Aggressively Obsequious?

A recent comment from blog readers brought up a fascinating issue. I’ll just introduce it here, and then continue delving into it as time goes on. Here’s the question: Is it possible that dogs who appear to be super submissive are, uh…, not? I think the answer is yes. I say ‘yes’ because I think there’s a difference between a dog being “submissive,” in the sense of not needing to be high up in the social hierarchy, and dogs who perform “submissive displays” enthusiastically.

I had a female BC once, Bess, who was a classic high status bitch. She never fought, but she did take her toy over to a visiting female once, put it down on the ground between the two of them, and then trounce the visitor for starting to sniff it. (Those of you who have attended my seminars know that this is when I learned why “bitch” is a dirty word. I remember watching, relatively new to dogs at the time, and blurting out “YOU BITCH!” as it happened.) Most visiting dogs took one look at “Queen Bess” I called her, with her high posture and regal bearing and tiara of confidence, made some canine equivalent of a curtsy, and that was that.

But one day a visiting Husky female strode up to Bess like she owned the world, and Bess immediately threw herself on the ground in a classic “passive submission” display (I know they’re lying down, but it still doesn’t seem very ‘passive’ to me when they throw themselves on the ground!). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a display so extreme: Bess flattened herself, plastered her forelegs together and her ears to her skull, and grinned like an idiot. Soon she got up and began “active submission,” licking and groveling with such vigor that we all started laughing. It was the most “submissive” of submissions, but it was so extreme it seemed as assertive as it did submissive.

I once had a university student who did something similar to me, and that’s when I coined the phrase “aggressively obsequious.” He came up after lecture, head bobbing, pushing himself into my face while grinning like a fool, and asked, between excessive words of praise, if I’d repeat my lectures in full for him after class over tea. Well, no, I wouldn’t. But here he was, asking something ridiculous of me (from, I suspect, a sense of entitlement), but using a vigorous display of submission to take the edge off.

Ever sense then I’ve noticed dogs whose “submissive’ behaviors are down right rude… lick-lick-lick in your face-face-face non stop-stop-stop. I’d love to hear more from you about this. Do you know what I mean? Those submissive dogs who are doing all the ‘right’ things, except so excessively that it no longer seems submissive at all. Have you ever had a dog like that?

Meanwhile, back at the farm: The days here are alternating between blue sky-sun-bright colors and grey-rainy-windy. It’s been almost every other day of that lately. The sun feels so sweet, and the mud so thick . . . It’s too wet now to plant the last of the daffodils I bought, here’s hoping it’ll dry off enough to get them in. It’s more of a pain to plant bulbs than you might imagine (if you live on a farm that is mostly red clay and the chipmunks and squirrels try to dig them up faster than you plant them), but the pay off in spring is worth it. It turns out that critters don’t like daffodils, so I plant my favorite flowers, tulips, surrounded by daffs and a few other species that aren’t so tasty.

Lassie and Will are doing well. The focus at the farm right now is on nutrition for the market lambs (we go to market next week, always a sobering day for me) and for the breeding ewes. Redford the studly ram returns next week, I can’t wait to see him again, I’ve missed him. Rams have an entirely different personality than ewes and I especially like Redford’s. He grew up in pens with other young rams, and I fear he’ll miss his buddy at my friends, but for a few weeks I suspect the ewes will keep him busy.

Here’s a lamb gobbling up the grass on the front lawn. It’s the best grass on the farm.

There’s no fence around this grass, but Willie is so reliable that I am 100% comfortable letting the sheep out on the front lawn (the one by the road) as Will and I watch over them. Will loved doing this last year; mostly it consists of flank one way or the other, then lie down and wait. Then flank, lie down and wait. Rinse and repeat. I think he liked it because it involved no pressure–little close contact with the sheep, little pressure. But now he seems bored by it. He truly, be still my heart, seems to be coming into his own as a working dog. He loves driving, loves holding the sheep off feeders for me, staring them down face to face, and seems to love being right on the edge of contact with them. This is a great thing, watching him take charge with confidence and finesse… it’s such a joy to watch him mature.

Don’t get me wrong. Will is still Will. He is still hyper reactive to sound (turn the page of your book? Will leaps up..), herds Sushi relentlessly ( this is not a minor issue!), would never be safe to take to a dog park, etc etc etc…. He is definitely still my ‘problem’ dog; and yet, oh oh, look at that face!

xx

Comments

  1. Alexandra says

    Oh my goodness, “Queen” Bess sounds so much like my friend’s 9 year old male lab to the extent that we even call him “King Spencer.” He seems to love lording it over my 2 year old male lab, Copper, who, as I mentioned to Andrea in the other blog post, has a tendency to be “aggressively submissive.”

    Spencer will pick up a toy, and either jam it in Copper’s face so he can growl at him for getting too close to “his” toy, or put in on the ground and stand over while feigning (I swear) disinterest it so that he can show his teeth and snap at Copper when he tries to come get the toy. Here’s a picture from last spring of what he looks like: http://i253.photobucket.com/albums/hh41/Arkahna/kingspence.jpg (Ack, unmowed lawn at the neighbors, but hey, it was one of those weeks.) This kind of nonsense has gotten a lot better as Copper has gotten older, but we still have to intervene with it now and then. I have never seen Spencer be submissive to any dog; he seems a bit of a natural alpha and is normally very much above the fray of any squabbles among other dogs. Copper on the other hand doesn’t seem to have matured enough to have found his place in the world among dogs; his approach tends to vary although he is never what I would consider alpha-like.

    More recently, Copper has gotten brave enough to take the toy from Spencer anyway, and he does it with his belly flat on the ground, wiggling and licking all the time. Even when he gets snapped at or even muzzle pinned, he’ll just cower but STILL hold onto the toy. The fact that he retains possession of the toy makes me think it’s all a ploy and that he’s not really submissive at all. Copper also gives the subjective impression to my friend and I that he likes the excitement/thrill of antagonizing Spencer until he snaps and chases him a few feet. Like riding a roller coaster or something. We separate the “boys” at those times or distract them by playing fetch with SEPARATE toys. Sigh. It’s also funny it it’s way, though, as they’ve never even come close to injuring each other.

  2. says

    This is my Zille (17 mo GSD bitch, spayed) to a T. She’s just *so* aggressively submissive at the other dogs unless they escalate their warnings pretty far. Except that the excessive submission seems to inhibit them; with a dog who was “in your face” but ears and tail up they’d warn more strongly a lot sooner.

  3. says

    My neighbors have a 4 year old lab – Buzz – who visits often to play with Ronja the hound in my relatively large yard. Buzz appears to be truly submissive and not aggressive at all – he never takes Ronja up on the “kill me” game when she throws herself at his feet and much rather lets her do all the wrestling, pinning down and “ripping the throat out”.

