How to Become the Pack Leader of Your Dog – Pack Leader 101:
Because dogs are pack animals, they require a social, hierarchical structure. They thrive in an environment that provides stability, predictability, structure, and consistency, and the lack of a hierarchical framework is the root of the majority of dog behavioral issues. Without it, the dog becomes perplexed and feels compelled to lead the human owner—which can have disastrous consequences, especially when cohabitating in an urban environment where dog ownership poses numerous challenges.
If the dog does not perceive the human owner as an authoritative figure, he or she will not feel compelled to listen and obey. The dog’s behavior will be inconsistent if the human owner’s expectations and behaviors are inconsistent. In the absence of a clear pack leader, the dog will assume leadership to protect the pack’s integrity. Why? They require purpose, challenges, rules, and regulations because they are intelligent, hardworking, and communal creatures.
Dogs in urban environments have boring, uninteresting lives. They are not allowed to perform the tasks for which they were bred, and they are not allowed to freely run, hunt, or socialize with other dogs. A lack of proper structure and an accumulation of underutilized energy are the root causes of most behavioral issues. This means that, in order to provide predictability and stability, urban dogs require an organized routine for feeding, exercising, eliminating, and playing.
You might feel bad about imposing structure and demanding obedience from these adorably fuzzy creatures. They are not, however, stuffed animals. They are canines, which are proud hunting mammals of the animal kingdom, and they need your leadership to stay safe and sane.
Here are a few easy ways to show your dog that you’re the pack leader. If you do these things every day, you’ll soon see that your dog is much happier than the pack beta.
Allowing the dog to have the lead during the walk is not recommended.
If you let your dog walk ahead of you, you’re sending a very clear message. You are his subordinate, and he is the boss. You’re giving the dog control over where he walks, what he sniffs, who he greets, and how fast he walks. Dogs are nomadic creatures who adore going on adventures with their owners. Going for a walk together strengthens a bond, but you must take the lead in order to assert your authority. This means he shouldn’t be allowed to pull, lunge, bark at passing dogs, exit first, or otherwise control the pace of the walk. The leash should be short and slack when walking through common areas of buildings and through the concrete jungle. Maintain a heel position for the dog to the side of your body. The dog should be compelled to follow you at a fast enough pace. Continuous sniffing and marking should be avoided. Retractable leashes should only be used when hiking or in open areas where the dog is allowed to run around freely. In a city environment, it’s a very dangerous device because the dog could get hurt in fast-moving elevators, run down a cyclist or jogger, or get into trouble with other dogs.
Do not let your dog on the furniture.
If you let your dog sleep in your bed or on the couch with you, he is your equal. To establish a hierarchy, it’s a good idea to keep all four paws on the ground at all times. Give the dog his own space in the form of a crate, bed, or pen. Teach him to be self-sufficient and to appreciate his personal space. Tethering can be used to retrain your dog if he already considers the bed or couch to be his domain. Attach a short cotton rope or a cotton leash to the dog’s collar to keep the dog from wandering into undesirable areas. As you lead the dog away from the couch or bed, command “OFF” and praise him when his feet touch the ground. As you lead him to his bed or crate, say “SIT.” and “STAY.”When he stays, give him praise.
The tether’s purpose is to allow you to have control over the dog until you can establish control with your voice. The dog feels freer with a tether than with a leash because it is lighter. If the dog chews on the tether, soak it in Listerine or Bitter Apple spray and gradually shorten it as you gain control. Snuggling on the bed by “invitation only” is appropriate once the dog understands the rules, is not displaying any dominance, and has reached emotional maturity. After all, it’s the best part of having a dog. Hanging out with the owner on the bed or couch should be reserved for well-trained dogs who understand the home’s privilege.
At the age of one year, Yama, my 155-pound St. Bernard, was discovered lounging on my bed when he first arrived at my home. Yama growled as I approached him to get him off, a warning to claim the space as his. He now knows that he is only allowed on the bed if I tap on the bed’s edge as an invitation after cohabitating with me for over five years. When I tell him to get off, he must do so immediately, and he is never to be on the bed unless I am.
Dogs should not be allowed to jump on people.
Dogs of any size should never jump on people. The last thing you want your dog to do is to jump on strangers who are afraid of dogs. You are also protecting your dog by preventing this behavior. When he jumps on you, push him off with a loud “OFF” and praise him when his feet touch the ground. You are inadvertently reinforcing the behavior by petting a dog that has jumped on you.
Allowing a dog to be mouthy is not a good idea.
Keep your hands away from a dog’s mouth, and stop playing with him if he is mouthy. Allowing a dog to understand the power of his mouth through games like tug of war is never a good idea. If the dog nips you while you’re playing, yell “OUCH!” to startle him. Your dog must understand that it is painful and must be discouraged from using its mouth.
Never let a dog attack you.
If a dog tries to mount you, yell “NO!” and push him away. Spay or neuter your dog as soon as possible to avoid unwanted behaviors that could get him into trouble in canine social situations.
Allowing your dog to bark is not a good idea.
You should not be told what to do by a dog. If he’s begging for treats, food, attention, or to throw a ball, tell him “NO” and ignore him. You’re obeying a dog’s commands by giving in to his demands. The last thing I need is for Masa, my 165-pound St. Bernard, and Yama, my 155-pound St. Bernard, to tell me what to do with their baritone barks.
You are the owner of the food you consume.
The food belongs to the pack leader, not the dog. Feeding should take place twice a day, with no free-feeding allowed. Feeding is an important exercise in establishing the hierarchy between you and your dog. Place him in a sit/stay in the same feeding location while you prepare his meal (or in the crate). He shouldn’t follow you around asking for a hustle. If he does not remain still in the feeding corner, the food will not be delivered. Bring him the bowl and sit him down. “Leave it,” I said as I set the bowl down. You must release him before allowing him to sniff or touch the food. Prior to release, he should be looking at you, not the food bowl.
Allowing a dog to run out the door is never a good idea.
The pack leader is always the first to leave. Allowing the dog to bolt through doors or elevators is never a good idea. Sit or remain frequently at doorways. Allow your dog to stay until you tell him he can go through the door. Teaching your dog that an open door does not mean he can bolt is an important rule that will keep him safe.
Don’t Allow Your Dog to Steal
A dog should know what is his and what is his pack leader’s property. Never feed the dog from the table; instead, keep him at a safe distance and praise him for not being interested in your food. Provide the dog with appropriate toys that he owns. If he is caught carrying your things, such as socks or shoes, take the item from his mouth and say, “NO!” To teach him that he is allowed to play with things that are assigned to him, and replace them with his toys. This also keeps dogs from swallowing things they shouldn’t, which is crucial for their safety.
A dog should not be allowed to have free reign of the house until he is fully potty trained and respectful of his surroundings.
Well-trained dogs have the privilege of roaming the house freely. Basic obedience and crate training are highly recommended if he is destructive, claims furniture, or soils the home. This blog contains “Crate Training 101.”
Maintain a dull exit and return.
It’s great to come home to a dog who is ecstatic to see you. Keep your exit and entry boring if your dog is nervous about being home alone or if he is young. When you get home, don’t spoil the dog or give him extra attention because he’s happy. The release of pent-up anxiety is a part of the hustle. Start ignoring him about an hour before departure. When you’re at work, prepare him to be calm and relaxed. When you get home, only greet him once he’s settled down and isn’t clamoring for your attention.