Establishing Dominance

I received a call from a lady with a dog training problem a few weeks ago. Her voice was cracking and I detected a sense of urgency. She started her story by telling me her dogs were dominant over her, and if she didn’t get them under control, they would soon take over her house. She knew they were dominant, because the two trainers that had previously assisted her told her so.
As the story continued, she told me that both trainers abandoned her when she failed to comply with their prescribed treatment plan.

The first trainer, which came highly recommended, told her that she was to; NEVER let her dog walk in front of her; NEVER let the dog go through a door before her; and ALWAYS eat before your dog eats, and make sure the dog sees you eating before they eat; and under no cirumstance, EVER let your dogs sleep in the bed with you. After the second class, the trainer told her she was a “non-compliant” client and that when she decided to address the REAL problem, to call her back and she would then reconsider taking her on as a client.

As she started to address the second trainer part of the story, I politely interrupted her. I asked if she would like to discuss the problem. She immediately started telling me her shortcomings as has been explained to her by the two previous trainers. Again I interrupted. “Tell me about your dogs,” I said.

She began to tell me about her dogs. Her disposition immediately brightened. She loved talking about her little babies. They are truly the light of her life. I let her tell me about all the cute things they do, and how she has changed her life to center around them. Finally, I asked the question, “What is the problem with the little guys?” “Well,” she said, “they both pee on the floor.” I said, “Did you tell the other trainers about this problem?” She assured me that that was the first thing out of her mouth. Another critical piece of information; when she contacted the first trainer, her pups were only 10-weeks old.

Both trainers told her that peeing in the house was a sign of marking territory, which was a “textbook sign” of their attempt to establish dominance over her. Two trainers, two identical plans, and neither plan addressed the actual problem. Three weeks of training to correct something that did not exist.

I started her on a basic housetraining protocol and sent her on her way, confident that the "dominance" would miraculously disappear once the dogs were trained where-and-when to eliminate.

I heard from this lady again yesterday; both pups are going to the door when they need to potty. Neither one has had an accident in almost two weeks. And, as predicted, her dominant Yorkies haven’t taken over her home; her heart, well, that’s another matter.