    Interestingly, submissive Buzz has gotten bitten in the face several times at the beach here and my other dog – old, sweet Sparky- is very annoyed with him (like he would be annoyed with young puppies) and would bite Buzz as well given a chance.

    Just as you have described, I always thought that it has to do with Buzz expressing his submission, just like puppies do, by getting into all dogs’ faces to lick their lips. If I take Sparky out in the yard (leashed, of course), Buzz just HAS to try to get into his face no matter how much Sparky growls and snarls at him and tells him to stay away. It is up to me to keep Buzz out of teeth’ way. It is almost as if Buzz’ only has only one response to being told off in his repertoire.

    When and how do puppies normally learn more differentiated responses towards dominant or aggressive behavior? Buzz had several litter mates and is playing with many dogs – one would think socialization was not a problem here.

  4. dlw says

    I’m not sure if this is what you are talking about re: aggressively submissive, but here’s my situation.

    I have a 1yr. rescue female (Mother is Chow/GSD, Father is unknown). She’s the runt of the litter and according to the rescue and by our experience she is an obsessive player with other dogs. Her interest in objects, sheep and food all come second to other dogs and she is very people-shy. If the dogs won’t play with her she will provoke them with play- and submissive-gestures until they either give chase or bite her. A snap warning is often ignored or is interpreted as a play move and she will continue pestering the dog by bowing, licking at it’s mouth, licking her nose, laying down, etc. all interspersed with play nips and attempts to give or get chased.

    We recently brought a 2yr. old female Border Collie into the house, a ranch dog with very little dog-dog play experience if any, and we’ve watched how the BC will give the younger dog all sorts of warnings and “stop it” signs, everything from showing teeth, snarls, mouthing the muzzle from above to simply looking the other way or walking away. A pretty good vocabulary of “I’m not interested in playing” really.

    Needless to say, the 1yr. old either doesn’t understand the signs or is so focused on playing that she doesn’t see them. In some cases this has resulted in getting chased down and scared and in other cases we distract her if we catch it fast enough, but in the six months we’ve had her there has been no change to her “obsessive” play tendencies.

    We were told by the rescue that she provokes other dogs relentlessly, so it would seem she came out this way. Sometimes it seems very genuine and puppy-like, but other times it seems more like a result of a behavioral immaturity. Much like a child on Christmas morning – over-stimulated and over-excited to the point of fatigue.

  5. Funder says

    Will is so amazingly lucky to have a home like yours. He would be so unhappy in so many of our homes, but he’s so fulfilled with your farm!

  6. says

    I had an aggressively obsequious dog once, a female Labrador. However, as a young adult, she got strongly corrected by a bitch while extremely enthusiastically licking her chin. After that scary event, she changed her tactics. Although she still tended to be extreme in her submissiveness, it was toned down a notch so that it was no longer ‘in-your-face’ submissiveness. Her new strategy worked much better.

  7. Kim G says

    I have a Heeler/pit mix named Sue Bear, her mom and dad were brother and sister and she was an only puppy. I call her my helmet child. She is stubborn and obsessive about many things but is also a clown and sweet and loving. Her aunt Mimi is also a Heeler/pit mix and luckily for us has been a perfect match for her. Sue and Mimi spend hours licking each others nose and mouth and cleaning each others ears. They also like to tug on toys for looooooooooong periods of time. Mimi often walks up to one of the dogs and does the whole submissive licking and then play bows and then she is off to the races.If she doesn’t get outside to run or chase the tennis balls she will try to get one of the dogs to chase her in the house. No is not an option for her.
    Her favorite things is running through the herd of ducks. She use to grab their tail feathers but after getting corrected several times she now does it with a tennis ball in her mouth. Trust me she has tried to play bow with them too, to Mimi everybody is a potential playmate.

  8. Jenny G says

    This describes our Kinka to a T! She’ll come up on my lap or come up on the bed in the morning and give you the most intense face wash ever. I have to admit, we encouraged it at the beginning (doh!) by squealing and squirming, and now it’s downright annoying.

    However, I have also noticed that she’ll use this submissive behaviour, including licking my face and rolling over onto her back on my lap, squirming away for more attention, to tell me she wants something (other than love). And that something is most often ‘outside.’

    So now we’re trying to stop it, or slow it down. She’s a cattledog, so she’s not about to stop on its own. :)

  9. says

    Oh yes, I know what you mean! I work at a doggy daycare and see this a ton. I’ve noticed the passive submission the most in some of the female goldens that come, but females in general I have seen more of it then in males. A lot of those dogs I wouldn’t consider submissive dogs at all, but their displays are ridiculous sometimes!

    Some of the more active submission seems to be done more by the boys then the girls at the daycare here. Usually it’s male to male, but it can become so excessive that it looks downright rude to me.

  10. EmilyS says

    When she was reaching maturity, my APBT Lulu used to “submissively” lick other dog’s muzzles.
    At least, I THOUGHT it was submissive because I had “learned” that muzzle licking was a submissive gesture. So I couldn’t understand why the other dog would react “aggressively” by snarling and snapping at her! I finally decided that I should believe the dogs, not the “experts” and I started thinking of it as a “passive-aggressive” behavior and wouldn’t let her do it.

    OT, but I have to share this video of a dog playbowing to his mirror image:
    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=168281687940&ref=mf
    (the dog was rescued as part of the recent big multistate dogfighting bust and probably never saw a mirror, let alone a hotel room…)

  11. Alex says

    “Aggressively obsequious” describes my current dog perfectly under one particular circumstance. She’s a 13-month-old Bouvier x GSD cross, and a protective instinct is definitely ingrained in her. Whenever a “stranger” dog–or even a known dog we’re/she’s not WELL acquainted with–comes up to see me at the dog park, she’ll insert herself between us and lick at his face until he goes away. Which they do. Always. It’s partly annoying (hey, I want to say hi!), but also kinda touching and seems, at the moment, harmless. (Or is it? I dunno, I’ve never encountered this behavior before in other dogs. I certainly don’t want it to escalate. Any thoughts would be welcome.) Plus, how do you fault avoidance behavior?

  12. Gwap says

    Yes I do have a dog like that… a 2 years old BC female. And her sister is exactly the same. They’re the only dogs I know to behave like that, so I thought it probably had something to do with the fact that they were a bit undersocialized while in the litter.
    And I’ve often wondered if it’s actually submission, or just a cleverly disguised domination? Because she throws herself at dogs, climbs in their mouths and the more they growl, the more she squeals and licks. Laura put it right, it’s just rude, she’s forcing herself into them.
    I also noticed dogs have no idea how to react to this, as it’s supposed to be submissive behavior, and puppy behavior, so they don’t really understand how it can come from an adult. Few of them actually get angry, mostly they’re just uncomfortable and keep growling and grabbing her mouth (but that just makes her happier!) :)

    ps. It got better with age and we’re still working on “ignore other dogs”.

