ARTICLES & ADVICE
FAMILY HISTORY & GENEALOGY
Leader of the Pack
Dogs like an interactive leader and these tips
will help you and your dog to develop a good working relationship. As
you read through the leadership list, think about if you or your dog do
two or more of these. If so, your dog is the
leader of your pack and you are the Omega. The goal is
to help you become a good leader in your home and to help you become a
Do these sound like your dog?
Plays "catch me" and "chase me"
games? (With toys,
your cell phone, when they need
discipline, to entertain themselves, to avoid going in the crate?)
Bites at your heels, pant leg, hands?
Tries to "hump" you and anyone in your house?
Only listens and obeys when there is nothing else happening?
Urinates or poops on your bed?
Growls or attacks you or refuses to move when you move them from a
Won't listen when you try to train them to do something new?
Runs over you, your family and your guests?
Is over protective of their toys and food?
Won't come when called the first time or with distractions?
Do you let your dog?
Go upstairs, downstairs and
through doorways first?
Sleep in bed with you?
Talk back to you if you try to move them off of the couch, bed, kitchen
Jump on furniture any time they want?
Have toys lying all over the house?
Jump on you and everyone else without being given the command "paws
Jump into your vehicle without permission?
Poke at you, bark or steal things to get your attention?
Free feed with food available at all times?
Are you seeing a pattern here? If so, your dog is likely the
leader of your pack and you are likely the Omega. You
are in the right place to make some changes, put in some hard
work and develop the wonderful canine
citizen that you want. Your assignment is to establish or regain your
leadership position by working with your dog's natural tendencies to
appreciate being part of a group or pack. The steps are subtle and will
work if you
stick with them, but you can't stop practicing once your dog responds.
As soon as you forget or get lax, your dog will resume their behaviors
and go back to being the pack leader.
Dogs are masters of the slot machine mentality and your dog will
continue to test your leadership ability to see if you
really say what you mean; in human terms, are you walking the talk. How
much testing will lessen over time -- as long as you are being
consistent -- and once most dogs get to be about 5-years old the
testing rate drops even more.
Leadership Training for You and Your Dog
Take your dog to an obedience class or hire a private trainer to work
with the two of you. Make sure to check out any school or trainer you
considering to be certain you are comfortable with their style and
training methods. Take the time to go and see how they train and what
type of classes are offered. Avoid
classes that use treats all the time or coercion all the time as
neither of these methods -- used exclusively --will teach you and your
dog to work as a team. Ideally, you are creating a dog that wants to
work and that makes your dog more reliable and more fun to train.
No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
This is the first step to a healthier relationship with your dog. You
will be assuming the leader role in your house and your dog will be
learning that the free ride is over and he must earn everything (except
water) from this point forward. Those free-for-all
petting festivals that your dog enjoys now happen only when you decide
and after your dog does something to earn the attention, like doing a
While you are working on this transition, use both verbal commands and
hand signals for the sit. (SIT hand signal: With your right hand palm
drop your hand below the dog's nose and lift upwards, like you are
lifting a weight, toward your shoulder, bending your elbow. Keep your
hand about one hand length away from your dog's nose and remember never
touch the dog with any hand signal.) Once your dog is sitting, you may
pet him. If he gets up, stop petting and ask for the sit again.
If the dog doesn't sit on the first request (remember it can take up to
10-seconds for your dog to process your request), ask him to sit and
then if you still have no movement, you can lure into the sit. You can
also use a leash
collar to help them understand by gently lifting up on the leash so
your dog is more likely to lower their rear toward the ground.
How do your voice sound when you are giving commands? Keep in mind that
you are giving your dog directions -- like a coworker or a lost driver
-- your voice should be calm and steady. If your dog still refuses,
fight the urge to yell and instead lower your voice and speak more
slowly. This is your chance to reprogram your dog -- and I know you are
working diligently on this -- so your dog is now sitting for
everything. Picture these scenarios: sit to greet you, sit to greet
guests, sit to be fed, sit for petting, sit before chasing a favorite
toy, sit before going inside or outside, sit before getting into the
car. Your reward for all this sitting is seeing your dog become more
controllable while your naturally take the leadership role, something
both of you will like.
Keep a leash on your dog inside for at least the first two weeks and
make it like an umbilical cord to your body. You'll know they are
improving when they start listening better. At
first snap or tie the leash to you; I
usually hold the end rather than tie the dog to me -- mostly because I
don't want to get wrapped up in the lead. Now
you are in charge and your dog
will start listening to you while becoming more familiar with the words
you use when you want a response from them. (You can use any words you
like for commands as long as your are consistent.) Having the dog
you also lets you redirect your dog's behavior and correct your dog's
mistakes without chasing him all
over the house. Once they start improving and becoming more consistent,
you can let them drag the leash around the house -- if your balance
isn't great, rig up a shorter version so you don't get tripped -- when
you are around to
supervise. Again, you can correct more easily when the leash is
available to step on and stop the chase me games.
