Signs That Show Your Dog Respects You

March 26, 2010

By Linda Cole

The loyalty of our dogs cannot be questioned; they will stand by us through thick and thin. Dogs can be well behaved and guard our homes and property, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they respect you. You can tell if your dog respects you by how they interact with you.

Happy tail wagging, ears laid back and submissive body language when you return home is one sign your dog respects you. Lip licking, grooming you and even a kiss on the cheek are signs that they recognize you as their leader and respect you.

In the dog world, the leader always goes first. A dog who races to the door ahead of his owner is showing disrespect, and doesn’t see the human as the alpha of his pack. When your dog respects you, he stays calmly behind you and waits for you to walk through the doorway first. Whether you are going outside for a walk, up or down steps or someone has knocked on the door, a respectful dog will never push ahead of his owner.

The alpha always eats first and never gives out scraps of food while eating. The dog who recognizes you as his leader and respects you will never steal food from your hand, the dinner table or your plate. He will wait until you decide it’s time for him to eat. Anytime you feed your dog, if you haven’t eaten beforehand, take a snack and eat it in front of your dog and then feed him. If you can leave your food unattended for a short time, that’s a big sign your dog respects you.

The leader of the pack always takes the prime places for sitting or lying down. The respectful dog will move out of your way anytime you claim a spot on the couch, your chair or in your bed. There’s nothing wrong with allowing your dog on the furniture or in bed with you, but never allow him to push you out of your spot. When you get up, the dog should take a position on the floor and if he is lying in your path, he will get up and move if he respects you. Never walk around your dog. Make him move out of your way.

We need to groom, bathe, trim toenails, give medication, put on flea control and do things the dog may not like. A dog who respects and trusts his owner will not growl while things are being attended to no matter how much he dislikes it. Dogs use eye contact to challenge and intimidate subordinates in the pack. If your dog respects you, he will break eye contact with you first. Never look away from your dog first if he is staring at you.

A dog who completely ignores your commands to sit, drop it, stay or lie down is showing they are the ones who decide when and what they will do. Following your rules and basic commands not only shows your dog respects you, but it’s important for them to learn and obey commands because they don’t understand the danger a moving car can present to them if they ignore it.

Being the leader of the pack is an awesome responsibility. Your dog is giving you his trust that you will provide him with what he needs and do so in a respectful matter as his leader. But you have to earn your dog’s trust and respect. It’s not automatic and you do have to prove yourself to your dog. An owner who appears weak as a leader, is inconsistent, unfair, shows that the dog intimidates them and allows their dog to be dominate has lost the battle for control, and the dog will not respect them.

When a dog doesn’t respect his owner, it can open the door to an out of control, unhappy dog and owner who clash every day. An owner who has not taken full command of his dog will have an unstable and potentially more aggressive pet that is difficult to handle. These are the dogs that often end up in shelters or even abandoned.

It’s not difficult to earn a dog’s respect and trust. By taking the alpha role and showing your dog love, kindness and your own respect for him, your dog will gladly follow and obey you. Be consistent in your training, fair in your punishment if and when it’s needed and give your dog lots of praise. Set aside playing time to bond, and stay in control to earn your dog’s respect and the right to the best places to sit and sleep.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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  1. Linn says:

    Have had anywhere from 4 to 6 dogs at a time, all rescued off the streets by me or that someone has dropped off. I have two doggie doors so they come and go as they please. I’ve discovered that in a multiple dog family, there is always a dog alpha. Usually it is the oldest or strongest dog. It is also the one that I tend to favor and depend on to keep the others in line. When the leader dies and I am grieving , they sense my sorrow and leave me alone. As soon as I discover who the new leader is, I start working with him/her so that it knows who the boss really is. The present leader of my bunch of hounds is a 98 pound Great Pyrenees. I don’t know if Cesar Milan would approve. I am doing the best I can to make sure that the abuse and neglect that brought these dogs to my home is never experienced again.

  2. Maxwell says:

    I think the old alpha and beta dog theory should be researched further when dealing with the complexities of a house dog.

  3. Cait says:

    I have a bullmastiff and I always found it so sweet that, although she sleeps in my bed with me every night, she will sit / lay by my bed or in the hallway until I’m ready for bed. She also will never walk up the stairs or out the door before me unless I instruct her too. I never really understood why but it makes so much sense now. We have a very close bond and she’s also been consistently trained, scolded and praised daily (as necessary). If a dog owner or potential dog owner is reading this, know that it pays off. The bond you form with your dog through doing these things is amazing, and the trust you have for one another is also phenomenal. The only thing with her is sometimes she doesn’t listen to basic commands (sit, lay, etc) when they aren’t necessary, but if you know anything about bullmastiffs, you know that they have a stubborn and lazy streak that can be very difficult to break!

