Is Dominance The Same As Aggression?

Is Dominance The Same As Aggression?

Dominance and aggression are two concepts that are often associated with each other, but their relationship is more complex than many people realize. While dominance can sometimes lead to aggressive behavior, it is not always the case, and there are many factors that can influence how these two concepts are related.

What’s dominance?

First, it’s important to understand what we mean by dominance. In animal behavior, dominance refers to a hierarchical relationship in which one individual (the dominant) has priority access to resources such as food, water, or mates. Dominance is often established through displays of aggression or other assertive behaviors, such as standing tall, baring teeth, or making loud vocalizations.

What’s aggression?

Aggression, on the other hand, is a behavior that is aimed at causing harm or intimidation to another individual. A lot of aggressive behaviors are the outcome of fear where the dog goes into fight/flight mode. It can range from simple displays of warning or threat, such as growling or snarling, to more serious forms of physical violence such as biting or attacking.

What’s the relationship between dominance and aggression?

While dominance and aggression are often associated with each other, it’s important to recognize that the relationship between the two is not always straightforward. In some cases, dominant individuals may use aggression as a means of establishing and maintaining their dominance. For example, a dominant individual may use physical force to prevent others from accessing resources, or to punish subordinates who disobey them.

However, it’s also important to recognize that aggression in many occasions is not a product of dominance. Some individuals may be naturally more aggressive than others, regardless of their position in the social hierarchy. Additionally, there are many situations in which aggression may be provoked by factors other than dominance, such as fear, frustration, anxiety or specific triggers. 


To sum up, dominance and aggression have a complex relationship.  Dominance can sometimes lead to aggressive behavior, but aggression can also be provoked by a variety of factors unrelated to dominance. Understanding the relationship between these two concepts requires a nuanced understanding of the social and ecological

Alpha Dominance Theories. Myth? Or Science?

Alpha Dominance Theories. Myth? Or Science?

Dominance in animals is a concept that describes a relationship between two individuals or groups, where one individual or group is able to exert control or influence over the other. This control can manifest in a number of ways, such as access to resources, mating opportunities, or social status.

The scientific consensus on dominance in animals is that it is a complex phenomenon that can be influenced by a variety of factors, including physical size, age, sex, and social experience. Dominance relationships can also vary depending on the specific species and social structure of the animal group in question. 

In many animal groups, dominance is established through aggressive interactions, such as fighting or displays of strength. However, in some cases, dominance can also be established through more subtle behaviors, such as posturing, vocalizations, or even changes in body posture or facial expressions.

Is Dominance important and relevant in dogs?

The more you can understand dog’s true animal nature, the better decisions and care you will be able to provide to your dog or dogs. Dominance and dominance hierarchies is something to consider when dealing with dog’s behavior. A good diagnosis is always a must in order to achieve a good outcome. 

The problem is that dominance can be easily misinterpreted and misapplied by dog owners and trainers. There are two different tendencies or trends that can lead to bad outcomes:

  • 1. The Alpha Theories. This theory has the tendency to think that most behavioral problems are caused because of dominance issues and solved by reestablising dominance hierarchies. This is specially true with aggressive dogs. Most aggression issues that I’ve worked on are not because of dominance status. Some of them are, but there are a wide variety of reasons for aggression. Ex: fear, specific triggers, frustration, restrainers such as a leash or a fence, negative associations , etc. Assuming that all or most issues are related to dominance is misleading and potentially dangerous. 


  • 2. The Deniers. This new trend has the tendency to deny that dominance issues do exist. They tend to avoid addressing dominance hierarchies as part of dog’s social interactions with both dogs and humans. Denying this and not addressing it when it is an issue it’s not helpful and can get you stuck in a never-ending loop of behavioral problems. 


Why is it so controversial with dogs and appears to be no consensus?

There’s been a crusade to prevent animals from being abused in the name of dominance. While this crusade is based on a noble cause which I applaud and support, on it’s way had somehow distorted the concept of dominance and in some cases even tried to ban the use of the word “Dominance”. 