  13. S says

    Wow – you have nailed my recent female lab rescue! I keep thinking she was abused in the past because if you speak at all harshly or firmly she melts into the floor, side of her belly showing and forearm raised. And ALL SHE DOES IS LICK to the point you want to scream. The same day we picked her up from the truck, I started the “stand up and turn” whenever she’d come over to lick but I cannot break her of it. She licks everyone while twisting her body strangely. Sometimes a person is lucky because she grabs a toy upon greeting, thus sparing them the tongue bathing. I don’t know how to positively train my way out of this one and speaking of training, its super difficult with her – teaching her stay is frustrating as well as down (down is this odd submissive display while licking at my hand). My other rescue has his own issues but a pleasure to train. I find myself having to stop with my female because my frustration will start and I’m afraid that will send her into a submissive frenzy. Maybe I’m reading the submission wrong and its not a “I just want to please you, I’m worried, please help” plea and more of some other attention getting ploy (which is working I’ll have you know – my kids and husband all melt at her command – I try to reward her by petting ONLY when I initiate so as not to reward the attention seeking behavior but its hard – she has sweet eyes). I am looking forward to more on this topic. I find it highly difficult to work with this particular dog, although she is a total love and very smart! This is also the same dog that causes a slight earthquake at our house every morning when I make the slightest move to get up for our am walk – her tail hits every surface waking ALL of us up and if I say no or anything to her, it gets worse, so I have learned to dress VERY quickly and get her outside within about 5 minutes to keep the chaos to a dull roar.

  14. Shannon says

    YES!!! And it’s nice to have a name to put to it!

    There are two dogs in our neighborhood that do that to my English Shepherd dog, Dandelion. He despises it, and growls at them to stop. They throw themselves down, and follow him around being aggressively obsequious. A truly submissive dog doesn’t bother him at all – they get a sniff and he moves on. It’s these displays of active submission that bother him.

    One is a pit bull mix puppy, female, who doesn’t seem to know when to stop, even when she’s disciplined (pinned down and held to the ground) by an older dog. Sophie is also a face-licker with people, and other dogs. She’s cute, but it’s a bit much for Dandy.

    The other is an older mix, also female, who will run up to Dandy, position herself in front of him, and throw herself to the ground and roll over. When he walks away, she scampers to follow so she can do it again. We usually end up leaving the park when one of these dogs is around – they just won’t leave him alone.

  15. Nicola says

    How can you not love Will’s face? that is such a beautiful photo. I have a personal theory that the dogs we work with the most are most special to us – that means the “wonder dogs” like your Luke or my Buffy, and the “problem” dogs, who need remedial attention. The lovely, calm, could live happily anywhere dogs, while great for pets, don’t elicit such involvment & dedication. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a dog grow into him/herself, and knowing that you had a part in it.

  16. says

    I have two pits, and my youngest, Ernie, has a weird quirk that your post brings to mind. He is generally very submissive, but, as you so perfectly put it, “aggressively” submissive.

    For example:

    Last night I was at a friend’s house for dinner with my dogs and two other dogs, a 10 year old pug and a 4 year old lab mix named Lynus. My Ernie and Lynus were puppies together and play all the time. Ernie has a really weird/annoying way to initiate his favorite game, “chase me,” if Lynus won’t play with him. He will kinda-sorta mount Lynus and when Lynus reacts and whips around, Ernie will play bow and then transition to full scale groveling – we are talking belly up, licking Lynus’ muzzle, whining…until Lynus ignores him and the cycle continues. So weird, and I have no idea how to stop it, other than a down stay.

  17. Julie says

    A friend has a young Golden bitch (intact) who immediately throws herself on her back, kicking and licking whenever greeting other dogs. Time and time again I’ve seen dogs who never growl at other dogs, growl and even snap at her. It certainly looks obnoxious to me so I’m guessing it must be just as obnoxious to other dogs.

  18. says

    I have seen a number of aggressively obsequious situations. Years ago I knew a mixed pup who was always showing huge submissive display to my adult Golden male, Dexy. Dexy never liked this dog and he would growl at him and give him major “leave me alone” signals (whip his head around, bark and snap). The dog would back off for ten seconds and then start all over again. I was confused as to why Dex disliked him so much.

    When this dog reached social maturity, he became a very aggressive dog, chasing down other dogs to attack them. It led me to believe that in his submissive displays to Dex, he was also signaling something else I could not see, but Dexy understood.

    Since then I have seen other dogs who show extreme submissive displays with confident or older dogs who then turn around and are aggressive with other dogs that are younger or less confident.

    I tend to think of it as a sign of a un-confident dog who is very concerned with hierarchy.

  19. Pam says

    My 11 month old ACD displays this aggressive obsequious behaviour with my alpha female BC whenever she corrects him or riterates which toys are hers (apparently all of them). This non-stop grovel, grovel, lick lick lick is so overwhelming you can almost tell by the look on her face that she wishes she’d not bothered to correct him. She usually stalks away in a huff and he ends up with the toy that started it all in the first place.

  20. Anne says

    I have two of those aggressively obsequious dogs. Luke is one, who is basically dominant, especially when there is a bone or food involved. He always gets it. But sometimes he gets what he wants by just walking up and growling, and other times he will overwhelm the other dog with licking until they leave the bone, then he grabs it and runs. I don’t know why sometimes he chooses one approach and sometimes it’s the other.

    The other is Missy, who licks in order to demand petting. It’s probably something she learned to get more attention, but she will not give up until she gets petted. Then as soon as you stop she starts licking. I have tried to turn it around by only petting her when she is not licking, but am generally too absent minded about it and slip back into doing it Missy’s way. She is a sheep herding dog also, and she does a lot of submissive displays (head down, looking away but at me at the same time) when I’m asking her to do something she doesn’t want to do, but then I will back off on her and she’ll go back to doing what she wanted to do. I haven’t figured out if she is being manipulative or not.

  21. Lacey H says

    I too have seen this often in Goldens – males too. Years ago I had a dog, probably part Golden, who was a practical joker. His favorite trick was to spot a timid stranger (usually another dog) and lie down very very flat. When the stranger cautiously approached, he’s wait and then leap up at the last minute, standing tall and laughing. When I saw him start this with a person, I went down right beside him and held his collar – preventing the joke, which might have made him enemies.

  22. Kathy says

    I work at a boarding kennel/ obedience training center and we get in this type of dog. Now, I have a 5 year old German Shepherd Dog who cannot stand this type of behavior and the other dogs just seem to sense it. They get in her face and it just pushes her buttons until she’s the one that snarls. I would too if I was her.