  4. Christine says:

    I have had Giant Schnauzers, great Danes, shiz tuz, all have come with GREAT EXCITEMENT, when I come home. I now have a sheepadoodle, 8 months old now. She waits at door when I come home, but no excitement in seeing me. Why?

  5. Eden says:

    I did this already with my husky without knowing it!
    But I can only take her outside 6 times a day because I’m a cosplayer and most of the time have to work on special costumes and if I take away my focus I can’t finish them in time. I’ve always let her lay under my desk and pet her with my foot but I don’t really understand why she lays on the floor when I let her sit next to me on another chair.
    After I started to show dominance when I got her she didn’t sit beside me anymore. Do dogs leave the best spots for the alphas? She only get up and sits with me when I say “good girl” or “nice job”. She also does the same when I’m in bed. When I start to go outside and I don’t touch or look at her leash she goes to her cage. When we go on walks when she starts to go ahead of me she goes WAAAAY back.
    I’ve never shown any aggression or signs of it I don’t think. But all this was happening Righr After I Got Her. I didn’t have anytime to show dominance. Is this just a normal husky thing? I’ve normally had sheep dogs and just cat my entire life.

  6. Belinda says:

    As a dog owner for over 30 years, I agree with every single word! God bless and good luck with all our doggies… from the past, for the present and the future to come.

  7. Stix says:

    My dog does everything outside of move outta the way. He’s too lazy for that LOL

  8. Legend2508 says:

    My great dane pup is 15moths old and bites each n evry dog who comes in his way. Hes very agressive towrds all dogs bt like ppl playing with him. He listens to me only n no1 else. Im afraid tht this agression will turn on me someday

  9. Tina says:

    My dachshund puppy absolutely respects me and I know that for a fact. Although he is a bit stubborn at times, which they are known for, this lil guy stops when I yell “NO!”, if he nibbles on my fingers and I close his mouth, he doesn’t open his mouth around me for the night. He also sits before I pour his food, does his basic commands like “paw, stay, spin, go”, and he now knows he needs to do #1 and #2 outside, the times he has accidents inside the house he’s already hiding in his cage because he knows I am not happy with it. Don’t get me wrong though, he is disciplined but very happy indeed as we praise him with attention and treats. People are right, you can either be the boss or the bitch to your dog, choose wisely.

  10. Shailesh Kushwaha says:

    I have Zen (Sheprador) since he was 3.5 months old and now in end of May we will hit 1 year together. Our ride is roller coaster and I can say he is one happy dog, my neighbor has mixed breed female dog (3 years) and they produce a lovely puppy Benji, he love her so much and we all can say, while mother is bit crazy she don’t play with her but Zen and herself play like humans. Its magical when they are together. I castrated Zen so now she will be his only daughter and sad part is he don’t even realize it.
    My neighbor decided to keep the puppy as she is very well behaved unlike her mother, who is very active and not social at all, while her daughter has lots of father’s traits, its so good to see her everyday, she is carbon copy of my Zen in her character and her smartness. She plans her move and never disturb people, go aside and play alone if nobody is interested.
    However Zen (1.3 years) these days is calmer as expected but it make me feel sad because I castrated him. He is not same as he used to be earlier more calmer and acts like more than his age.
    But he is more caring now, he never hurts her daughter and she also likes to play with him than with her mother.
    Coming to topic, my Zen very often leaves his place and sit on my part when I say leave for short time (for bringing beer, juice etc) and then don’t go if I come back, but he is NOT dominant, he waits for me to give him food, never ever snatch from my hand, even when I give him treat, he really bring his mount towards my hand in slow motion, and take it very very gently, its a video recording moment for us.
    Then Zen selectively obeys me, he hardly sits when I ask him to, but he comes always when I call him, he don’t listen to me when we are outside and if he sees other dogs he wants to play with them and then I have to detour many times to bring him back. But with my wife, he never dare to disrespect her (because of fear, she can be mean sometimes) she asks him to sit, he sits she ask him to leave he does that. But then again he don’t get much excited to see her, but when he sees me coming after work I have hard time to calm him down, he jumps all over me if I don’t stand strong he can make me fall with his excitement. That is some scene and I can relate with those returning soldiers and their dog videos on youtube.
    So, I don’t think its that black and white with me and Zen.

  11. ok says:

    My Dutch shepherd can be bratty at times. Truly awful, too. But he is never disrespectful. I love him more than I can say and he’s only 5 months along in his life. My Irish/golden mix has been with me since I was 6. I fell I love instantly, and now it’s like we’re both alpha to this dutch shepherd. I’m the youngest in my family, merely a young girl, but this dutchy named Benny respects me like no other. And my other dog? Makes sure he knows that I’m in charge m

  12. Pete says:

    Dogs making eye contact is not disrespectful. Better trainers reward eye contact and train this at an early age to better interact and train our companions. Working dogs with their eyes on you will respond much more quickly than a dog with its focus elsewhere, dog communication is much more non-verbal than verbal. Dog eye contact can be disrespectful when other body language indicates this, but eye contact alone means very little.

