Dogs thrive when they have a leader. A leader has clear, consistent rules and boundaries. A leader is not to be confused with being “alpha” or “dominating” our dogs. We want a relationship based on love and respect, not a dictatorship based on fear and avoidance. Here are some easy steps to become a leader to your dog:
1. Have your dog sit before his/her scheduled, rationed meal and stay until released. Mealtime is a great given opportunity to practice sit/stay/release with your dog. Waiting for food teaches a dog patience and impulse control.
2. Make sure that you have your dog wait when going through any door that opens to the outside, car door, back gate, or the crate door for safety reasons. A dog with a good wait isn’t going to rush out a door and get hit by a car. Dogs that learn to wait at doorways better respect our space when going through the door which avoids tripping and falling over your dog.
3. When walking on leash your dog should walk next to you unless verbally released to walk in front of you. A dog dragging you forward is leading you and telling you where he/she wants to go. My dogs are allowed to walk anywhere near my side in a very loose heel. If I release them, they walk in front of me to explore and go potty but will come back to my side promptly when asked. Dogs should know how to heel for safety reasons in high traffic areas (cars, and human traffic like down town or inside a pet friendly store).
4. Decide if you want your dogs on the furniture or not. I personally have a rule that my dogs are allowed only when invited up by me. Dogs that are allowed to be on the furniture whenever they please have the potential to guard your furniture as theirs or damage your furniture by using it as a play-thing. I like my dogs to come up to spend time with me, not to enjoy the comfort of the couch; they have expensive dog beds to use on the floor! Many dogs can transfer over to walking on your coffee table and dinner table as well when permitted to use the couch or bed as a jungle gym.
5. Utilize resources your dog wants as much as possible. Meaning if you want to give your dog a snack, kong or bone, have him sit, or shake or lie-down for you. If he wants you to throw the ball, have him do a trick or look/watch you first. You don't need to do this for every throw, but it is a great way to incorporate training and use other rewards than training treats.
6. Lastly do not give attention to a dog demanding it rudely as you can create a doggie monster! We don’t want to pet or treat a dog barking in your face, scratching your leg or placing toys on your lap when you are doing something else. Wait until the dog has lost interest, then engage with him or her.