Can the dominant role in 2 dogs change with new owners?

Posted by zuskamiller
Sep 11, 2009
I have 2 Australian mix dogs, a brother and sister that were rescued from a vacant lot in a neighborhood in Mexico. Neighbors verified that they were dumped at 2 months old. They continued to live there until they were 7 months old with the neighbors putting food and water out for them. They would not come anywhere near people and were very afraid of them. Also they were very afraid of other dogs. At 7 months, a woman sat with them for 5 weeks gaining their trust, talking soothingly to them and coaxing them with hot dog pieces. She placed a kennel for them to go into at night and replenished their food and water twice a day. Yes, she has a heart of gold! After gaining their trust, she started her journey of finding someone to take these two dogs together. My husband and I met her at the vacant lot and slowly the dogs gained my trust but not my husbands. We were heading back to the states for 6 weeks so she fostered the dogs until we could fully take them in as ours. We visited them everyday for 2 weeks at her house until we left. She had 3 other dogs and these 2 rescues lived with her for 6 weeks. During that time the foster mom noticed that the female was the dominant one. After we got back 6 weeks later and took the dogs to our house, the dogs stayed very close to me and it took a month for them to accept my husband. They seem to be very afraid of men. I seem to be the person that they consider the pack leader. AS I said before, the foster mom determined the female the dominant one but as 3 months have gone by I am having a terrible time determining which is dominant. There are times that she seems dominant but more times that I think it is him. To me, he seems to boss her around, he tries to horn in on her food while she is eating and he steals her toys and bones. She just lets him and over the last month, I have had to step in and correct him. He finally sits and waits until she is finished eating and if I am present he clearly knows not to take anything from her. OK so here is my question... is possible for dogs to change dominant roles once they move into another home environment?
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Sep 12, 2009
Hi zuskamiller,

I am happy to hear that you adopted those 2 stray dogs. I am so impressed with that the lady successfully coaxed the dogs and socialized them! She really has a heart of gold!

As for your question of which dog is dominant, this is what I think:

When those two dogs were with the lady, they were with her 3 other dogs so the situation is totally different. She thought the female was more dominant than the male but it doesn't mean that the female was the dominant of the entire pack of 5. Also, as far as I am concerned, dominance can not always be decided by who eats first, goes out first and who challenges the others, etc. especially when dogs are living closely with human beings. I have 3 dogs of my own and a foster dog most of the time and they rush out our back door in the order depending on their interests, such as squirrels, going potty, barking at bikes, etc. Coming inside through the door is also depending on what is inside that interests them; because it's meal time, because it's raining outside, because someone at the front door, because it's time to go to bed, etc.

I think Holly is the most dominant, because she is the most confident, mature, and the oldest in age, as well as the time she has been with us for the longest time. She also pees over everybody's markings on walks.

Regardless of which dog is dominant, I think you are doing the right thing to step in and to make the male sit and wait. I strongly believe that as the respected leader, you are the one who can control the relationship between the two dogs (or three or four).

Good luck and have fun with your 4 legged kids!
Posted by KOPsarah
Sep 13, 2009
hi zuskamiller, and thanks for your post.
I agree with maxhollynoah, dominance orders can easily change in different situations but as the pack leader you can manipulate these yourself also. If you feel that the female would be a better, less aggressive leader than you can manipulate the order so that she is dominant by feeding her first while having him wait, letting her into the car first, greeting her first, letting her on the bed first etc.

In regards to your husband and your dogs have him keep working with them especially with obedience and alpha dog training, make sure the sessions are short, fun and full of treats and games. Your dogs should soon come to trust and accept your husband. Congratulations on your new pets and if you have any further questions don't hesitate to ask.