Leader of the Pack
In nature dogs live in groups called packs. There is always one clear leader among the group and it is usually the confident, strongest, most trusted one. The other dogs live under the command of the leader and are considered followers to that leader. They looked to their leader on how to behave and when and where to eat and sleep. In the dog world this is what works for them, what is natural for them, and what makes them happy. We need to concentrate on understanding a dogs mind if we want to be successful. We should not place our human thinking on the dog because that would be inaccurate. A human thinks differently than a dog and when we understand that we will all be happier. The followers want a strong leader that helps keep the pack in order. Most dogs prefer not to be leader because it is a very stressful job.
When we domesticated our dogs and brought them into our human world to live with us we did not remove this instinct in the dog to need a leader. Dogs consider themselves to be part of a pack even when the pack involves a mixture of dogs and humans. A dog needs a leader in their life and if there isn’t a clear leader they have to take over and lead. In our human world this causes great problems in the dog such as, aggression, separation anxiety, and many other behavioral problems. Can you imagine how stressful it would be to a dog to be leader to humans?
How do you know if you are pack leader or if your dog is? Does your dog NOT listen to you nor do what you ask? Does your dog pull you on walks? Does your dog have behaviors that you want to change but haven’t been able to successfully? These are a few of the clear signs that your dog is leading you! If the dog is leading the humans there will be problems guaranteed. You are the human so you need to be leader.
You can become pack leader today, right now. It doesn’t matter if you were not pack leader yesterday. Don’t worry; it can be turned around rather easily if you follow my guidelines. You can become the leader today! But, you must start from this moment on and continue to be leader, consistently from today on. I will show you how to do it.
You might also be surprised to know that when the dog does not see you as the clear leader, they will not come to you when called, may pull on leash, not stay consistently, jump up on you or others, or just generally not have desirable, “obedient” behavior. In order to successfully have a well-trained dog you must first understand that you must be pack leader in their lives and they must be the follower. Without this understanding between you and your dog, you will not achieve the results you want.
Dogs actually WANT a clear leader and are HAPPIER with a clear leader. It is a lot of stress and a lot of work for the dog to be leader. Your dog will NOT love you more if you only give them affection and no rules. I can honestly tell you that your dog will love you more when there are set rules for them to follow. You are not being kind to your dog if you are too lenient and let them “get away” with bad behavior. It does not work in the long run. What happens is you have a dog that doesn’t see anyone in its life as being pack leader and one of two things will happen; either they will become leader and lots of problem behavior will develop, or they will breakdown and be fearful because they have no clear leader. As we know a dog that is fearful is not happy. So, trust me when I say, if you establish yourself as clear pack leader, it is the best gift you can give you dog. They will love you more and be happier.
What do I do to become my dog’s leader? There are many ways to become pack leader. One of the first ways is for you to establish rules in your home for your dog. There must be a set way the dog is allowed to behave and it must be very clear to the dog.
1. Basically you control the house. If they are on the couch or bed and you want them off then it should be easy for you to ask them to get off. If it isn’t, then we can see who is pack leader and it isn’t you! Ha! Don’t worry I’ll show you how to do this as well.
2. If someone comes to the door and they bark then you should be able to stop the barking.
3. If a guest enters the house they should not jump on the guest.
4. They are not allowed to nip or bite or growl at you. The dog’s teeth should never be allowed on you at any time even during play.
5. If you have food on the counter the dog should not take it.
6. The dog should understand which toys are theirs and which ones are the kid’s toys.
7. In the pack, the pack leader eats first and the follower’s wait at a designated spot. You should not allow your dog to beg for your food. You should establish a clear area where your dog is allowed to be during the time you eat and stick with that spot every time. Everyone in the household, including the kids, need to follow all these rules as well.
8. When it is the dogs turn to eat there are also very clear rules you need to follow. The dog should not be allowed to bark, and jump all over you while they wait for you to prepare and give their food. They should be waiting, preferably sitting quietly and only then would you put their food bowl down. If you put their food bowl down while they are barking at you then you have just rewarded them for that behavior. You should also be allowed as pack leader to take the food away or reach into their food bowl whenever you want.
9. The dog that snaps at you, growls or bites during feeding time is a clear indication they do not see you as pack leader. A pack leader owns that food bowl at all times and can do whatever they want with it. If you feed the dog expecting calmness from them EVERY feeding, you will be establishing your role as pack leader.
10. This holds true for treats and toys as well. You as pack leader own everything and can take it away and give it back without any problem.
You need to set very clear rules. It is possible for the dog to easily follow all these rules and many more. Remember, they will be happy to know what is expected of them!
Consistency is very important. I can tell you right now that if you are clear only 90% of the time, that extra 10% will be just enough to confuse the dog and not understand what is truly expected. So, for example, if you occasionally allow your dog to jump on certain houseguests as a greeting but other times you expect them not to jump on another guest then that would be unfair and inconsistent. Then, you will be working on this behavior for the dog’s lifetime and that will be frustrating to you and the dog! If you stayed consistent for example about the dog not jumping on anybody with their paws then the dog will happily be next to the guest without jumping every time because his rules were consistently taught to him!