  23. Amy says

    What a handsome boy Willie is!!

    My 3 yr old border collie/ACD Bryce often attacks our other dog, Red. For example, if I am petting Red and Bryce walks up, Bryce will attack Red. Or if I am leashing Red to take a walk, Bryce will often attack him. It happens so fast and it’s really hard to prevent; I’m not sure what I should do about it. Anyway, the attacks are scary because they are loud and sometimes a fight results, but most of the time they are minor. Afterward Bryce “makes up” to Red by performing these extreme submission displays just as you describe, plus extreme playfullness (spastic play bows, butt wiggles, lots of face licking). It is very “in your face” and while Red usually just tries to escape, sometimes it works and they will play.

    By the way, if anyone has any suggestions about what I can do to discourage Bryce’s bad behavior, I’d appreciate it. If I scold him it just makes it worse. Usually we’ll do things like have Bryce down/stay while leashing Red, for example, and this works well. But it doesn’t solve the problem, since it’s not always that easy to anticipate. We don’t want to keep the dogs separate because they are best buddies other than these minor fights.

  24. Aaryn says

    I love this topic! I have a border collie, and she is so keen on social signals that she can get snarky in response to overly zealous (RUDE!) submissive displays. I had thought for the longest time that she was the one being rude, but as I learned more about dogs and about her in particular, I realized that she was basically telling these dogs to “back off please, I get the picture!”

  25. Paula J. and the Wild Bunch says

    Have seen some of this in dogs — but witness it daily at work! Ick.

    Happy Halloween! And thanks for keeping me thinking and learning.

    -pj

  26. Jessie says

    My dog fits this with humans, but not so much with other dogs.

    When she meets a new human, she is polite at first. Full body wags, dropped head and her ears are back. If that doesn’t get your love and attention, she may lay down, she may give you her belly, or she may offer behaviors–down, sit, shake hands, down again. If you still have not showered her with affection, you’ll get a paw on your leg (ears are still down). If this fails, she may put her nose under your elbow and send your arm flying. If this, too, fails, she will probably jump onto the furniture next to you, with ears down and looking away–like she’s knows she is WAY over the line but just can’t help herself. Nearly every human on earth has given in by now and loved all over her, as they take it to be testimony to their huge natural magnetism. LOL. No, you’re great and all, but the Jester is pushy and persistent. ;)

    With dogs, she can go either way. Give all the usual submissive positions and then suddenly launch herself onto the other dog’s neck, or just launch herself with almost no warning at all beyond a slight stiffening. Obviously, she is not allowed to be around other dogs with this problem.

    I’d wonder how many dogs are like Jessie, and I would assume there are many–one way with people and completely different with dogs. And hat in their general behavior is consistent between the human reaction and the dog reaction.

  27. says

    My new SAR prospect fits this bill. She is the kind of pup that flattens herself so flat she is on her back before the other dog knows what’s going on. She alternates between this ultra submission and barking with hackles up at the other dog if the approaching dog is exhibiting any “forward” behavior whatsoever. With friendlier dogs/ family dogs, once the greet is over and she’s peed a drop or two, she is all over the other dog, climbing over, pouncing on, paw on neck, mouth on throat, going vert… Its all great fun for both dogs, but eventually she gets a time-out grumble and then she is in the dog’s face tongue punching, ears back, oh I’m so small and cute and you are my master and commander!! Eventually, it does come to an end, and there is a long pause in play but, man, is it so very… “Aggressively Obsequious,” what a great term.

  28. carolyn says

    How do you work with Will to not herd/chase Sushi? (Similar problem in this household…)

    And please do update us on Sushi’s status more often. I’d expect a lot of us are cat-lovers too!

  29. says

    What about a dog who plays differently with another dog? Sirius is VERY confident and has never shown any kind of submissive behavior to any other dog while in my presence, but he seems to hold back some with Tonks (like you said Lassie did with Will when he was a puppy).

    It’s almost like she gets special privileges with him that he would never allow another dog. He would never allow another dog to put a paw on his back, or rest their head on the back of his neck, but he allows Tonks to do these things (still no flattening, or showing his stomach, he just licks her when she paws him). I, of course, know very little when it comes to mannerisms, and am very far from a canine expert, but I still find it interesting. Tonks doesn’t seem to try and establish authority, it’s more of a “bratty little sister” kind of thing.

    Tonks exhibits many of the behaviors you have discussed, including “excessive” submissiveness. When she does this it reminds me of a person who is “over acting” in order to mock someone. Though she is incredibly intelligent, and always willing to please, I would not feel comfortable bringing Tonks into several different new situations involving strange dogs. Her responses seem to vary from the two extremes of fear and aggression to excessive submissiveness. Sirius on the other hand, has nerves of steel in nearly every situation I’ve ever seen him in (a few exceptions, thunder being one).

    On another note, I have every intention of sharing some of my research with you, as you requested in a previous post, but am attempting to get my thesis done for my defense scheduled in two weeks. I shouldn’t even be on here at all until after I find out if I have passed but can’t seem to keep away :)

  30. Natalie says

    I have noticed this about my submissive dog, Zoe. The shepherd, Zeeke, is very clearly “allowed” to be in charge, and he knows it. But if he has something she wants? She throws herself at him, doing all those submissive displays, until she weasels her way in enough to grab whatever it is he has. I’m always just amazed when she does it, because she very clearly has a goal in mind and SHE gets what SHE wants. If she went in with an aggressive stance there is no way it would hold up, he’d trounce her and walk off. But he almost seems disgusted by the force of her submissive behaviors, and he turns his head and basically allows her to get her way 99% of the time. Sometimes I really wonder who is truly in charge in this house.

  31. Jennifer Hamilton says

    Personally, I don’t consider a dog submitting as being a passive act…namely because he/she is being proactive in the submission and making a volunatary choice to do so (in most cases). To me, it takes a lot of proactivity to manage a situation to a desired outcome (i.e. I’ll submit so everyone stays safe).

    To your question about aggressive acts of submission, I have only seen it myself in two categories:

    1) Young dogs (3 to 14 months old) who, to me, have not learned social graces and/or self-control…either through the lack of socialization or the lack of basic training and structure in the home. I think of these dogs as spastic and immature. Most of them come bounding into our lobby dragging mom or dad on the other end of the leash and are rude with every greeting they make, human or four legged. This is usually the category of dogs that we recommend their owners make the commitment to socialize them more regularly, enroll them in an obedience class, and let them know that until their dog learns more appropriate greetings, there is a higher risk of another dog “teaching it a lesson”. And while we try not to let that happen, some amount of dog-to-dog teaching is beneficial. For owners that follow our advice, this type of “aggressive submission” usually resolves by 18 months of age depending on the commitment of the owner. In my experience, teaching a dog self-control is most helpful in these circumstances.

