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The Higher You Are, the Higher You Are
Monday, May 8, 2023


I just finished looking at an online magazine about beautiful homes and dogs.  Almost every photo showed a dog sleeping on the sofa, on the bed or other furniture.  It’s lovely to think we love our dogs so much that their comfort becomes an unselfish concern!  However, with all things there are two sides. 

What could possibly be wrong with our beloved dogs and their comfort?  Dogs are literalists.  That means that they look at everything literally.  They don’t overthink things.  Most of their world is black and white. There are no gray areas for them like we have when we think things over.

I have lived with more than 30 German Shepherds in the past 25 years, as well as countless other dogs.  I see dog behavior every day. Not a day goes by that they don’t teach me something, or I have to re-evaluate something I thought to be true.

However, one thing is consistent.  That is, that dogs are STILL 99.9% wolves regardless of their domestication. This is not passé’ and old school thinking. This is fact.  That means they have behaviors inherited from the wolves such as pack hierarchy. 

As much as we want to believe that is not true in the dog kingdom, it is.  In fact, it is true with every species on the planet.  Every. Species.  Even humans. When we try to suppress that notion, we are in fact, denying who are dogs really are.  Denying it is also a prelude to dog behavior issues.

Leadership, in a way that dogs understand is imperative to living with this incredible animal! Without leadership, dogs can convert to feral behavior that often does not fit into our human society--fear biting, aggression, and separation anxiety, to name a few.

Dogs are tremendously influenced by height. In their world, the higher you are, the higher you are in social status.  Ever wonder why dogs jump on you upon greeting?  It’s not from over-exuberance.  It is the dog’s natural inclination to see if he is as high as you in social status.

Dogs that consistently jump are confused about where they stand in social status with others.  It is not malicious.  It’s just their natural curiosity to know where they are socially with you or someone new. Once we understand this behavior for what it is, we can solve the problems that arise.

Ever wonder why dogs jump on children more than they may jump on an adult?  Ever wonder why children are more risk for dog bites than adults?  Dogs see children as the same social status because of their size.

If you start watching, some dogs will seek higher ground when other dogs are around just to be sure the other dogs know their social status.  Wonder why an older dog will get up and walk away when a puppy jumps on them?  The higher they are, the higher they are.  The older dog is letting the puppy know that they are higher in social status, and the puppy needs to respect that.

When you start paying attention to height, many things fall into place with regard to dog behavior.  It is fascinating to watch and understand.  It is one reason I don’t advocate dogs on the furniture or in bed with us, if they are having behavior issues.

The reason is pretty simple.  You become a leader when the dog is not allowed to be the same height.  Does that mean you can never let your dog on the bed or on the sofa?  It means when your dog accepts you as his leader and has no behavior issues, then getting on the furniture is a privilege not a right. It is not mean to give your dog rules.  Rules and controlling height will lead to a happier dog and a happier household.

Editor’s Note: Fran Jewell, owner of Positive Puppy Dog Training LLC, is one of four National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (NADOI) in Idaho. She has served on the organization’s board of directors and is currently its vice president.

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