*I always tell people to set rules based on how consistent you can be with them or it will not be worth it. The house rules will only work if you set them and follow them every time and all family members must agree and also treat the dog the same way.
Dogs only understand very clear rules that are black and white. Here is another area where dogs and humans are different. They do not understand the gray areas of rules like we do or the subtlety of hidden rules. If we are clear in our rules and consistent in our expectation of these house rules we will have a happy, well trained dog!
Set your rules, make them clear, and stick to them.
There can be more than one “human” pack leader. In fact, all the humans in the household, even the children must act like pack leader and share the same rules and expectations of the dog. One person should not have different expectations than another. Everyone should agree on the dog rules and follow them consistently.
Train your dog well so that you may take them with you to explore the world, whether it is on a hike in the mountains or a trip down the sidewalk. Most dogs today usually live in a house or apartment and may have or may not have a backyard and may occasionally go out for a short walk a couple times a week. This is a common scenario of the general dogs life I come across as a trainer. And, although you may think that you give them a great life with treats and a beautiful bed, this isn’t a dog’s idea of a fantastic life. We must begin this whole process by understanding the way dogs and humans think differently. Once we understand the differences we can begin to communicate with our dogs more successfully and train our dog’s better! A dog’s fantastic life would be to explore the world with you. But, being able to do that in our civilized society would mean they have to be well trained to go everywhere with you! So, that will be our goal.
It can be a beautiful experience to have a well-trained dog. You can have a dog that is happy, listens to you and that you can take out wherever you go and they will be controlled and walking next to you. You can be one of those people that others envy because your dog listens to you and doesn’t pull you down the street and comes to you when called. There is so much potential in each and every dog. You just need to open the lines of communication in the way the dog can understand. It isn’t all that hard. Just follow my steps and you’ll get there!
You can still love and hug and kiss your dog. But understand there is a time to do that and a time not to. If the dog is behaving in a way you like then by all means reward them with your love! But if they are jumping all over a guest and you are not happy with that behavior do not reward that behavior by petting them. I go into greater detail about this in my website. I just wanted to be clear that this isn’t a militant form of training. It is just a way that dogs actually prefer. You make the rules, they follow them; a dog will prefer to have these rules. After you get used to the rules it will become second nature to you. Say for example it is time to eat and you’ve already established where your dog lays for that time; you can eventually just point to the area and say go to your bed (or whatever name you have given the area) and they’ll go, if that is what you like. The dog will love to understand what you want of them. They really do want to please us and it is just a matter of us making it clear to them on how to please us.
Obedience training is the next step in helping you to become the leader. What is obedience training exactly? It is a training tool used to teach dog’s things like sit, down, stay, come, etc. I think of it a bit like teaching a language where both you and the dog understand each other. It gives you the very valuable tool of teaching your dog acceptable behavior in your world together. When a dog is taught these things correctly, and yes there is a right way and a wrong way, your dog will understand what you want and obey you happily. If you learn the proper techniques, you will have a dog that responds to what you ask consistently, and feels happier in general, whether off leash or on. If done improperly, or inconsistently, you may confuse your dog and not have good results. That is where it can be very helpful to follow my website closely to perfect these techniques and have fast, reliable results. Everyone who has used my training techniques has been impressed with fast results.
EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE your dog! You will not have success in any area of your training experience if your dog is not exercised properly where they are allowed to drain all of their energy. This is the number one rule of good dog behavior. “A good dog is a tired dog”. Daily, controlled (no-pulling), walks establish your leadership as well as draining the wound up energy of a dog. I can show you how to have a controlled walk with your dog and what type of exercise is right (and enough) for your dog through my website: www.webdogtrainer.com
Good house rules for the dog to follow:
* You own the house and what is in it. You have the right to take away whatever you want without a problem including food, toys and treats.
* You choose where the dog is allowed to sleep and where he/she is allowed to be. Make these rules clear.
* When you are eating the dog is not allowed to beg and should stay a distance of several feet away at a designated area.
* The dog must be calm before getting it’s own food.
* No paws on you or guests when the dog is jumping in excitement.
* The dog’s teeth are not allowed on anyone at any time even if you think it is a playful nip. Playful nips turn into dog bites very easily.
* All household members must follow the same rules.
In summary, you begin training by becoming pack leader in your home with set rules, along with an obedience program, and make sure you are draining your dog’s energy with lots of exercise. These are the three most important things for you to learn to begin your successful path to a well-trained dog!
This article was contributed by Julie Bjelland Lokhandwala the founder of webDogTrainer
webDogTrainer is a popular website that offers Consultations with Julie, the dog trainer, LIVE about any dog-training related questions you may have! Also on the site you will find more in-depth information on how to train your dog to be the kind of dog you always wanted and how to fix problem behaviors should they occur.
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