    2) A dominant adult dog who encounters a dominent dog from its puppyhood. My dog is a great example. Although my dog is dominant and does not submit to dogs as an adult, she will throw her body on the ground, urinate, lick lip, and wiggle like a crazy dog whenever she sees a specific, extremely dominant female she met as a puppy and only now sees about once a year. It’s possible that this is the only female she sees as above her in status and so submitting is appropriate to her, or it could be she reverts to all of those puppy feelings and behaviors whenever she sees this particular dog from that time period. There are other dogs from her puppyhood that she sees from time to time, but she does not submit to them in any way. We also see this at our pet resort from time to time when a dominant, adult dog will see a dominant dog that he or she first met here when it was a puppy. Again, we see the same over the top aggressive submissive displays that are typically not seen when the dog is making other dog/dog greetings.

    P.S. I’m sure there are other categories of this behavior than the two I mentioned…I just have not seen them personally. I do not mean to imply that any dog who shows aggressive submissive behaviors has a lack of self-control and/or socialization…it’s just most of the ones that come to our pet resort showing aggressive submissive behaviors, also lack socialization and/or self-control.

  32. says

    I’m so glad you brought this up! I have a 7 year old Border Collie “Bugs” that has been the most frustrating dog I have lived with. She doesn’t exhibit this behavior so much with other dogs, but with people. It is the rare occasion when she looks anything other than submissive. Her ears are usually back, she is constantly trying to jump up and lick people in the face, etc, etc, BUT after living with and training her for 4 years I have come to the conclusion that she is not the soft and submissive dog that she appears to be. She is pushy, pushy, pushy; it doesn’t matter if we’re herding sheep or hanging out in the house. She tests the rules constantly.

    She doesn’t make these big displays with other dogs. When she meets other dogs she ignores them completely. She will correct them if they are being overly pushy with her, but otherwise she has no interest in them. The only dog that has ever gotten her to play is my 18 month old Rottie bitch.

    Btw, really enjoyed listening to you on NPR last Thursday!

  33. says

    I’ve heard something similar termed “obnoxious submission” in wolves. Two of my border collies are half brothers that are about 3 years apart in age. The younger one does that horrible obnoxious groveling to the older one while the older one growls and gives his best border collie “smile” with tongue sticking out, and sometimes he gets what appears to be shaking mad about it. I stop the obnoxious submission but I hear my Mom’s voice in my head from when I was young and my brother was bugging me “if you wouldn’t react he would leave you alone.” I do think the younger BC does it to the older BC to annoy him because he gets a reaction. Neither of those 2 dogs have dominant personalities.

  34. Trisha says

    Sigh, I just wrote a long comment here, and then lost the whole thing…. ah, computers! But if you want to laugh out loud, click on the photo of Spencer that Alexandra sent. I hope you don’t mind my laughing, but oh lordy dogs can look funny!

    Good question from Pike about the development of social signaling and social status in puppies: I don’t know the answer, but Barbara Smuts and students are studying the development of play in domestic dogs. Check out work by Camille Ward and Erika Bauer, both of whom did great work on this topic.

    To S, your rescue really does sound tricky. I’d probably not even worry about anything but a second long stay for now, working on helping her learn to control herself and her emotions. She sounds a bit frantic to me, far beyond submissive, but certainly nervous and anxious as you said. Could you put licking on cue and then teach a cue to stop licking? Lassie was an obsessive licker when I got her. If you pulled your arm away she’d lick the table leg, carpet, anything within reach of her tongue. I’d distract her with a toy, gradually taught her other active behaviors as well as how to lie down and stay quiet for first a second, then longer, etc etc. I think that and a lot of indirect things helped… working sheep, the right diet (no chicken for her!). Good luck, I know how hard it is when you are motivated but frustrated.

  35. Trisha says

    Amy, re the attacking BC Bryce…. it’s hard to give advice without doing a consult, but are the ‘attacks’ usually about who gets the attention, the object etc? If so, you might try using some of the techniques in Feeling Outnumbered. It’s not magic, but it might help. It would also help to know how you respond when it happens.

    To carolyn: oh, how ironic your question. Willie herding Sushi is a constant challenge at my house. I’ve had 11
    BCs for any length of time, and 9 were relatively easy to deal with. All they needed was to be taught an incompatible behavior, like go ‘get your toy’ or ‘lie down,’ when they looked at the cat. Their response to a cat was no different than the response of a Lab or a Schnauzer. But 2 of my BCs, and Willie is one of them, are what are called “Strong eyed” dogs, meaning that once they lock eyes with an individual they categorize as ‘livestock,’ they are almost hypnotized by it. There is simply no reinforcement good enough to make ‘herding’ the animal less important, and once they are locked on it is very hard for them to look away or at least ignore the animal. It seems out of their own control to some extent. I’m going to write about this soon as a post, because it’s a big issue at the farm. Thanks for asking about kitties. I love cats, and I love love love my Sushi, but find that my allergies to them are getting worse… another issue to post about..

    To Sirius: first and foremost, good luck with your dissertation! Such a huge accomplishment. And I know just what you mean about your dog. As other comments have pointed out, there seems to be a type of dog who is not ‘submissive’ at all, but uses extreme displays of ‘submission’ to get what they want. I know one trainer who never likes to see a dog do an extreme display, in the belief that such displays are often given by dogs who can be problematic around other dogs.

    To Jennifer: I agree completely with you that ‘submission’ is not a passive act, but we are stuck with the labels given, “passive submission’ being the title of a dog lying down and rolling onto its back, and “active” to muzzle licking, etc. I wish we could re-label those actions (along with re-naming the 4 quadrants of operant conditioning! “positive punishment” is such a lousy term!).

  36. says

    Trisha: I’d agree with the observation from the trainer, to some extent anyway. She was rescued from a hoarder posing as a rescue organization, and was severely under socialized (adopted her at around 8-9 months of age). At some point in her past her ribs had been broken and someone beat her. She was a lovely, highly intelligent dog, and friendly but aloof initially (from a distance), but she was also a fear biter and had to fight other dogs in order to eat (some rescue huh). Though never aggressive to other dogs when food wasn’t present she scarfed down anything we gave her if Sirius was around and it took MONTHS to get her used to the idea that we would never hurt her and that she gets to eat everyday.

    As several other people mentioned (and you too I think), she does this “over acting” in nearly all circumstances. She is VERY excited when people come over, or dramatically sad when people leave (she hates when people are separate from each other and likes for everyone to stay in a group so she can see them). It has taken nearly a year of CONSTANT training to get her presentable in semi-public situations, and she still has those impulses, it just seems as though she controls them because she knows she has to (like being, “Ohhh you came to see me!! What a wonderful surprise!! I HAVE to touch/jump/ paw you, don’t you want to pet me!?!?! Everyone LOVES to pet me!!!! . . . anytime someone came to the house). She still hops around like a crazy dog after I say her release word, but she knows never to paw the visitor and if she is good they’ll pet her if they like when they get settled.

