Many people see being dominant as negative state and something that should be avoided at all costs. Avoiding dominance with animals and children and anything in life is next to impossible. Why? For this very reason: putting your dog on a leash, whether he pulls or not, is dominance because you are controlling where he can walk. Telling your kid what to eat (putting anything on their plate and presenting it to them without asking) is dominance because you are controlling what they eat. I won’t give more examples, but even trainers who religiously work with „positive reinforcement only“ use dominance in some form. The only way not to be dominant would be to let your animal do whatever they want and practically be wild and free. Even then, another animal would tell them what to do and not do.
At the moment I am reading a great book by Jenifer Zeligs (a friend of a former teacher of mine – David Lichman) called: Animal Training 101: The Complete and Practical Guide to the Art and Science of Behavior Modification
This is a book I would recommend to any trainer and anyone who has an animal or wants an animal – no matter what level you are at. She covers everything, as well as what dominance is. Here is a snippet from page 120 of her book;
The term „dominance“ has a negative connotation for people that „leadership“ does not carry. Dominance has been defined variously throughout the literature and there is not a clear consensus opinion. Burgoon et al. (1998) described the problem that the idea of dominance, for many, implies submission and forceful conflict, although this is not necessarily the case. Dominance is best described by having an unfettered access to resources. In many species, like dolphins or humans for example, the negotiation of dominance occurs through a variety of subtle mechanisms, both social and physical, and often does not involve substantial conflict. Leadership, on the other hand, is related to who is choosing the direction of the group. Leadership has a more positive potential connotation, even though many leaders are, in fact, dominant.