This dogmatic approach is not science, although some supporters claim to be science-based. Let’s be clear, denying the existence of dominance and hierarchies in the animal kingdom it’s simply wrong.

 Scientific consensus says that most organisms organize themselves into hierarchies. It is also known that the fundamental biological mechanism for the regulation of hierarchy is serotonin. This is not disputable. Hierarchies are not a construct, they are observed in nature and they are 350 million years old.

Here is a good article on this subject from University of Cincinnati by Michael Miller: Unlocking the misteries of the pecking order 

How dominance affect dog’s interactions?

It is important to note that dominance in animals does not necessarily imply cruelty or oppression. Rather, it is a natural part of many animal social structures, and can help to maintain stability and order within the group. Additionally, dominance relationships can often be fluid and change over time, as individuals gain or lose social status or as the group dynamic evolves.

Disagreements still occur among dogs that have formed healthy relationships with each other. Some dogs can display socially inappropriate behavior and will challenge the stability and order within the group. 

While dominance hierarchies in dogs can be a natural part of their social behavior, it’s important for dog owners to be aware of the potential consequences of these hierarchies. In some cases, dominant dogs may become aggressive towards other dogs or humans, leading to fights and injuries. Additionally, dogs that are constantly subjected to dominance behaviors may become anxious or stressed, which can have negative effects on their overall health and well-being.

Good reads on these matter are authors like Elizabeth Hoobson:  (2022 edition) New preprint: pertutbetions shift social dominance patterns or Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe 

Should I assert dominance to my dog with alfa rolls?

The short answer is NO. During my first year of training dogs over a decade ago, I practiced successfully alfa rolls a few times. I soon stopped doing it. There are several problems with this:

  • 1. Alfa rolls do not solve the underlying behaviors and emotional responses of your dog in the long term in most cases.


  • 2. It’s not easy to do. WHY? Because submission doesn’t come from asserting physical force. Submission is an offered behavior from the surrendering individual, not one that’s purely enforced. I did 14 years of Judo and Jujitsu so I know very well how to apply this techniques. I’ve experienced both ends. Most people don’t know how to do this. If you’re using pure force, you are doing it wrong and you will never achieve submission. Most probably you’ll get bitten or you will shut down your dog into a fear loop. 


  • 3. There are many other ways where you can set rules and boundaries through Body language, controlled games and routines without confrontation, physical force or intimidation.


  • 4. By doing alfa rolls you’re risking doing it wrong, doing it for the wrong reasons, doing it to the wrong dog and getting bitten or installing fear in your dog in many cases. Not only you will have not solve anything, but you would have make it worse 


  • 5. It is not a pleasant experience for neither the human or the dog.

There are many different ways to set up rules and boundaries to your dog without asserting dominance or being confrontational. Having said that rules and boundaries are absolutely necessary. 

In conclusion, dominance is a common trait observed in many animal species and refers to the hierarchical ranking of individuals within a social group. While dominance hierarchies are often associated with aggression and conflict, they can also have positive effects on social cohesion within a group. Dominance is a complex concept that It is important to understand and should not be treated lightly when conflict arises. If you think your dog or dogs are struggling with dominance issues I would highly suggest to ask for help from an experienced specialized trainer in this issues. A basic obedience class is not going to get you very far and an inexperienced handler or trainer can make things worse.  


© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved December 2022

Growling and Snarling. How Should I Handle It?

Growling and Snarling. How Should I Handle It?

Dogs growling and snarling can be both alarming and confusing for pet owners. Understanding what causes dogs to make these noises, as well as how to respond to them, is crucial in maintaining a safe and harmonious relationship between pet and owner.

Growling is usually a form of aggressive vocalizations that dogs use to communicate their feelings and intentions. It’s important to note that sometimes dogs growl while playing with other dogs or with humans. It’s very common for dogs to growl while they are playing tug of war for example. These kind of growling is not aggressive and it’s ok.

