There are three basic canine temperament groups: Assertive/Aggressive, Neutral, and Passive.
In addition, there can be a mishmash of all three dog temperament types, depending on the situation. Objectively observe and decide which group or combination your puppy or dog fits.
An Assertive/Aggressive puppy or dog typically has the highest prey drive. Size or sex has nothing to do with Assertive/Aggressiveness. It is not surprising to find the smallest or females can be the most Assertive/Aggressive.
A dog with this disposition boldly enters a dog park and immediately scopes it to find a challenge. They demand attention. Assertive dogs would not hesitate to confront another dog, play tug-of-war, wrestle, or chase others. They bait and set up dares. One way is by bringing an item or toy to another dog, drop it, then snatch it away. Or just snatching a toy or ball from another dog. They always play to win.
Assertive/Aggressives can be rough on toys, other animals, and property. They zealously look for action. Assertive dogs will destroy anything in their path to get what they want. They will annihilate toys, even those guaranteed for their forceful makeup!
Assertive dogs are possessive and territorial. They follow their own rules. Assertive dogs have no boundaries. For them, play fighting often turns into real fighting.
Assertive/Aggressives play rough! That doesn’t imply they are necessarily malicious, but they are bullies. Because they don’t “play nice,” they can be annoying and unwanted.
If you don’t want your dog to have a reputation of being an Assertive/Aggressive dog, with reasonable effort on your part, you can modify their behavior and guide them into the Neutral group.
Establish your authority. Start by setting boundaries and rules. Immediately and consistently, reward with praise, appropriate behaviors. Immediately and consistently correct inappropriate behaviors. Help them develop coping skills. You will see a difference!
Neutrals have a medium prey drive. They are dogs that are self-confident and have exceptional coping skills. Neutrals don’t look for trouble. Again, size or sex doesn’t matter. They respectfully yet confidently enter a dog park. Neutrals enjoy interacting and happily play with other dogs.
They are also content to find non-destructive ways to amuse themselves if no one to play with. If challenged, they avoid confrontation by either simply walking away or appearing passive. Neutrals would rather chase a Frisbee or retrieve a ball than wrestle.
They unselfishly share their food and possessions. Their toys show normal wear and tear but aren’t shred to bits in minutes! They respect and appreciate playing with you or another dog but don’t demand it. Neutral dogs are content to find non-destructive ways to amuse themselves when left alone.
A neutral dog is a well-balanced dog that exhibits playful behavior. They enjoy playing with other dogs and will use play bows to initiate play.
Passives warily enter a dog park. They have low self-confidence, few coping skills. They have little if any prey drive. Size or sex doesn’t matter. The largest dog in the park can be the most passive! Passives would rather sit next to you or be alone rather than mingle and interact with others. They can appear fearful and anxious. Sadly, they frequently are not happy puppies or dogs.
Passives are easy on toys. They have no impulse to destroy them.
Passives knowingly avoid any confrontation. They are cautious and apprehensive. Some never know the joy and fun of being a dog. Again, with reasonable effort on your part, you can help your Passive pooch move up to the Neutral position. You will be amazed how their personality will grow, and they will enjoy being dogs.
By understanding dog temperament types, you can help your puppy or dog. Reduce your dog’s Assertive/Aggressive behavior by setting boundaries and rules. Be fair, firm, and consistent. Help your Passive pet gain more self-confidence and greater coping skills by exposing them to as many positive experiences as possible. Build up their self-esteem. If you have a Neutral dog, be grateful!
Karen A. Soukiasian is the owner of Good Dog! — Dog Training in St. Augustine, Florida. You can follow Karen on Facebook.