or prevents him from accessing certain places. That the dog knows that he does not control the space, places us as leaders.
  • Objects
    Obviously, the dog should not have the power to decide what to do with the objects he finds around him. This restriction does not only apply to furniture or clothing that we do not want the dog to bite, but even to its toys. On one hand, toys are a very valuable resource for the dog, and having them in our position allows us to use them as behavioural reinforcers and positions us as a leader. On the other hand, the dog should not think that they are under his control because he could develop a protective behaviour with them and be aggressive in his defence. Therefore, we cannot allow the dog to use objects other than its toys (to avoid damage and dangerous situations) and its toys must be under our management, which positions us as a leader.
  • Time
    Deciding what to do at any given time is typical of a leader. To do this, one of the most powerful resources is to control waiting times. It is not only about deciding what to do next, but the exact moment in which the dog can do it. For example, it is not the same to take the leash and that the dog runs to the door to leave it as soon as opening the door allows him to leave, to take the leash and make the dog wait until we give the order to leave quietly through the fully open door. In the first case, the dog is deciding without taking us into account, and in the second, it is attentive to us to reach a consensus between dog and person: "we go for a walk but in a pleasant way." The same happens when the dog goes to eat and we make him wait until we have served him and give him the order, or when we remove the leash and ask him to wait a few seconds. That wait positions us as leaders.
  • Food
    Food is one of the most valuable resources for a dog, so whoever manages it is immediately in a superior position. Likewise, managing food is not just offering it to them, but being able to touch or remove it at any time. This is achieved not by imposition, but by earning the trust of the dog. If the dog has no doubt that his food is guaranteed and understands that we always seek the best for him, he will have no problem handling our food because he understands that there must be a beneficial purpose in our performance. As a puppy, touching his food while he eats or offering him part of the food on hand can help to achieve that confidence.
  • Height
    Being at a higher altitude means greater control of the situation. Many dogs tend to sleep above ground level or try to climb on other dogs as a sign of control over the others. That is why it is often not recommended that a dog that is not clear on the hierarchy in the home be placed at the same height as the owner (for example, climbing on the sofa). Having the highest height in our possession makes the dog aware that it is not the one that controls the situation.

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