What’s the difference between growling and snarling?

 Growling is a low, guttural noise that a dog makes when it feels threatened or defensive, while snarling is a more intense and threatening noise that is often accompanied by bared teeth and a wrinkled snout.

Is growling or snarling always aggressive?

It is important to understand that growling and snarling are not inherently aggressive behaviors. Rather, they are ways that dogs communicate their discomfort, fear or dominance in a situation. For example, if a dog is growling at a stranger who has approached it too quickly, it may be trying to signal that it is scared and wants the person to back off. On the other hand, if a dog is snarling at another dog that is trying to take its food, it may be trying to assert its dominance and protect its resources.

Should I ignore growling and snarling?

NO. It is important to take growling and snarling seriously, as they can be indicators of deeper issues such as fear, anxiety, or aggression. These issues can escalate over time if not addressed, potentially putting the dog and its owner in harm’s way.

If you notice your dog growling or snarling, it is important to assess the situation and try to determine what is causing the behavior. This may involve seeking the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist to identify any underlying issues and develop a training plan to address them.

What should I do when my dog growls?

If your dog is growling or snarling in a dangerous or aggressive situation, it is important to remove the dog from the situation and create a safe, low-stress environment for it. This may involve confining the dog to a crate or a separate room until he or she has calm down.

It is important to address a dog for growling or snarling and guide him or her into calmness as soon as possible in a safe manner. Reinforcing calm and relaxed behavior although it’s advisable ultimately won’t change the behavior itself. In order to modify aggressive behavior you need to change the emotional response of your dog to the trigger or environment that causes it at the moment it’s happening. This may need some high level skill of Behavior Training with a good plan and strategy. Your relationship with your dog is also a crucial factor to a successful outcome. Without a relationship where your dog fully trusts you and respects you, overcoming any behavioral issue is going to be close to impossible. 

What should I not do when my dog growls?

Do not scream or yell to your dog. This could potentially make it worse since it can trigger more predatory behavior and higher arousal on your dog. Do not make fast movements or rush into action. If you are in danger freeze and wait until the dog calms down. 

What other things can I do to prevent growling?

In addition to addressing any underlying behavioral issues, it is important to provide your dog with plenty of exercise, socialization, and self control skills to help keep your dog happy and relaxed. Incorporating behavioral training in your dog’s life paired with obedience training is a must in order to overcome aggression. 

What’s the most dangerous sign of aggression?

Growling or snarling are easy to read signs that can predict behavior. But the most dangerous sign of aggression is the one that is in silence. The dog usually makes eye contact with the target, tenses up and gets ready to strike. The next move is the bite and it happens fast. Never make eye contact with a tense or aggressive dog. If you do break the eye contact as fast as possible without moving your body. You only need to move your eyes. If you make fast movements with your body you’ll trigger the bite.

In conclusion, growling and snarling are important forms of communication that dogs use to signal their feelings and intentions. While these behaviors can be alarming, it is important to understand their underlying causes and take steps to address them in a positive and effective way. With the right training and care, you can help your dog overcome any behavioral issues and build a happy, harmonious relationship.

© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved December 2022

What is The Difference Between Obedience Training and Behavior Training? 

What is The Difference Between Obedience Training and Behavior Training? 


There is a big difference between Obedience Training and Behavior Training. These two methods or approaches are usually misunderstood even among some professional dog trainers. I very often see a lot of dog trainers trying to solve behavior problems with obedience ( “sit”, “down”, “stay”, “leave it”, “go to your place”  etc).  Flooding your dog with cues and commands does not change the underlying behaviors that are usually already imprinted or conditioned in the dog.

But before we dive into the difference of these two approaches and how we can integrate them, I want you to ask this bext question:


Do you want a family dog or a highly trained dog?


