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Becoming the Pack Leader

Pet Chat: Make sure your dog knows who’s boss


Friday, January 18, 2008

Whether you are helping your dog adjust to its new home, or you have lost your leadership position in your “pack” following these suggestions will help you take control and establish yourself as the leader:

Be Consistent: Dogs feel more comfortable if they know what to expect. Being consistent in your schedule means always feeding, walking, socializing and playing with your dog at the same time every day. This also means being consistent with the rules your dog is expected to follow. Everyone in the household - the dog’s “pack” - must agree on how to teach the dog these rules.

Lisa Acho Remorenko

Project Calm-Assertive Energy: According to the Dog Whisperer, Caesar Millan, the energy you project internally is the message you’re sending to your dog. You want your dog to know you are the calm-assertive pack leader. Assertive does not mean aggressive, it means always compassionate, but quietly in control.

Walk Your Dog, Don’t let Him Walk You: Walking your dog is essential because physical activity burns the dog’s excess energy and helps maintain a calmer state of mind. Make sure your dog walks next to you and doesn’t not pulling ahead. If a dog is “walking” a human, the dog perceives itself as pack leader at that moment, and the human is not in control.

Don’t Get Angry: Anger elicits fear, not respect; you want your dog to respect you. Anger may be interpreted as a threat or challenge by your dog, and it will not lead to the desired behavior. Use quick, effective corrections without getting your emotions involved in the training process.

Crate Train: There are many benefits to crate training your dog. It will give you more control, it can prevent behavior problems when you are not there to supervise your dog, and it can serve to break undesirable habits. With the correct training methods, dogs learn to like their crate and it becomes their own safe place or “den.”

Nothing In Life Is Free: Make your dog earn praise and treats. Praise will mean much more to the dog if he earns it. For example, tell the dog to “sit” before being petted or fed. Make sure to praise him when he obeys. Praise is the dog’s reward and should be immediate and short-term. You don’t have to give the dog less attention, just keep in mind that it should be on your terms; this way, he will realize that you are in control.

Enjoy Your Dog’s Company: You and your dog will enjoy each other’s company more once your dog accepts you as the leader. You want your dog to look forward to spending time with you, so find fun activities to do together. Games can be used as positive reinforcement for obedience and can also be a lot of fun for you. Even your walks together will help to strengthen the bond between the two of you.

With a little work and the right mindset, you and your dog will enjoy a healthy relationship with you as the “pack leader”!

Lisa Acho Remorenko is the executive director of Animal Adoption Solutions.

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