All dogs need owners to provide leadership so they can be well-adjusted and polite family members. Without a leader to provide structure, guidelines and training, dogs may become pushy, out-of-control, prone to tantrums, stressed…you get the general idea. Being a leader does not mean being rough or harsh with our dogs. We can get the message across in a very friendly and firm manner. Being a leader to our dogs will help foster a relationship based on trust, respect and cooperation.
A dog’s leader should…
- be clear about expectations
- set limits
- train by teaching what is appropriate
- be consistent, firm and fair
- be calm and confident
- NOT resort to physical punishment
- control a dog’s valued resources (treats, play, petting) and use them as rewards. This means your dog has to do something for you to get one of these “life rewards.” Some examples: sit = dinner; come = playtime with dogs; down = belly rub; sit stay at door = go outside, etc. Your dog should work to earn the things he wants!
- follow through. If you ask your dog to do something, make sure he is successful.
- provide consequences for undesired behaviors (ie: dog tries to bolt out door = door closes, dog jumps up on you = dog is ignored, dog jumps up and snatches at treat in hand = treat goes away, etc.)
- not bribe (“Sit, sit, sit…oh, ok here’s a treat… Now will you sit?”).
- ignore pushy behavior (shoving toys at you, pawing at you, etc.). Leaders begin and end interactions with their dogs.
Being your dog’s leader will help him become a confident, calm and well-mannered companion. Your direction will help pave the way to a happy, healthy and successful life together. Please contact your trainer with concerns or questions.
How to be Leader of the Pack, and have Your Dog Love You For It! by Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D.