Answering this question and having clarity on what you want or need from your dog can safe you a lot of time, headaches, money and what’s more important it can help you give the best life to your dog. 

Family dogs usually need more Behavior Training (manners and self control), while highly train dogs need more Obedience Training ( Skills, performance and impulse control)

Your dog can know 100 “cues”, “commands” and “tricks” and yet still have a lot of behavioral issues.  Does this phrase sounds familiar to you? :

”My dog is very smart and sweet, but ….”

This happens because your dog can be very good at obedience (Impulse control) but have no control of his emotional responses or state of mind (Self control). Obedience is about learning skills, behavior is a way of being. Obedience has to do with performance, behavior has to do with social skills and having self control of emotional responses. 


Obedience Training vs Behavior Training.


What’s Obedience Training?


Obedience Training is your capacity as a human to teach your dog to respond to cues or commands. For example If you say “sit” your dog sits down or if you say” go around my legs and go to heel position” your dog will do that as a response of your cue or command. Obedience is based on performance and skillsets : sit, down. stay, heel, bring me etc. Obedience uses motivation, rewards and consequences. Wether the consequence is good (ex a treat) or bad (ex punishment) it’s still based on consequence. 

In teaching obedience some trainers use positive reinforcement and some trainers use positive reinforcement and punishments. But no matter what method you use your goal is to teach your dog to respond to your cues and to tell your dog what to do. For me in Obedience Training, Positive Reinforcement is king. This method is great to teach your dog to DO things. Ex: sit, stay, go to your place, leave it, bring me the news paper, come when called etc. 

Positive Reinforcement is very effective because dogs tend to do what’s reinforced with rewards. So if you want to teach your dog to Do something is a no-brainer to use rewards and motivation to do so. In order to have good and fast responses we as trainers need to make it fun and get our dogs excited and motivated. 

This way they learn fast, they are happy and it’s fun.  You can start with simple cues like “sit” or “stay” and move on to more complex skills like agility courses. In either case you want your dog to be motivated, excited and happy to learn. 

There’s a catch though, this is not so effective when you want to teach your dog NOT to do things. Does this mean we have to punish our dogs when we want to teach them NOT DO things? The asnwer is No and I will explain what’s the alternative soon, but before going there let’s talk about breed and Obedience Training. There’s this understanding and mantra that is often repeated among the dog community that dogs need a Job and that we should fullfil their breed. 


Should I Fullfill the dog’s breed because they need a job??


Dog trainers put dogs on high arousal and high dopamine to tap into the dog’s “high drive”in order to perform and win competitions like agilty, dogs sports and things like that. Why? Because they get faster obedience and it looks great in their reels or youtube videos.

 The problem with High Obedinece Training is that you can tap into their breed and nurture it. This can backfire when dealing with some unwanted behaviors like herding scooters, chasing kids, excessive barking, obsessive bahviors, attacking strangers, protecting your house/you or fighting with other dogs. Regular Family dog owners do not benefit from nurturing the breed of their dog. The most obvious examples are Pit Bulls or Dobermans whom were breed to fight or cattle dogs with herding tendencies that will chase bikes, kids, runners or anything that moves. 


So, How do you teach your dogs Not to do things? 


The answer is with Behavioral Training. When you have a family dog, usually this “Not to do things” are unwanted behaviors like excessive barking, pulling on the leash, biting, aggression, jumping on people, resource guarding, destructive behaviors etc.

All these behaviors are not fixed by encouraging excitement, high arousal, high dopamine or high drive. Quite the opposite. These behaviors can only be modified with self control, calm energy, boundaries and a sound state of mind. 

When dealing with these behaviors all of a sudden the excessive encouragement of excitement, high arousal, high drive and high dopamine used in Obedience Training are not going to help. Even worse, they can backfire if you’re not careful. 

Behavior Training is based on emotional state of mind, self control and social skills. Training and Conditioning is about micromanaging and redirecting every move the dog does without really working on the state of mind of the dog. 


What’s Behavior Training?


