What is dog leadership and how should we display it to our dogs? There are many different ways to show a dog leadership. Most people tend to think dog leadership is loving them, providing materialistic things such as food and toys. As dog owners, I’m sure we can all agree we got ours for at least one common reason, companionship. We instantly fall in love with our new puppy or dog. We are so excited to care for them, buy them toys, food, bowls, collars, leashes, the list goes on and on. The affection, couch cuddles and praise, it all starts instantly and never really stops. Sure we might yell or say no when they chew up your favorite shoes, or leather couch, but what good did that do? Did they really learn from their mistake? How do we prevent unwanted behavior in the future?
IF LOVE TRAINED DOGS…
If love trained dogs, there would be no such thing as a dog trainer. Dogs would be all be well behaved if love and affection were the answer. Dog owners do not need to be taught how to love their dogs. Nobody is lacking in the amount of affection and praise they give their dog. Yes, dogs need affection but they also need more than that. Much more.
They need a leader, someone they can look to for guidance on how to navigate in this human world. Some of you might be saying “But I am a leader for my dog, I buy their food every month, I pay their vet bills, I buy them toys all the time”. Unfortunately while all of those things are required in dog ownership, dogs themselves to not see that as proper leadership. Yes they see you putting the food in a bowl every night, but you always put the food in the bowl every night, you are the food dispenser.
WHAT DOGS NEED EVEN THOUGH YOU MIGHT NOT THINK SO
It is a recurring theme. Dogs with unwanted behaviors (according to their owners) have never been held accountable for their actions or even told what to do instead. I see it all the time, dogs doing whatever they please, when they please, and why? Why not?? They are getting away with it! If I was a dog and didn’t have any consequences for my actions, I wouldn’t stop either.
People love to humanize dogs, so lets humanize a dog. Lets try this… As humans, we must abide by certain laws and limitations in life. There are rules in place that if broken, are followed by consequences. The reason WHY I don’t speed while driving is because I know there will be multiple consequences. A speeding ticket, my insurance can go up, more likely to get into an accident, injuring myself or worse, someone else. So why is it that we let our dogs get away with anything they want?
To put it simply, dogs need (and want) rules, structure, boundaries, and guidance. That is how to show true dog leadership. When a dog feels you have control of the situation, they start to feel safer, they are more trusting, they buy into the “program” because it feels good for them. Dog’s are pack animals, they want to feel included and more important they want someone to follow and look to for guidance.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to not give your dog affection and praise. Please continue to do so, but make sure you are helping and not hurting your dog when you do. Start teaching your dog what is expected of them. Teach them the rules of the house and world around them. Create good habits and routines for your dog to look forward to. You will put your dogs mind at ease when you give them someone to look to for guidance.
START PROVIDING DOG LEADERSHIP
Obedience training is a wonderful gateway to the world of rules, structure, boundaries and guidance. The first thing is, you can’t setup rules and boundaries without a consequence for breaking the rules or crossing the boundaries. You’re going to have to be okay with telling your dog ‘no’ eventually. But first, you want to teach your dog what to do before you start telling them what not to do. I would start with the basic commands, I only teach a handful, which are Sit, Down, Place, Heel, Recall. To be honest that’s really all you need as far as commands go.
I would also teach them to honor thresholds. The car door. The house doors. The crate door. Those are all thresholds they should not be able to cross without your permission. Yes, I know… if your dog cannot talk, how are they going to ask your permission. With eye contact. They should be sitting, looking up at you as if to say “Can we go already?!”
Another way to create this leadership is to make them work for their food. I’m pretty sure you don’t eat for free so why does your dog? Get your dog into the habit of working for their daily kibble through obedience training. Eventually you can fade out the food once they have learned their commands. When that time comes, teach your dog they need to wait patiently while you prepare their food. And just because the food bowl is on the ground doesn’t mean they get to eat! Get that eye contact for them again. And then give them permission to eat.
Theres more to it then that, but by following those simple tips of advice, you will be off to a great start. You will start to see your dog look at you in a different light, a more positive one, I might add.