Dominance in domestic dogs: A quantitative analysis of its behavioural measures

J.A.M. Van Der Borg*, M.B.H. Schilder, C.M. Vinke, Han De Vries, Odile Petit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


A dominance hierarchy is an important feature of the social organisation of group living animals. Although formal and/or agonistic dominance has been found in captive wolves and free-ranging dogs, applicability of the dominance concept in domestic dogs is highly debated, and quantitative data are scarce. Therefore, we investigated 7 body postures and 24 behaviours in a group of domestic dogs for their suitability as formal status indicators. The results showed that high posture, displayed in most dyadic relationships, and muzzle bite, displayed exclusively by the highest ranking dogs, qualified best as formal dominance indicators. The best formal submission indicator was body tail wag, covering most relationships, and two low postures, covering two-thirds of the relationships. In addition, both mouth lick, as included in Schenkel's active submission, and pass under head qualified as formal submission indicators but were shown almost exclusively towards the highest ranking dogs. Furthermore, a status assessment based on changes in posture displays, i.e., lowering of posture (LoP) into half-low, low, low-on-back or on-back, was the best status indicator for most relationships as it showed good coverage (91% of the dyads), a nearly linear hierarchy (h' = 0.94, p

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0133978
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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