Behavior is based on Agency: your dog’s abilty to control their state of mind and your dog’s ability to control their emotional responses to environments or triggers. 

Behavior  training has to do with helping your dog to be in a sound state of mind. The skills needed are self control, respect and boundaries. It is based on your body language skills, energy control and mastering techniques that changes the emotional response of your dog, not necessarily redirecting them all the time. These techniques can include desensitation, counter-conditioning, enrichment, differential reinforcement, ABA and Coping Skills and Social 

A different way of seeing this is thinking of Behavior as social skills (being in a controlled state of mind and emotionally sound) and thinking of Obedience Training as going to Harvard or Yale, where you can learn very specific skills.

The one that will put you in trouble is the lack of social and behavioral skills (Behavioral Training). In other words you are not going to go to jail because didn´t go to Yale, but you will go to jail if you destroy Yale.

In animal world this has nothing to do with being ¨good¨ or ¨bad¨, it has to do with being ¨in a controlled state of mind¨ (green zone) or in an out of controlled state of mind¨ (red zone).  If your dog is in the wrong state of mind, no matter how much training and conditioning you´ve worked on, your dog wont´t listen. Any animal on fight/flight state of mind will not listen to anyone unless you force them. And forcing does not create acceptance it creates resistance.

To change behavior you basically need three things: 

1. The ability to master techniques to change your dog’s state of mind or emotional response to triggers or environments.

2. Effectively communicate with your dog: Body language and energy. Different from hand signals and treats. 

3. A solid relationship with your dog where your dog fully trusts you. This has to do with parenting not with dominance.




In a nut shell Obedience Training is a method for learning skills, while Behavior Training is a way of being where your dog learns to control him/herself.  

Knowing when and how to use and integrate this two different approaches: Obedience Training and Behavior Training is key in order to create and to maintain a harmonious relationship for any family dog. If you have a family dog and you’re interested in learning how to have a well behaved and well trained dog click this link Pawmos Online Dog Training.


© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved February 2023

 How Dogs Think And Learn?

 How Dogs Think And Learn?

How dogs think? 

Dogs are intelligent and affectionate creatures, and they have their own unique way of thinking and learning. Understanding how dogs think and learn can help us better understand our furry friends and improve our relationships with them.

Dogs think in a different way than humans do. They are primarily driven by their senses and instincts, and their primary mode of communication is through body language,  energy and some vocalization. Dogs process information in the present moment, which means they don’t have the ability to reflect on the past or anticipate the future in the same way that humans do.

How dogs Learn?

When it comes to learning, dogs have a remarkable ability to associate things with one another. Dogs also learn through observation and experience. They observe the behaviors and actions of their owners and other dogs, and they learn from the consequences of their own actions. This is why it’s important to provide dogs with consistent and understanding reinforcement, as well as opportunities to interact with other dogs and people.

They have the ability to learn through observation, repetition, and reinforcement. Here is a brief overview of how dogs learn:

  • 1. Observation: Dogs have the ability to learn by watching and observing other dogs or their human companions. For example, if a dog sees another dog being rewarded for sitting on command, they may learn to associate the command with the desired behavior and begin to sit on command themselves.


  • 2. Repetition: Repetition is a key aspect of dog training. When a dog is taught a new command or behavior, they may not understand it immediately. By repeating the command or behavior multiple times and rewarding the dog for successfully completing it, they will eventually learn the desired behavior.


  • 3. Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is a key component of dog training. When a dog successfully completes a desired behavior, they should be rewarded with treats, praise, or other forms of positive reinforcement. This will help them to associate the desired behavior with a positive outcome, making them more likely to repeat the behavior in the future.


Overall, dogs are intelligent creatures that are capable of learning through observation, repetition, and reinforcement. With patience and consistency, you can train your dog to learn a variety of commands and behaviors. You can train your dog by using methods like Luring, shaping, capturing and mimicking. I’ll be writing more on this different methods and on what are their pro and cons of each one of them.