    I don’t think these dogs are impossible, though they are a lot of work. I’m proud to say Tonks can now be around other dogs and maintain the equivalent of good canine manners and she has graduated from the crate to being “free-range” in the doggie proofed living room (no more chewing, or barking, or opening cabinets!).

    On another note, I recently posted pictures from her 2nd birthday (we made up the date, and are as close as we could get). The picture with the cake in front of her shows the level of control she has now, something she never did when we first adopted her. In my mind, her and Will would be great friends, and she would put his running skills to the test (she has yet to find another dog that can catch her in a game of chase :)

  37. says

    Fascinating discussion. I’ve seen aggressive obsequiousness in several dogs. All of them were stubborn and demanding; had a tendency toward being obsessive and were somewhat nervous and insecure. Perhaps it’s a case of strong conflicting emotions where submissive feelings are just over-ridden by an intense desire to do something assertive. The submission is still there and intense enough to be used as a “weapon” (would this be a weapon of crass obfuscation?).

    I see the mindset as “I absolutely must have that and I can’t imagine not getting it.. but oh, oh, oh (blink, lick, lick, pant) I can’t possibly just take it away or fight for it.

    I’ve seen dogs give in to this kind of display in pure “gawd you are obnoxious, please just take/do whatever you want and leave me alone” annoyance. I totally get where they’re coming from.

  38. Cynthia says

    To Anne:
    My female terrier-thing Dottie is the opposite: if you try to pet her, she’ll start licking you obsessively and will turn her head so you can’t pet her.
    She’s very submissive with people but something of an insecure alpha-wannabe mess with dogs. I still haven’t been able to figure out her relationship with out male boxer/German Shepherd mix Gustav. For the most part, she’s the classic alpha: can take a Kong right out of his space without any protest, can guard and protect about seven items at once just by being close to them and growling at him. However, he’s very disrespectful of her space: i.e. he charges out the door before her and sometimes leaps right on her when he’s in a rush.

  39. Mary Beth says

    Trisha, I have worked with a ton of coonhounds and had the same experience as you. If they locked on a cat, there was no hope for correcting the problem. For the ones who would respond and look away, those ones could be “improved” with lots of modification. My current coonhound is now 13 months old(feel sorry for me, the woes of hound teenagerhood!) and learned before 5 months of age to curb that prey drive around the cat.
    I had one hound that would look at the cat then look back at me with all these appeasement gestures. I laughed so much at that dog. If I could anthropomorphize for a bit, I swear he was saying over and over, “I am sooooo sorry lady, I really want to make you happy, but I WANT TO KILL THE CAT, oh wait, where was I? I am sooooo sorry……”

    Regarding the appeasement gestures, my 2 year old Lab fits that exactly. The 13 year old Lab will treat the cat that way sometimes. Let me tell you just how thrilled the cat is by all the licking! Not!

  40. Jessie says

    I know this is probably the wrong place to post this, but this idea of being ‘aggressively obsequious’ made me think of a few other things that fall into the category of appearing realtively benign but actually are possibly predictive of aggression. Perhaps it’s a subject you could address in another post.

    Sue Sternberg has written some interesting things about dog aggression that I have found to be true of my own dog. I read her thoughts after discovering that my own dog is dog-aggressive, but they fit.

    I’m working from memory here, so I apologize if I have misstated some of her ideas.

    She’s mentioned that dogs who work to brush against furniture, objects in the environment and people are scent marking, and that these dogs often later exhibit aggression toward other dogs. This fits with my dog–she has to rub on EVERYTHING and she is dog aggressive. ( I had thought of it as being cat-like at first.)

    She’s also mentioned that a dog who compulsively sniffs you when you enter a room, without blinking for 3 seconds ( I may have the number of seconds wrong here) is also likely to be dog-aggressive. Again, this is SO true of my dog. She has to sniff my hands and legs the second I return to the house after any outing I’ve made and she could go a good 20 seconds without blinking if I’ve been with another dog. And she gives me what I call “the peanut butter face”-not only is she sniffing, but you can see the whites of her eyes on the top and she’s excited. Her eyes are practically bursting from her head. ( I call it the peanut butter face because she will show the same attitude when licking peanut butter off a spoon. Not a ‘technical term’, certainly, but accurately describes her excitement and focus.)

    Even though I’ve read these things from Sternberg, I haven’t seen any corroboration elsewhere. Maybe that’s because none exists, or maybe I am not correctly searching for those studies or observations.

    Do you have any thoughts on these behaviors and their predictive value in assessing potential aggression?

  41. says

    Wow, I was initially super surprised to hear all that “submission” language in a place like this, but I guess we don’t have too many other ways to describe this particular behaviour! When I see this kind of obsequiousness, I don’t think of it as deference at all so much as apeasement. A dog will do something (e.g. run up to an unfamiliar dog) because it lacks impulse control, and then it lays on the thick apeasement and calming signals to buffer the reaction it gets as a result of its own rudeness. My dog (a BC X I believe) instinctively does this with me all the time when she does things that make me nervous. She can’t help doing the annoying thing in the first place, or she thinks it’s worth the consequences/fallout, but then she comes over and acts all “submissive”. I don’t think it has anything to do with rank; sort of like how guilty-looking behaviour in dogs hardly ever has anything to do with them actually feeling guilty. I never found dominance/submission to be at all helpful in understanding my pet’s behaviours or motivations. I think over-the-top licking takes place AFTER some other behaviour that we should be paying attention to.

    @Jessie, Dr. Sophia Yin has some interesting things to say about the signals and body language of dogs with a tendency for aggression, but I can’t remember where on her (quite extensive) site. It’s worth it to browse the whole site anyway IMO.

  42. says

    I don’t think that “pinball dogs” (the ones that brush or bump into furniture, humans and other dogs) are scent-marking. I think they’re mostly just rude.

    All group living animals have cultural rules about space. In the dog’s world, much as in ours, bumping into someone without asking permission or apologizing – is rude. It’s fine and dandy to slam someone after a nice, polite playbow; or to follow an inadvertent bump with an apologetic lip lick – but rolling into legs, walls and furniture is a pushy, rude way to claim space, get attention or, sometimes, just try to push someone around.

  43. Liz F. says

    What a cool picture of Will, he’s got that teenage-heartthrob appeal with the smile, wispy hair and back lighting. Speaking of, any chance the university student was giving you a pick up line? Did he bat his eyelashes (I believe men do it too) ? But really, back to Willie, thank you for being an inspiration and sharing your ‘problem dog’ story; it’s so uplifting to hear when a dog progresses. Yay!

