Becoming the leader of the pack with your dog is very similar to becoming a well-balanced parent. Like babies, dogs require equal parts love and discipline in order to respect you as their leader. Here are some guidelines to follow in order to have a much easier and more pleasant relationship with your pack:
- Stable Emotional State
Though the misconception is that a pack leader should be the most aggressive, the opposite is true. As the pack leader, you should always remain calm and never let your dog know if you’re feeling nervous, anxious or panicked. However, you should also not be afraid to be assertive in sticky situations. Violence is never the answer of course, but being firm with your dog will gain you the respect you deserve.
It’s no surprise that territory is extremely important to dogs (that’s why they’re constantly peeing on everything). Therefore, perhaps the most important way to become a pack leader is for you to establish your home as your territory and consistently make your authority of that space known to your dog. By not allowing your dog in certain areas (or on certain furniture), he will quickly learn that you dominate that space. Using body language and eye contact is key in communicating this to your dog.
- Positive Reinforcement
Love is just as important as discipline for any authority figure. That’s why giving love and being playful is also important for a pack leader. Only play and give attention to your dog when he is acting in a way you see fit (this should mean acting calm and obeying your rules). Positive reinforcement comes in a variety of ways for a dog, but typically snuggles, attention and treats work best.
One sign of a pack leader is patience, as tough as this can be. The leader of the pack should decide when the rest of the pack plays, sleeps, travels, etc. Even if there are stragglers who struggle to follow orders, the pack leader must be patient and thorough in guiding the rest of the group as to what they should be doing. One way this can manifest in your relationship with your dog is by withholding their food until you are ready to feed him. Ignore his begging and try to wait until it’s convenient for you to feed him. He will quickly learn that you are in control of his most precious commodity: food!
This is key. If you aren’t consistent in your treatment of your dog, he will take much longer to learn the rules and could ultimately lose interest in obeying you. For example, if your dog is not allowed on your bed, he should never be allowed on the bed. Although it can be difficult when he gives you puppy dog eyes, instead of allowing a behavior you disagree with, change your own behavior. If you are in bed and your pooch is laying the puppy eyes on thick, get down on the ground and give him some snuggles instead of breaking your own rules. If you don’t follow your rules, he won’t either!
- Individual Relationships
The last (but certainly not least) key in becoming the leader is for you to know your pack. Creating and fostering a personal relationship with your dog will earn you trust and respect. Like humans, dogs all have different personalities and it is important to customize your training to your dog’s individual and unique set of traits.