In conclusion, dogs have a unique way of thinking and learning that is different from humans. Understanding this can help us better understand and communicate with our furry friends. Whether you’re training a new puppy or just trying to build a stronger bond with your dog, taking the time to understand how dogs think and learn can be a valuable investment.


© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved February 2023


What’s The Difference Between Leash Reactivity And Leash Aggression?

What’s The Difference Between Leash Reactivity And Leash Aggression?

There’s been a lot of confusion between this two terms: leash reactivity and leash aggression. I’ve even read very strange and confusing explanations of these two labels. 

Let’s start with leash reactivity

Why’s is my dog reactive towards other dogs only on leash?

This a a very common problem, especially in big cities.  The outcome is usually your dog barking, lunging or attacking other dogs or humans when they are on leash. Sometimes dogs can redirect and bite it’s own handler when this happens. 

Most of the times very social dogs want to meet other dogs while they are walking on the leash. They have friendly intentions and they just want to say hi to other dogs. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Maybe the other dog has kennel cough, or doesn’t have the vaccines yet,or is an aggressive dog, or the owner just doesn’t want to stop. Maybe your is dog too crazy and the other dog or person doesn’t want to interact. 

When this happens dog parents tend to pull on the leash to keep their pup away from other dog/s out of respect.They restrain their dogs maintaining constant tension on the leash. When you do this consistently every day your dog slowly starts becoming more frustrated. You start noticing more excitement, some friendly barking, kind of wanting to say hi and you don’t think much of it.  Eventually this starts escalating and your dog start loosing it more and more. Suddenly one day your dog explodes and starts growling, lunging and showing teeth when he sees another dog. What started being friendly, it turned into frustration and ended up being aggression.

So what’s the difference between Leash Reactivity and leash Aggression?

The difference between leash reactivity and leash aggression it’s just a matter of intensity. Leash reactivity is just your dog pulling on the leash out of excitement trying to say hi to another dog. There could be barking, franticness and a lot of pulling, but your dog’s intentions are friendly. When you continue this behavior on leash your dog starts getting frustrated. Leash aggression is when that frustration starts penting up throughout time and it turns into aggression. At this point if you let your dog go it can turn to be a bite or a fight depending on the other dog’s response.  

Why does this happen?

This happens because the leash becomes the source of frustration and the leash pressure becomes the trigger. 

The problem here is never the dog. The problem is the human. There’s no leash without a human. So it’s either because of the constant tension on the leash provided by the human, or the human pulling or yanking at the wrong time with the leash. 

Leash aggression is always caused by the lack of leash communication skills between you and your pup. Wether you created the problem or you already adopted your pup with this problem, it was created by a human at some point.

Why is my dog biting me when he sees another dog?

This is called redirection. Some dogs with leash aggression when they are hold back and they don’t have an outlet of their aggression they redirect their frustration into whatever is closer to them. Sometimes is you, sometimes is another dog that is next to them and sometimes is another human. 

Do I need to use a prong collar or an electric collar to fix it?

No you don’t. You can, but there are different ways to solve this problem without having to use a prong collar, an e-collar or corrections. 

How do I know it’s leash aggression and not just aggression?

When your dog is social at doggy day care or can meet other dogs off leash, but is reactive only on leash, then it’s leash aggression. If your dog is always or sometimes aggressive with other dogs off leash, then it’s not leash aggression. Your dog needs to be socialized. Thats a different problem. Having said that, your dog can have both problems Leash aggression and poor socialization skills.

Will my dog grow out of it?

NO, if you don’t do anything about it, it will get worse.

Can you fix leash reactivity or leash aggression?

Yes! Absolutely. With proper training and good leash communication skills this can be fixed. Sometimes pretty fast without using corrections, prong collars or e collars. The first step is to make sure you can walk your dog with no tension on the leash on a regular basis.

© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC |   All Rights Reserved January 2023