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Established 1925

Incorporated 1929


Leadership Checklist

The Pet Place

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 leadership behavior.

Your dog will thank you for the structure and leadership you provide!

Leadership Checklist

  • Feed scheduled mealtimes (No free-feeding)
  • Feed AFTER humans eat.
  • Dog goes AFTER humans through doorways.
  • 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 your arms.
  • 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 over dog.
  • 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