Being the leader of your pack & nilif

Is your dog pushy, shy, submissive, demanding, or aggressive? Chances are that you’ve got a dog that could benefit from strong, fair leadership on your part. This program is a non-confrontational way of asserting yourself as a leader of the pack! Training should be fun and stress free, not an ongoing battle with your dog.

Every pack needs a leader, and at minimum one dog plus one human equals a pack. Someone needs to take that leadership role and that leader should be you. Dogs are much happier without the “weight of the world” on their shoulders, being a leader is stressful and they’d much rather let you take the reigns and make the rules. Many common behavior problems can be directly related to a lack of leadership on the owner’s part. Your dog will be ten times more likely to obey your commands when it really counts if he sees you as his leader. Without that respect, he will likely ignore you, so this is a valuable goal to work on and will make all the difference in how well trained your dog is.

Now don’t worry, you don’t need to be a Drill Sergeant to be a leader, in fact you should be having fun with your dog! Dogs judge “rank” through small, daily interactions not big battles. This makes it easy for you to integrate ‘house rules’ into your daily life that will have a profound impact on how your dog views your relationship.

Say Please:No more freebies, your dog will have to start working for what he wants. Well mannered dogs “say please”, that means they Sit or Down for treats, meals, throw of the ball, going outside, etc. No more rushing the food dish or bolting out doorways, make use of the commands your dog already knows to manage his behavior. Use your interactions with your dog as training opportunities and you’ll find that you practice commands many times through out the day without needing to set aside 20 or 30 minutes.

Furniture:Snoozing on the sofa is a privilege, not a right. And many dogs simply haven’t earned that right yet. If your dog is non-aggressive then you can allow him up ONLY with permission. Insisting that he “say please” and sit or down first will ensure that he knows the sofa is yours, not his. Any attempts at sneaking up should be met with an unemotional off as you guide him off with the leash or collar.

Aggressive dogs should not be allowed on furniture without first being taught how to get off on command. Period. If your dog acts aggressively when on furniture (or when you are on ‘his’ furniture) then set your dog up for success and simply deny him permission onto the furniture. He very clearly is telling you that he is not ready for that privilege yet. Maybe someday. But not now. Keeping a leash on the dog in house will make it easy for you to guide him off should he sneak up, without risking a bite.

Attention:This is by far the hardest rule for most families. It’s very common to pet the dog without even realizing that we’re doing so. But in dog language petting and fussing over a dog often can be considered a submissive behavior, and you certainly don’t want your dog to think of you as submissive toward them! You can combat this by asking for a command prior to petting. You can lavish your dog with as much attention as you like, but make him WORK for it!

Any attempt by the dog to make you pet him (nose nudging, pawing, smacking you with a toy) should be ignored. In dog language he is saying ‘Hey, human, PET ME NOW!” the dog is ordering you to pay attention to him and if you respond by petting or tossing the toy then you will have told your dog that he has you well trained. Ignore these outbursts and your dog will accept that you no longer obey his orders. Once he gives up and walks away then you can call him over, ask for a sit, THEN give him attention.

Remember, the attention itself is NOT the problem. Who initiates the interaction can cause the problem. Make it on your terms and your dog will respect you for it.

Leash Pulling:If your dog is walking you then he’s probably got the wrong idea about who’s the leader of your pack. Dogs should walk on your left and slightly behind you. No sniffing or peeing on walks, that can be done at will in your yard. Walks should be more of a training exercise then simply physical exercise. We recommend at least one 20 minute walk per day. This is good mental and physical stimulation. A tired dog is a more well behaved dog!

Crate Time:Many dogs will benefit from at least 3 hours of crate time per day. Having your dog follow you around the house all day may be cute, but it will also encourage separation anxiety, meaning your dog may panic or display destructive behaviors once you are out of sight. Even if you’re home, give your dog some “alone time” in his crate and encourage him to be relaxed and calm on his own. It’s a skill you’ll be glad you’ve taught!

Important points

1) Enforce every command you give – Simply put, if you ask your dog to sit, lie down, off or whatever else you need to be prepared to follow though on that command should the dog ignore you. Giving a command and then allowing the dog to ignore it will greatly set back any training already done, and your dog will likely ignore you again the next time.

If a command is given, make it happen.

2) Leash your dog! In the house! Yes, in the house. If your dog has a habit of ignoring commands, being aggressive or in general giving you the doggy version of the finger, give yourself an easy way to take control of situations by leaving a collar and 6 foot leash on the dog in the house. This eliminates the urge to chase a dog, grab the collar, or otherwise agitate an aggressive dog. It will save both you and your dog a lot of stress in the long run.

3) Being a strong leader for your dog should be a way of life, not something that is only done for a week or so and then forgotten about. You will get back from your dog what you put into his training. If you are consistent, your dog will be as well. Respect is earned, often through time and consistency. Don’t be tempted to stop the ‘house rules’ once your dog shows improvement or the training you’ve done up to that point will simply be wasted and you’ll be back to square one.

4) Have fun with your dog! Praise him for good behavior and enjoy the connection your making with your dog as your relationship improves. You are working toward a partnership with your canine companion, enjoy the journey just as much as the results.