If you have a dog who is somewhat of a "problem child," chances are that you have an assertive dog. Assertive dogs are those who actively try to get their own way. Because of this, they are more difficult to handle than a passive dog who is willing to be a follower. The passive dog does not take the initiative. He is not a creative thinker, as the assertive dog is. Assertive dogs are the ones who learn to ask to go out to relieve themselves, while passive dogs do not. They bark to make sure you don't forget to feed them dinner. And why is it that some dogs steal food at any opportunity, while others never do? Again, it's the difference between an assertive and passive dog, rather than a difference in appetites. The passive dog is one who is obedient, even though he's never had any formal training. The assertive dog, even if he holds several obedience titles, is rarely described as obedient.
Note that there is a difference between assertiveness and aggression. A dog can be assertive without being aggressive, and a dog can be aggressive without being assertive. For instance, Sandy is a mixed shepherd who snarls and snaps at anyone who approaches within five feet of her because she is afraid of people. She is a very timid dog who is scared of her own shadow. She is an aggressive dog, but she is certainly not assertive. On the other hand, Hayley is a Gordon Setter who is assertive, pawing at you constantly for attention and not taking no for an answer. She barks at the door when she wants to go out, which is approximately every 15 minutes. If all else fails, she will steal something she knows she is not supposed to have and will run through the house with it—a sure attention-getter. However, one cannot imagine any circumstance in which Hayley would bite.
My Borzoi, Carla, was the epitome of an assertive dog. What Carla wanted in life was more food, and she would go to any length to get it. She learned to open cabinet doors in the kitchen, so we put childproof locks on all those doors behind which food was kept. We live on the Appalachian Trail and are often visited by hikers. Carla learned to operate the zippers on their backpacks to steal their food. One of her more appalling stunts was the time she pushed open the door to a neighbor's home, walked in, stole a huge piece of Vermont cheddar cheese, and calmly strolled out, all while the dumbfounded neighbor looked on.
On the other hand, it would never enter Sabre's mind to jump up on a countertop and help himself to a piece of food, although he loves to eat just as much as Carla did and spent years watching her steal food. Sabre is a passive dog. We call him "The Boy Scout" because he never seems to do anything wrong. It isn't that he lies around the house doing nothing. He's a confident, energetic dog who is always ready for a game of Frisbee and is a great watchdog. He just doesn't take any initiative.
The passive dog is easier to live with, but there's a lot to be said for the surprises and entertainment an assertive dog can give you. Becoming equally assertive and developing a strong sense of humor may help you deal with this type of dog. Training is a must to set limits for the assertive dog, but don't expect to change his personality.
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There are over a hundred registered breeds of dogs. Recognizing the type of the dog is basically associated with its breed. A purebred animal belongs to a documented and acknowledged group of unmixed lineage. Before a breed of dog is recognized, it must be proven that mating two adult dogs of the sametype would have passed on their exact characteristics, both appearance and behavior, to their offspring.