Dogs NEED leaders. They operate on a
"pack" system: there are leaders and there are followers. If
this system does not exist in a household, often the dog will slip into
the leader spot. In their mind, SOMEBODY needs to be the leader.
Although many dogs would rather not have that spot, they will still end
up there. To dogs, leaders have certain roles, privileges and honors.
Leaders are responsible for pack safety. Leaders are responsible for
providing food and shelter sources and THEY have dibs on the BEST stuff.
Leaders have the best and highest sleeping spots. Leaders decide when
the rest of the pack eats, sleeps, eliminates, and plays.
Some breeds of dogs tend to be more
dominant in nature. Others are more submissive or easygoing. To start
out right with ALL dogs, leadership needs to begin in puppyhood. This
leadership isn't nasty or violent, but it is ALWAYS firm and fair. Some
behaviorists may discuss shaking a dog up or alpha rolling. These
methods have a place ONLY in a fair and non-violent way, and should
NEVER be started with half-grown or adult dogs. . With some dogs your
leadership position is easy to have and maintain. Other dogs must be
reminded daily, if not more often.
The following leadership checklist
includes things every dog owner should follow. How strictly the list is
followed depends on how dominant the dog is. Most of the items on the
list, however, should be followed to some extent; some people don't
realize how dominant their dog really is. Many dogs are quietly
(or not so quietly) pushy.
Most items are very self explanatory.
Most items you can start today and do yourself. If you have ANY trouble
understanding anything or if your dog growls or snaps at your for any
reason, you need to enlist the help of a trainer who has knowledge about
Your dog will thank you for the
structure and leadership you provide!
- Feed scheduled mealtimes (No
- Feed AFTER humans eat.
- Dog goes AFTER humans through
- Never play tug-of-war.
- If you establish eye contact, dog
must avert gaze first.
- Dog is NEVER allowed to bite or
mouth ANYONE, ANYWHERE! (this includes play)
- No sleeping on the bed with ANYONE
- Petting or attention to the dog
should be given when the HUMAN decides attention is to be given
(absolutely NO PETTING when the dog nudges or paws you or your hand)
- Puppies or small dogs who demand to
be picked up and held and/or demand to be put down should not be
picked up until they sit or some other acceptable quiet behavior and
should not be put down until they settle quietly in your lap or in
- Games with toys, especially fetch,
are initiated AND ended by the human.
- Never put yourself in an equal or
lesser height position than your dog (i.e. - kids don't get to lay
on the floor to watch TV when the dog is out and no one plays on the
floor with the dog)
- To go along with the above, dog is
NEVER allowed on furniture, especially if uninvited.
- Enforced time-outs in crate - no
reason, and not used only when dog does something bad! Also not only
used when you are not home.
- A simple obedience command, such as
"sit" should be obeyed before any pleasurable interaction
(eat, pet, play, etc.)
- Dog should be taught NOT to pull
when on leash.
- Dog should NEVER be left
unsupervised with children or ANYONE who cannot maintain leadership
- Dog MUST MOVE if in your path on a
floor or stairway, etc. even if you are able to step over him.
- When on a walk, dog must not be
allowed to sniff or eliminate anywhere he wants (for males, one mark
against one tree is enough!)
- Everything belongs to you: the
toys, the crate, the bowls, the bed, etc - they are only on loan to
the dog! You should be able to clean, move, handle or remove any
item at any time without hassle from the dog.
- Dog should be taught an
"out" or release command ("give",
"release", "out") for things in his mouth. Dog
should not be allowed to steal things and if that happens, they
should be able to release item on command.
Pam Young, LVT