Use a 20-foot or 30-foot long line. (I have been known to use horse
lunge lines, long, thin cotton ropes for this. I always wear gloves
with the long lines to save from rope burns.) This is a great way to
dog to come the first time you ask by teaching him that there is no
option but to pay attention to you. Not too hard when they are still
attached to you by a long line. Once your dog is familiar with
working at a
distance from you and has become reliable -- because you are working at
for short periods several times a day -- you can let your dog drag the
line around with them while you supervise. Under your supervision, be
sure there are no hidden dangers that the line will get tangled up on
and cause damage to your dog. Don't rush through the dragging the line
take your time to be certain the dog understands all the commands
removing the long line.
Food is Power
Set up a feeding schedule. If you free feed (food available all the
time) stop right now. Yes, I can hear you that it is easier for you,
but trust me on this one, you need to be in charge of the feeding
schedule. The one who controls the food controls the dog. For adults
dogs, feed once in the morning and once in the
late afternoon or early evening. Dogs are fairly simple beings and are
concerned with very few
things which mostly consist of eating, sleeping, playing and
reproduction. If they can accomplish these things on their own, why do
they need you? Setting a feeding schedule (called challenge feeding)
your dog he needs to rely on you, creates an appetite so your dog
will look forward to feeding and will therefore enjoy the food more and
you will be gaining leadership status without working too hard. You can
also use feeding time to train your dog, nothing says that all the dog
food should be consumed from a dog dish.
You Always Eat First
While you are working on your new relationship with your dog, your dog
needs to see you eat before you feed them. What you eat is
not important, it is the ritual of eating first that counts. You can
an ice cube, a baby carrot, green beans, donuts, cookies, fruit, bread,
works since it is the ritual that is important.
(This is not an excuse to fall off the healthy diet wagon in your own
line, your dog needs to see you eat. Leaders always eat first and your
dog will understand this no matter what he sees you consume.
Will Work for Food
Have your dog sit before you put the bowl down. Once the dog sits, set
the food bowl down. Your dog should wait for your okay before eating.
Your dog can't eat unless you have given the go ahead. The word
you choose doesn't matter, just use it consistently. (Some choices
could be: eat; chow; dinner; feeders.) Make certain your dog really is
waiting for the go-ahead to eat. Practice using different lengths of
time before allowing your dog to eat.
The instant your dog leaves the food dish, pick it up (even if there is
food in the dish) and put it away until the next feeding. (If you are
feeding with canned food or wetting the food, ut the food in the
refrigerator or throw out the remaining food.) You want your dog
to understand that
while the dish is down it is time to eat and once he leaves the bowl
that dinner is over. This helps create good manners in your dog and is
a wonderful subtle way to share your new leadership role.
Pick up all your dog's toys and place them in a basket or plastic
container and then put the container in a closet. From this point
forward, you are in control of
the toys, and you should only have two toys available at any time. This
new system of toy
rotation will keep all your toys interesting to your dog. Some
houses have dog toys strewn all
over the house, which effectively tells you in dog lingo that the
house is his territory. By gathering up the toys and keeping them,
now control the fun and the house is now your territory and you can
your dog the privilege of playing when you think it is appropriate.
collecting will also reduce tripping and swearing in the middle of the
If you allow your dog to sleep on the bed with you or be on the
furniture with you, you are telling them they are your equal. If they
think they are equal to you, their is no hierarchy and makes your new
leadership role more challenging for you. As equals, they don't need to
listen to you or
respect you. Dogs that are well behaved and have no "issues" can sleep
with you and be on your
furniture, but a dog with "issues" must not be on equal footing
you. If you want to lay down and pet your dog, get on the floor at
level. In their world this is an honor for you to get on the floor with
them. When they come up to your level, the dog quickly figures out that
they are wonderful and you are pond scum. At this point, playing and
are down on their level. Once you have a reformed and courteous canine,
you can invite
your pet to come up and play or cuddle. Don't let them on the furniture
an invitation. When you are done playing or cuddling, you ask them to
off and return to their own level.
Up the Down Staircase and Out the Door
Always go upstairs, downstairs and through doors first. At the doorway
have your dog sit and wait. You go through the door first and then
glance back and say "Let's Go." The same thing applies for up and down
the stairs. Use "Let's Go" instead of Come; Come means something
entirely different. "Let's Go" means follow me now. Don't turn and face
your pet during this training step, just glance over your shoulder and
give your command in a cheerful voice.
Walk with Me
During all walks -- including your daily walk of 30- to 60-minutes --
have your dog walk with you in Heel position. (On
your left side with their head lined up with your pant leg seam.) Don't
let your dog wander all over in front of you, it teaches your dog not
respect your relationship. Walking is a time for you to bond with your
to challenge your dog's mind and to teach your dog to walk pleasantly
to your side. A dog that is allowed to race all over ahead of you will
always have a problem of pulling on the leash because they remember
running all over in front of you. When your dog has
far enough that he is almost trustworthy enough to stay by you off
you can let them investigate (on leash) every once in a while. From
exercise point of view, your dog gets more exercise walking with
in heel position, then he does pulling on the end of the leash ahead of
Walk with Me and Investigate
At some point during your walk, stop in a nice spot, attach your
long line or retractable leash (retractable leashes may be harder to
control for some people than a long line) to the collar, then unhook
and remove your regular
leash. Your job is to stand in one place so your dog can check out the
radius of the
area you are
standing in and let them investigate and be a dog. When you are ready
continue walking, call your dog and rehook the regular leash and then
off the long line or retractable and continue your walk. When
changing leashes, ALWAYS hook on the line you want to use while the
other leash is attached. Both leashes will be connected and you can
decide which one you want to remove. This one move will save you from
having to chase
your dog after they twist out of your grasp.