  13. Bertha Kelmon says:

    We have a 4 month old pett , he very smart and is growning by the day! He loves kids, every now and then he’ll do number two in the house and he knows better! Anybody have so helpful hints!!

    1. Diana Brown says:

      Keep your pet confine to a crate, take your dog out only for play time, meals, and to go relive himself. When your dog is out of the crate keep a close eye on them. If your pet looks like they are going to relive them self take them out quickly. After a while they will get the hang of it. but, you have to be consistent. Good luck.

      1. Devin says:

        Reward them when they go outside, always for the first few months and then fairly regular after to keep reinsurancing them that it’s worth doing. If they do go inside don’t hit them, don’t rub their nose in it, especially if they already look guilty. We put a bell by our front door that we rang when we took him outside, now he rings it when he wants to go out. Don’t crate him just because you aren’t watching him, that’s just mean. Positive reinforcement works best.

      2. Howard Bailey says:

        What a horrendous post suggesting that a dog needs to be confined to a crate and only let out for three purposes. If we had to confine a dog to a crate then our opinion is that we do not have a lifestyle that supports having a dog.

  14. Diana says:

    It’s amazing how many people have no idea what they’re talking about and should not have dogs. Dogs are pack animals. There has to be an alpha in EVERY pack. If you have a dog – guess what you’re part of a pack now. You’re either the alpha or the bitch. Choose wisely.

    1. Pete says:

      Alpha in dogs is overrated! Respect from both results in a companion that will much more readily engage with you than if you try to push the Alpha status. Be a leader and give your dogs structure and both will be much happier.

  15. dude man says:

    My yellow lab steals my car,atm card and raids my bank account and stays out all night… smelling like booze the next day…but he respects me..

    1. Pete says:

      You’re the first person I’ve heard say anything like that about their dog . People think I’m crazy when I tell them about my border collie stealing my car and my money and sunglasses and he’s been stealing my weed too . He hangs out with MY lady friends too always kissin on them . Makin out with em. But he respects me very much. If he didn’t I wouldn’t allow him so much freedom .

    2. Dee says:

      I have the same problem with my dog. He learned it from my teenagers. What a pity.

  16. dude man says:

    “SWEET”….just saying

  17. Burner says:

    My dog usually pees on my head when I’m sleeping and puts lit matches between my toes. I am definitely the alpha of the relationship.

  18. Kayla Lynn says:

    It’ll only be sometimes when my dog disobeys me, but he is old and sometimes I give him his way so that he can be comfortable. He still does all this stuff, but he is still a rebel and he’ll try to get his way around with stuff haha. He’s a sweet dog and he’s not gonna be here for much longer, so I want him to be happy.

  19. hannah brown says:

    I have had my beloved golden retriever since she was 12 weeks old. I have never had to discipline her she has always followed my and obeyed me, she has freedom of downstairs of my house. She has never chewed anything, i have only ever raised my voice at her that is all it takes she knows I mean what I say. And I always follow through with what I am telling her. Dogs can tell by your demeanor. She doesn’t take any notice of my mum as she sees her as weak.

  20. Thanks! This is what I need! I was looking all over to find a paper like this. I wanted to know how I would know if my German Shepherd respected me.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I have 2 pitbulls and the recipe for success is exercise disipline affection. Has worked with all dogs i have owned. I learned this method years ago from a trianer long before cesar millian. If you stick with these 3 things in that order you will succeed. It will always take time but after sometime your dog will do anything you ask. I can leave my dogs in nyc on a conrner tell them to stay come back hours later they would be in the same place not because they have been trianed that way but because they trust and respect me as alpha

  22. worteldrie says:

    my dog doesnt move out of the way when shes in my seat. and if i try to physically move her she growls and sometimes tries to bite me, but if i say “down” and point to the floor she gets right off without making a fuss.

