He has a dominance issue

"He has a dominance issue."  This is what I was told by the vet techs after they tried to flip Luke onto his back for an x-ray.  All I said in reply was "no, he doesn't have a dominance issue."  I got to thinking about this after trying to get both Elsa and Luke to lay in the pool with me over the weekend.  I have written about how my sweet and very affectionate boy turns into Cujo at the vet several times.  He gets very afraid that people are going to take him away because they have taken him away before.  So in response he tries to keep them away before they can get to him.  Once in and settled he is great, but don't try to manhandle him onto his back.

As I tried to get Luke to lay down in our new kiddie pool with me, he struggled.  I knew he would and was ready to calmly guide him down.  I succeeded and he relaxed.  We have a very strong and trusting bond, but he becomes a little alarmed if I do something out of the ordinary.  Add to that the physical aspect and he grows suspicious.  I will never wrestle my dogs into anything, it makes them nervous.  Elsa was much more nervous about the whole thing so we just stayed at sitting in the pool.  We will move to laying later.

It is quite obvious that the more a dog struggles, the more you struggle causing the dog to struggle further.  So when a stranger tries to hold your dog down as they struggle, it can become a scary and stressful situation for a dog.   Sure there are those who don't care what you or a stranger does but many dogs do care.  I find that the more intelligent the dog is, the more they can become suspicious as to what is going on.  They are the thinkers.

I clearly remember taking Jessie in for a Titer several years ago.  As they began the process the tech wrapped her arms around Jessie and she began to struggle.  Knowing my little firecracker; it was clear that she was going to struggle until she got away.  Stepping in to rectify the situation, I said "I'll hold her."  As soon as I did she was fine, completely relaxed and allowed them to draw what they needed.

Building trust with your dog is essential.  But there will be times when they become highly suspicious with the added physical maneuvering, they will become more concerned.  Calm baby steps is the best way to help them to get over this.  Cutting nails is a common issue with dogs, this is because as they struggle we hold more tightly; causing them to panic from our physical hold.  So baby steps and lots of positive association.

Luke very quickly let me lay him down into the pool.  It was a comfortable position for him, the water was warm plus I was massaging him.  I never ask him to sit anymore, his poor old legs have a difficult time in that position.  So as he lay in the pool with me and relaxed.  Next time he will have a much easier time of it.   Some dogs just think more about things you want them to do.  I have often dealt with dogs who become very upset just as we start training; they grow suspicious simply because they have never been asked to do anything before.

Working through it all with tiny steps to the end goal is how to best achieve success.  Struggling due to a stranger manhandling them is very normal.  I truly do not understand why Veterinarians or their staff do not understand this.  It is one of those things over the years that continues to boggle my mind.  They deal with dogs everyday yet do not understand this very simply issue.  Of course this has lead me to putting another book to write on my list.

Just think about your struggle reflex if a stranger wrapped their arms around you and tried to get you to the ground with no explanation or prior experience in this particular situation.  Yep, it would not be pretty.


  1. Virginia TheNurseMonday, August 13, 2012

    so very true! I would venture that very few dogs have dominance issues with people...it is a trust issue and the only time you would see a "dominance" issue would be when faced with new dogs to establish the pecking order right?

  2. I applaud your ability to be the "hospital ombudsman" for your dog. I love it. I too had a Poodle that would let anyone do anything to him but NOT NOT NOT flip him onto his back. It scared him and he would thrash like a marlin on a line. As a puppy he enjoyed being held in my lap, on his back, but that was not something he continued to enjoy into adulthood. With veterinary staff, I think it is a balancing act between time management (they want to get the procedure done because, really, they are not there to help me desensitize my dog) and good animal/human management. Do you listen to the owner who lives with the dog and probably does know them best and risk discovering that they don't know squat and now the tech is bitten, or do you institute a policy of only staff allowed in the treatment rooms and just do what you want and hope the client does not take their dog and leave, never to return? Or a hybrid of the two? I prefer to be there for all phases of treatment and when I explain that I am a career paramedic they usually relax alot. They know I won't "freak out". However, they are never prepared for the level of ire if they treat my dog casually or roughly. Calm does not equal passive.


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