Your Dog Can Count
If you find yourself repeating commands over and over and not getting
the response you want from your dog, you are letting your dog know he
is in charge. Don't
plead with your dog to do what you ask, ask ONCE and wait for up to
10-seconds for a response.
have excellent hearing so the odds are pretty good the dog has heard
you. If you ask for a Sit and get no response,
place/lure them into a Sit as you say it one more time. In a clam tone,
your dog -- the word YES is an excellent way to acknowledge the dog is
doing something right and they are quite keen on the "s" sound. If your
dog doesn't respond to your request, be sure to assist the dog with the
proper response, this way your dog will learn that you mean what you
say. The upside of this proactive is the your pooch will stop ignoring
Biting and Nipping are Never Okay
Biting and nipping a
person is never okay and is not okay for dogs at any age including
puppies. By nipping,
biting, mouthing, the dog is learning to dominate you and get you
want you to do. Pups biting their
and litter mates are corrected with a growl and depending on the
severity the pup might get a snap from mom if he doesn't listen the
first time. This is the process dogs go through to
they can and can't dominate. Do not slap the dog's nose or grab their
and hold it shut, all this does is exacerbate the problem.
in a simple fashion, you can fill a plant mister spray bottle
water and set it to stream mode. Keep this near you and when your pup
to bite or nip, give them your best mom dog growly voice and say
AAHH! No Bite! (Your AAHH! should sound like a cat cacking up a big
If pup doesn't back off from biting, spray the full force in the face
the water. When they back off, tell them "Yes," "Good" or "Thank You"
giving driving directions voice, then redirect your puppy onto
else like going outside, appropriate chew toy, different location and
on your merry way. Don't pet or praise at this point or you'll end up
back where you started. If the plain water has no impact, you can add
vinegar or lemon juice to the mix.
You can also buy lemon juice in the
lemon from your grocery store. The plastic lemons fit nicely into your
and is quite portable. Wrap your hand around the ball with your thumb
covering the squirt opening. Your dog won't be able to see that you are
it, and won't know when you are going to use the lemon, but they will
that you have the lemon. When your pup nips at you, squeeze the lemon
and blast the juice into pup's mouth. While you are blasting, say in
best growly mom dog voice, "AAHH! No Bite!" Just like above, redirect
pup immediately after the lemon juice correction. Once you pup is
and listening to your words, you can reduce the amount of lemon (you
reuse the lemon balls) or white vinegar in your mixture.
Biting is a serious issue and if you are having problems with this you
should consider having a professional evaluate your dog and help you
with a training and behavior plan.
My Your Leg is Lovely
Most "humping" activity is dominance related and not of a sexual
nature. Dogs of both sexes from puppies to adults will "hump" while
trying to be the Alpha. Some dogs will stand still and allow this which
lets the other dog know it is okay for them to be dominant. Sometimes
the "humpee" will
dart out from underneath and try to be the "humper." This tells the dog
they are not okay with someone else being the dominant dog. There are
when dogs are evenly matched and it can lead to a fight. If your dog
this on you or anyone else stop it immediately. This behavior is not
and remember not to laugh or plead in a high pitched voice for your dog
stop. Both of those tell them they are doing something good. Spray them
the face with your training spray bottle and say "NO!" "AAHH!" or
in your best deep, growly, mom dog voice. Put your dog in a down-stay
3-5 minutes, then release them by going over and asking for a Sit and
reward good behavior by petting
them in a calm manner.
The Bed is Mine
If your dog is urinating on your bed, he is telling you in no uncertain
terms that he is dominant and the bed is his territory. If this is
happening in your household, keep your dog off the bed for at least 6
months. Keep your bedroom door closed at all times so he can't sneak in
there while you aren't looking, and to minimize the battle of the bed.
If you want your dog sleeping in the room with you, keep him in a
crate/kennel. (You could tether him to the bed on a non chewable 2-3
to encourage him to sleep on the floor
by the bed, but if you get up in the middle of the night, remember the
attached to the bed so you don't trip and fall.) If you choose to
pup up on the bed after this period, he should only be allowed on the
when you invite him up. At any point where you want pup off the bed, he
do so without an attitude or back talk. If you are having difficulty,
the leash on them and when you ask them to get off the bed, you can
your command by taking the leash and telling pup "Off!" while directing
down off the bed. Tell your dog "Yes," "Good" or "Thank You" when
they get off
These clues will help you establish a leadership role in your
pack without having to fight with your dig every step of the way.
Remember to be consistent and stick with it even when your dog tests
his boundaries. Keep working with your dog using, common
sense and fair,
humane methods. The bottom line is that you need to be smarter than