    1. Jessica says:

      Ever since my little terrier had an operation on her stomach she often snaps at the family when anyone goes near that area because it hasn’t healed properly. I’m sure your dog respects you just fine but when you try to move her you might be hurting her without realising it. Try to notice how and where you are handling her when you are trying to get her off of your seat, she might just be grumpy or not realise that’s where you sit nbut that’s all the help i can give,
      best of luck with her.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I understand what this post is trying to say – and I do agree with the majority of it’s message to an extent. Much like the post prior, my 4 year- old mixed terrier rescue is also my family and not much training was ever involved. Besides the basic, potty training, sitting and finding/retrieving his toys on command. I find, along with lots of exercise, delicious treats and love- discipline also makes for a happy dog. You always want to keep your loved one mentally stimulated and challenged. And that means incorporating different regulations / rules – I don’t necessarily think they are specific to what’s listed in this post. I believe every relationship is different and the dynamic between owner and pet varies.
    For example: I don’t feel the need to “win a staring contest” with my dog, neither do I feel he should ignore his excitement when he finds himself racing to our front door after a walk. Again, our relationship has varied in this respect because I know he understands this doesn’t grant him the “alpha” throne. (I know this- because if he’s gone too far ahead, he’ll turn around, sit and wait until I’ve caught up…he’s never far.)

    I am truly one of the lucky ones, my dog is extremely calm, cuddly, and never touches anything around the house- even if there was a plate of my food on the floor, he wouldnt go near it if I left him alone for hours! He’s extremely human-like and everyone who’s encountered him even for a second never fails to ask “is he going to talk soon?” He even stays put for a whole 2 hours while I’m desperately trying to cut his hair with scissors! (Now I’m babbling!)
    Point being- some dogs need to be taught, controlled, and enforced more than others depending on the owners needs. If the owner prefers a dog to walk ahead of them, is the owner automatically deemed as #2? No.

    1. Shirley says:

      We have two dogs, neither have been trained at all. My bf had them before I came here with my kids. I agreed to help him train them as they were pretty much out of control. They have eaten half his house. Ruining rugs, couches and anything held within it. The dogs seem to have no respect for his commands the first time given, second time… and even third time. One of the dogs is not to disrespectful as to playful and needing certain trainings to be considered able to stay here around the kids. The other one is pretty much out of control and thinking he can do and treat people how ever he wants. Both push the kids out of their way. Even me when I first got here. The one dog is going up to the kids when they have food in their hands. Its scary because I know what a large dog can do to a child. As of now, they are only 2… still puppies, and Im considering “its me or the dog” So for these trainings, Its worth a try with them before we end up getting rid of them.

  24. Anonymous says:

    im gonna have to agree with both sides on this. i have a 5 year old boxer.ive had her from the day that i could safely take her from mom. from that day on, she wasnt a family dog, she was family. next to my kids, i love my dog more than than i can put across to you. with that being said, boxers are hyper dogs- so alot of the time she will dash ahead and even somtimes grabs her learsh and meets me on the porch like im the poky one. i work during the day- 8 hrs. so she has run of the house. yes she lays on the furniture, sleeps in my bed, but never ever once has she, pee`ed or pooped in the house. never torn stuff up. and ive never had a break in or stuff like that. so by all means, she probably is spoiled more than alot would allow their dogs to be and im cool with that. she pulls her share around our house.also on an emotional lvl. she knows the feels in the house and i know hers. on the same note, we established the totem pole from day one, meaning that im top dog and she is #2. chain of command type thing. what im trying to get across is- granted dogs need to be taught, and im probably one of the lucky ones, but as close and bonded as we are i really didnt have to teach her as much as 1 would think. it so so much of living and routine, honestly shes just a smart dog. . so if you wanna train your dog to be a dog, your gonna have a dog. my dog is part of my family

  25. Raegan says:

    The problem with these signs of “respect” is that they really don’t have anything to do with the way the dog feels. The have to do with what the dog has been taught is acceptable.

    My dog goes ahead of me through doorways and up stairs. I want to see where he is so we don’t trip over one another. I have the upright body and the forward facing eyes. He stays in front because he’s been TAUGHT to stay in front.

    My dog leaves unattended food along because he has been TAUGHT that unattended food NEVER goes to dogs. Instead, he can get food by leaving it alone. It’s training.

    My dog will stare holes in me with his eyes. Disrespect? No. TRAINING.

    Dogs are opportunists. Not wolves. Teach them how to get what they want and everyone will be happier.

      1. Howard Bailey says:

        Absolutely …

  26. Anonymous says:

    I don’t agree with much of this post – of course all of the behavior she describes should be what your dog does (doesn’t steal food, budge in front to get out the door, etc.), but I think it is more of teaching your dog the house rules then a power struggle for alpha. Read the book “Inside of a Dog” by Alexandra Horowitz for a much better idea of the relationship dynamics between humans and dogs then is presented in this article.

  27. amity says:

    This makes me feel so proud. I have a very “bossy” dog who would happily run the household if I let her. Sometimes I despair that she’ll ever calm down and behave! But these little signs, particularly my being able to leave food unattended, make me feel like I’m doing a good job with her. Thank you for posting this!

  28. Shimla Hills says:

    what a great post. this does talk about good information and i am a dog lover. will surely follow your advice….

  29. Makai says:

    I don’t 100% agree with all the points, but mostly true in my experience.