Dog The Leader of the Pack

In the dog world, you are either a follower or a leader. This pack mentality comes from dogs having wolves for ancestors. Wolves live in a pack and must rely on a leader to survive in the wild. Even if a wolf is not the head howler, he’s an important link in the chain of command. It’s the same for a dog. It doesn’t matter if he’s the only canine living with just one person, or if he shares space with other dogs in a large human household. His instinct is to find out where he stands in he hierarchy and to look for ways to move up a notch.

You’re the Boss:
It’s cute, but definitely no accident when your dog sits on top of your feet. Or ignores you when you call him to heel or grumbles when you insist he get off the couch. He’s trying to show you that he’s the boss and has the upper par.

“These are mild signs of dominance,” says Aiken.” A dog will try to be in charge. But if he can’t, he’ll be the follower because he sees him-self as a member of a group.” You have to make it clear from the very beginning that you’re the one in charge of the household. If your don’t your dog will soon be doing more than just resting on your running shoes. He may start getting bossy with you and you’ll be feeling like a guest in your own home.

Inconsistent messages from you will encourage pack behavior. “Dominance tension builds up when the owner is in the charge one day but lets the dog be the leader the next,” says Steve Lindsay, trainer and owner of Canine Behavioral services in Philadelphia. If you’re normally obedient dog suddenly ignores your command to sit, and walks out of the room instead, don’t let it slide. He will take this as a sign that your position can be challenged. Put him in his place firmly and consistently. And don’t take your dog’s behavior personally. He’s not doing this because he’s mean, but because he’s been programmed to act in this way. You just have to make sure you don’t let him get away with it.

“Without using force, you can easily guide your dog’s pack behavior in a positive direction,” says Lindsay. Act like the wolf leader who controls the food and feed your dog after you have finished eating. Wait until he’s sitting obediently before you attach his leash to his collar and take him out for a walk. Lindsay also suggests playing follower – the – leader games with your dog, so that he knows where he in the lineup.

“There are some dogs who don’t like to be in charge and are very happy being number three, as long as they know that’s where their place is,” says Nicholas Dodman, B.V.M.S., professor in the Department of Surgery and director of the Behavior Clinic at Tufts University School of veterinary medicine in North Grafton, Massachusetts, and author of the dog who loved too much and the cat who cried for help. Reinforce this position by letting the number one and two dogs enter the yard first or give dog number three more freedom in the house than the new puppy.

Setting Limits:
Rank has privileges and responsibilities. When you are the leader, no one tells you what to do. As leader, you need to set out the rules from day one so that your dog has someone to follow – unless he knows the rules, he won’t be able to play the game.

“Dogs are creatures of habit who like to know what to expect,” says Dr. Dodman. Giving him reasonable limits and sticking by them is the best thing you can do for your dog. When he knows how far he can go, he feels safe and secure and his confidence soars. “It’s the dogs who are punished too harshly or given too much freedom that have problems,” adds Dr. Dodman.

Taking Advantage:
If you give in to your dog once, he won’t forget it. See what happens if guests come to visit. Your dog barks and fusses and, instead of correcting him as you would normally, you give him a treat as you would normally, and you give him a treat to quiet him quickly and graciously. Your dog will soon figure out that the minute company walks in your door, all he has to do is bark and you’ll feed him.

Your dog gets away with more than most people do. He runs into you, sniffs your midnight snack and blocks your way to the bathroom. But you can prevent this by being clear about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior, and by enforcing those limits. “A dominant dog will take more advantage of his owner and expect to get what he wants when he wants it,” says Dr. Dodman. If you let your dog walk over you, he’ll be running your life before you know it.

Taking Control:
If your dog is dominating you, gather the leashes, set those boundaries and take back control. With a few corrections, it won’t be long before your dog knows there will be no negotiating. The “no’s” will be loud and clear.

For example, if your dog jumps all over you when you’re getting ready to serve his dinner, make him take a seat and wait until his name is called. Do this every time for every meal and you’ll have a well behaved dinner. Your dog will soon understand that he gets fed only when he does exactly what you say, when you say it.

First – Time Owners:
One of things that baffles new dog owners is how much of a correction to give. If you’re too much of a softy, your dog will immediately trot all over you. If you overcorrect, he may become very cautious around you and not self-assured. Knowing when you’re being too easy or too hard on your dog will take some trail and error, but don’t give up. You’ll soon find a level that is comfortable for both of you.

Decide in advance what your dog is capable of obeying and what you are going to feel comfortable correcting or ignoring. Be realistic in your expectations and consistent in your corrections. “Make sure you say what you mean and mean what you say,” says Dr. Dodman. When you correct your dog, feel confident that you are doing the right thing by him. Remember, your dog needs guidance. By being firm and decisive with him, you are being kind and caring.