Our dogs need us to be their leaders and providers. However, if you as the owner do not assume this role, often times the dog will assert themselves as the leader in the household. There are several ways you can establish yourself as the pack leader. None of these require the use of force to prove your position.
1) Dogs crave structure. In modern American society, many parents (of both dogs and children) want them to be ‘free spirits’; this type of uncertainty of expectations makes some dogs nervous and can lead to unwanted behaviors. Make your expectations clear & be consistent, whatever it may be… Some examples may be the dog is never allowed to jump on the counters, or must lay on his bed during dinner, etc…. Think of it as rules of the house.
2) Dogs want a benevolent leader who takes care of them. Think in terms of political leaders—would you rather follow someone who gives your opportunities and raises you up, or someone who constantly yells at you and makes you feel like dirt? Same for dogs. Treat them with respect and allow them to be your companions. This does not mean you start waiting on your dog, but that you provide for its basic needs.
3) Dogs want and seek praise and approval. They like to be told when they are doing well and rewarded for it. The reward does not have to be food—it can be attention, love and/or praise. Seek to praise without spoil. Set boundaries on when you start and stop play and what type of play you engage in.
If you want to become a better Pack leader, one author I highly, highly recommend is Dr. Paticia McConnell, my two favorite works are “Leader of the Pack” and “Other end of the leash”. Here are the Amazon overviews and link to purchase:
Leader of the Pack (this booklet is less than 20 pages):
Learn how to love your dogs without spoiling them and provide boundaries without intimidation. This dog training booklet clarifies how to be a benevolent leader and avoid aggression related to fear or dominance. If you want to be a natural leader to your pack and teach your dog that being polite is fun, this booklet tells you how to do it in a peaceful, kind way. The ideas and exercises are based on the way dogs communicate with each other, so they are highly effective and easy for your dog to understand. Written by Patricia McConnell, it is an essential part of any canine library!
The Other End of the Leash shares a revolutionary, new perspective on our relationship with dogs, focusing on our behavior in comparison with that of dogs. An applied animal behaviorist and dog trainer with more than twenty years experience, Dr. Patricia McConnell looks at humans as just another interesting species, and muses about why we behave the way we do around our dogs, how dogs might interpret our behavior, and how to interact with our dogs in ways that bring out the best in our four-legged friends