    As far being aggressively obsequious, my young Nala is tough to pinpoint. She, like Lassie, has been known as a compulsive licker. She did this mostly with people, feet especially and we managed it pretty well for the first year of her life (or so I thought…) “That’s enough” would stop the licking after a second or two, and she would grab a toy or bone. However, lately, the licking has started back up, now with dogs, particularly a problem with those outside of the household. Makes me wonder if she’s heading towards being aggressively obsequious, or if she’s picking up a bad habit again. As my guy Dustin puts it, “She acts like the other dogs’ ear is her kong.” The same could be said about muzzles, too, but her main target is really the ear. Have been trying “Enough” with mixed success, but Nala has provoked a few lip curls and growls with the over-the-top licking. She will get the message from the other dog, if not me, but I wish it wouldn’t get to that point. One of the tough things is that my other dog, Helix, seems to love having his ears licked by her; he’ll push his ear back at her and groan (like when getting a massage) as she licks away into bliss. I know I shouldn’t let this go on… but is any amount of licking appropriate for a dog who is prone to this obsession?

  44. says

    Oh my…I know just what you mean. Our little lab mix, Jessica Guppie, does that exact thing only we call it “Close Talking.” She annoys whichever dog she is being submissive towards SO much that eventually they grumble, growl, or outright attack her. I think it’s why she has been attacked by loose dogs on our walks before (yet another good reason to avoid loose dogs when out in the big world). I try to give her guidance to teach her more appropriate calming signals but, my goodness, it’s like she just can’t stop herself once she starts wiggling and licking and close talking. I think it stems from a lack of confidence but I’m simply guessing. I’d love to learn some real tips on how to help redirect such silliness-other than my “Jessica Guppie: stop close talking!” command which isn’t always very effective ;)
    Love this blog…such interesting topics!
    Sue and the crew
    Dream Valley Ranch
    Colorado

  45. says

    I just realized that you describe it as aggressively obsequious whereas I’ve always thought of this behavior as very submissive and lacking in confidence…Interesting! I’ll have to think more about this and watch her more closely.

  46. Wayne says

    I’ve a 140# mastiff/pit that is (if I may stack modifiers here) ridiculously-profoundly-ludicrously-submissive. She’s getting up there in years now, and I am not concerned about “changing” her behavior at this point, but I do find it interesting and wonder what “made” her this way. EVERY guest is greeted like a long-lost bff…. from ten feet away she will crawl up to them on her stomach, then her head gets pressed against their leg, then over on her back for a skritch, then up for more head pressing, and when she is FINALLY pushed away, it’s on to the next “new” person if there is one, or to a family member if there isn’t!

    We’ve a little (12#) rat terrier that “brutalizes” her endlessly…. pulling on her lips, ears, tail and paws, and she lays there (flat on her back) and takes it – when he stops for any reason, she rolls back over (upright) and whines until he starts again! (We crate the little guy when we are at work, giving her at least THAT much respite!). She’s a BIG girl, and generally a very happy dog, but acts so very, very, very “low-man-on-the-totem-pole” that I find it puzzling.

  47. Trisha says

    To Liz F: Lucky Helix to have a kind of massage therapist on hand at all times! I do think that the more Nala licks Helix’s ear the more she’ll be inclined to lick the ears of others. I often wonder when I see a dog lick so obsessively (using that term loosely) how much they are motivated by pleasure (this feels good to do, so I’ll do more of it) and how much is motivated by anxiety. It well could be both; as a matter of fact that’s my best guess. We know that certain repetitive actions, stereotypies, increase the production of serotonin in the brain. Captive animals will self-stimulate by rocking, pacing etc, and the belief is that the repetitive motion acts as a kind of internal opiate, soothing an otherwise frustrated or anxious animal. If that’s true, then it must feel good in some way to do, or at least be satisfying. Most of us can relate; if we’ve ever chewed on our nails or twisted our hair, even when it doesn’t feel good in one way, it does in another. Since Nala is starting to do it more frequently, I’d try to see if there’s a pattern to it. Does she do initiate it in any predictable way? Has anything changed in her life that might make her more anxious? Change in diet? I suspect, tho’ can’t say for sure, that if it was my dog I might work, in a positive way, to get it out of her repertoire (and use ear rubs for Helix to reinforce extra good behavior! I’d, personally, pass on licking his ears myself…).

  48. Trisha says

    To Gin Gin Bon Bon: I hear you loud and clear;in spite of the mis perceptions of the terms “submission” and especially, sigh, “dominance,” sometimes it is hard to discuss canine behavior without them. However, I agree completely that the term “appeasement” is a better one in many contexts, and am a bit baffled as to why I didn’t use it at all in my post, since I use it all the time! Thanks for the reminder. Your comment does raise some very interesting issues, and I think important ones. What is the relationship, if any, between appeasement behavior and submission? Is there even such a thing as submission at all? I would argue yes, but not necessarily as many define it. I’m going to write on this soon, because it is such an interesting and important issue. I’ll just be ready to back up and duck when I do……It seems that even discussing this issue is so loaded that one brings it up at one’s peril. But it does our dogs no good avoid looking carefully at controversial issues, so sometime soon I’ll address this in a post. (Not this week, but do stay tuned for some great sheep sex.)

  49. Trisha says

    Time for one last comment: I’m not sure what to think of Sue’s observations about dogs scent marking when they brush against objects or people. I honestly am not sure I’ve seen that many dogs do it. I have a lot of respect for her comments on this, she’s a truly great observer, but I just haven’t seen it all that often myself. I have, however, seen a lot of dogs who compulsively sniff (I assume for other dogs) when you enter the house or go elsewhere who have problems with other dogs. The sign of it in Willie was at 7 weeks when I took him to the vet clinic. He first
    bolted when he heard dogs barking outside in the day care, and then was riveted to the entrance to the clinic when I put him down on the ground. He simply wouldn’t stop sniffing the very place I had put him, and I finally had to pick him up to take him outside. I’d seen way too much of this in the past, and inwardly groaned. As time went on, he would sniff a light post or obvious marking area of other dogs not just for a long time, but intensely, nostrils flaring, snorting sometimes, while his body was tense and straining. Now, 3 years later, he sniffs with interest, but all the obsessive intensity is gone. (And he does love to push his body against you when you’re on the floor, but never rubs against you or objects when you’re standing up, for whatever that is worth!)

