Who’s in charge at your household? You or your dog?
Often I see dog owners who have no control over their pet. Fido jumps on people at the door despite scolding, occasionally soils the carpet and insists on begging at the table. The owners see a four-legged Dennis the Menace, who they dearly love: a little rascal for whom they are constantly apologizing or admonishing. I see a dog that has no boundaries and rules the roost. Certainly everyone would be happier if the owners developed leadership skills, set boundaries and created rules for their dog that are consistently followed by everyone.
This is not about dominating your dog but rather creating standards that everyone needs to abide by, both dogs and humans. This is very simple and not complicated. Leadership means creating an atmosphere in which expectations are set and any deviations from those expectations are gently and calmly corrected.
From Dee Ganley, CPDT, CABC,CDBC, Changing People Changing Dogs 2006
“Loving our dogs does not create trustworthy companions. Commitment by a dog to his people is the result of humane training and diligent management. It happens when we wholly accept the responsibility to lead, but not to dominate. Humane leadership allows the dog’s capacity to think and feel to be used for learning rather than defense or avoidance.”
Training Your Dog Without Punishing Them
Animal behaviorists have proven that it’s unnecessary to dominate your dog with force and forms of punishments. In all my years as a dog owner, I’ve leaned that pain teaches your dog nothing, only fear and avoidance. I can’t stress this enough: there is no behavior that positive punishment can make better.
There are few simple things humans can use to effectively gain leadership:
You establish yourself as a leader by letting your dog know that they need to work for every thing they want. For example, your dog should work for every treat you give him by sitting when you ask them to sit before rewarding them with the treat. Or at dinnertime, your dog should sit and wait until given permission to eat. Your dog will not get angry or think you are a control freak. Your dog will simply respond to the fact that you are the leader, and they are happier knowing their boundaries.
Always praise your dog, even if he has learned specific behaviors and have performed these for years. Dogs need constant reinforcement throughout their life that they are meeting your expectations. You should constantly reward all good behaviors throughout the dog’s life. A simple “yes” or “good dog” are all you need to say. Keep in mind that rewards should not always be food based as this can lead to obesity. Going for a walk, playing in the park or a good scratch behind ear are also rewards.
The rules you set are the rules, and must not be broken, even if it’s easier for you. This may sound a little rigid but dogs do not understand concepts like “maybe” or “OK, this time only.” They can be easily confused and don’t understand, for example, why they get a nibble from the table one time and at other times they don’t. When you set the rules, it’s important to look into the future and anticipate your puppy as a full-grown dog. It might be tempting at 3:00 a.m. to allow your crying little puppy sleep with you, but he will expect to sleep on the bed with you when he’s a big boy of 75 pounds because that’s what he’s learned.
Give your dog every opportunity to succeed. Don’t set them up to fail by being inconsistent with your rules or giving them more freedom than what they can handle. I would be happy to help you develop your dog leadership skills and show you how to stick with them. The result will be that your dog will happily follow the leader every time.