  50. Amy says

    Trisha: Regarding Bryce, my rude Border Collie x ACD that attacks my other dog, Red – often he does this over food or attention. But he’ll do it in exciting situations, like if a cat walks by our yard and Red charges the fence to bark at it – Bryce will attack him. I don’t feel like I have much control over those situations, but when it happens right in front of me I wonder if I couldn’t discourage that behavior in some way. Scolding Bryce or grabbing his collar to hold him back always makes it 10 times worse. He never growls at the person who grabs his collar – he just stares and snarls at Red more intensely. It’s very scary and shocking because he is normally a quiet and well-behaved dog. I feel pretty defeated about this. When Bryce does it I usually say “Bryce, stop it” in a disapproving voice. I don’t think this does anything; I think he ignores me completely. But that doesn’t make it worse, and he’ll usually proceed to “make up” to Red in that annoying in-your-face manner.

    I’ve been eyeing the Feeling Outnumbered? booklet for awhile now. I’ll check it out – maybe there will be some advice there to help things run more smoothly around here.

  51. says

    Hi Trish, yes, with some of my dog friends we often compare this relentless behavior to the human behavior that has now been coined “frenemies”. Ira Glass on This American Life just did a show on “frenemies” and he discusses how pervasive those ambivalent relationships are. Seems us humans often choose to stay in aggressively obsequious relationships that often cause us stress and conflict. Even shows up in our blood pressure etc. Seems we’d rather “lick Lick lick” someone we’re not so sure about rather than decidedly leave the relationship. He says it’s hard for us humans to consider ourselves “intolerant, judgmental” so we remain in the ambivalent relationship and put out mixed signals, and bad cues. So, now, in my own anthropomorphic way- I call those canine relationships you describe above, “frienemies”. Just thought I’d blur the human/canine vocabulary a little more. One last thing, research shows too, that we are much better off when we divorce ourselves from the unrealistic or ambivalent or competitive frienemy dynamic. And don’t we all observe in well versed dogs how wonderful they are when the signals are clear between them. Skilled communication- it works !
    Jude

  52. says

    I recently noticed my dog Marley exhibiting this behavior. I was rather perplexed about it and its meaning. Basically, last week Marley finally noticed Cleo (another female dog) and she went up to her and exhibited puppy-like behavior, such as lip licking, nipping around the lips, lots of play bows and little sharp excited yips. If Cleo reacted, Marley would swing around slightly and body slam Cleo. This continued until Cleo started to chase Marley.

    She doesn’t normally behave in this manner and I was rather confused and a bit concerned with the discrepancies in behavior. Thanks for letting me know Marley is just being bitchy.

  53. Dena Norton says

    Sue! Scritches to Jessica Guppie and the rest of the Yahoos. (From Izzee’s Mom)

    I’m currently seeing a lot of lip-licking, etc., from my Pixie to her big brother, Ford. But Pixie is still a puppy, just 5 months old, and Ford rarely does anything other than let her lick. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as Pixie grows up, as it looks like she’s going to be a HUGE Springer, even bigger than Ford.

  54. Liz F. says

    Trisha: A belated but sincere thanks for the information on excessive licking.
    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I also want to thank you for the article Love, Guilt, and Putting Dogs Down. I was able to share it with an old friend last week as he said goodbye to his one-in-a-million dog. He explained that

  55. hmeinzer says

    This sounds very much like both of the dogs I have had! My first dog, Xhufi, was a female mutt of completely unknown origin (other than the fact that I got her as I was finishing a stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Albania!). Through the many years that I had her, I thought for sure she was an alpha, particularly watching her with my boyfriend’s Golden, Raoul. Raoul was the biggest of his litter but very gentle. Xhufi always got the food first, the toys first, etc. But she’d lose interest very quickly in toys and Raoul was always patient enough to wait until she was done with them. Xhufi would always try to show any new dog she was the boss, but just like your dog, had absolutely nothing to back up her bravado when a dog really challenged her. When Xhufi was 13 1/2 years old, she was dying of cancer. During her last week, Raoul was so sweet with her and never tried to push her out of the way. Only after I got my second dog, Sophie, did I realize that Raoul is actually the alpha, but was just very deftly letting Xhufi and us think that she was!

    I got Sophie, a Belgian-Malinois mix, last summer when she was four months old. She’s now about 20 months old. Raoul just turned 12, and he’s still very spunky and healthy. Sophie is not as good at pretending to be an alpha like Xhufi, but she is much more confrontational with Raoul. She is constantly flipping back and forth between licking Rauol’s gums and groveling, then pushing him around, herding him and grumping at him. Raoul is the sweetest thing, and will just turn his head away when she’s being grumpy, but will sit there patiently to have his gums licked as long as Sophie feels like doing it! Sophie is reactive to other dogs (and everything new — see my comment on the aggression/sniffing blog post!). Although she may initially lunge and bark at a new dog, fortunately she is not a fighter. If a dog is the least little bit confrontational, she is on her back licking as fast as she can lick!

    Just goes to show that a true alpha is calm and confident, and actually will try to de-escalate situations instead of escalating and carrying on!

  56. CarolG. says

    Try checking out Wolf Park’s (Battleground, Indiana) web site. I know when I was there one day they
    were discussing obnoxious submission where the ‘submissive wolf’ is busy being submissively a pain in the rear for the higher ranking wolf.

  57. Sharon C. says

    Hi Trish,

    I know this is an older post, but I could not help but to comment. I was watching ‘Pride and Prejudice’, and during the scenes that the delightfully appalling Mr. Collins appeared, all I could think of was “aggressively obsequious”. Perfect!

  58. Shivani says

    Thank you all for comments about the obseqious dog. My 2 yr old female german Shepherd has turned out that way and spends her time whining for attentiona and slinking away with puppy behaviour and digging the garden despite warnings. This behaviour is creating a negative response with my husband who finds her now very annoying. She has a 2yr old male Australian Shepherd for company who is bright and sensitive but not obseqious and is a model non disruptive dog hardly ever needing any caution. The situation has become so that my husband is thinking of giving the German Shep away which I can’t do. I need a solution for this and need help re this. I haven’t been able to find this in the responses above that are descritptive about the dogs.
    Would appreciate some help re getting her out of this.

  59. says

    Wow – you have nailed my recent female lab rescue! I keep thinking she was abused in the past because if you speak at all harshly or firmly she melts into the floor, side of her belly showing and forearm raised. And ALL SHE DOES IS LICK to the point you want to scream. The same day we picked her up from the truck, I started the “stand up and turn” whenever she’d come over to lick but I cannot break her of it. She licks everyone while twisting her body strangely. Sometimes a person is lucky because she grabs a toy upon greeting, thus sparing them the tongue bathing. I don’t know how to positively train my way out of this one and speaking of training, its super difficult with her – teaching her stay is frustrating as well as down (down is this odd submissive display while licking at my hand). My other rescue has his own issues but a pleasure to train. I find myself having to stop with my female because my frustration will start and I’m afraid that will send her into a submissive frenzy.

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