What does it mean to be a leader? Well, if you look at a dictionary version it will state that a leader is a person or thing that leads. They guide or direct. So what do we need to do with our dogs to help them understand us better? Lead them. Guide them. Direct them. Otherwise dogs will makes choices on their own and this is usually a bad thing. Because dogs are pack animals, if leadership is missing then a dog will act out and do naughty behaviours. It does not know what else to do. As a pack, a dog has other dogs guiding them every step of the way. It is not about being mean or bossy, quite the opposite. It is about helping to bridge the communication gap between human and dog, making it very clear what your expectations are.
Leadership begins in the home. Is your dog on your bed? On your furniture? Get them off! That is normally a big reason dogs misbehave. Position matters. If your dog sees themselves the same as you, they are not going to listen. If your dog is misbehaving, a big part of that is a lack of respect. Why do they disrespect you? Because likely you are not showing them you are in charge, that you have their back or that you will be consistent. A dog that barks or growls at you and does not listen has not earned the right to be on your bed or furniture. A dog who doesn’t come when called, pulls on the leash and chases the neighbours kids on their bikes does not deserve to have access to your couch. In a dogs mind position matters. Remember they are dogs! They think like dogs and act like dogs, yet we very often put too much emotion into everyday life with them and they could care less. Remember dogs live in our world, in the moment. Dogs have the brain capacity of a 3 year old child. This means they can follow directions, and need direction with routine and limitations and can also manipulate. Would you let your 3 or 4 year old child run across a busy intersection unsupervised? No. That would be irresponsible. Why would be let our dog have that opportunity to run out the front door and get hit by a car? Until they respect you and follow the rules crate train! A crate can be their security, a babysitter, and a great training tool for calm.
If you are a true leader, your dog will be better behaved and respect you more. Remember a leader guides and leads. Dogs will follow your lead happily all you have to do is try. They will be calmer because they will no longer be confused about their role and will enjoy your company. So what does this really mean? It means you walk ahead of your dog,on walks and through doorways. Make them take it easy going up and down stairs. It means you don’t let your dog up on your bed. It means you train your dog to walk nicely on the leash because that is how you are able to enjoy the walk. You control the resources your dogs needs and wants: food, water, toys, shelter, affection, exercise, playtime, treats, and your attention. Nothing in life is free. Dogs can earn the things they need. All of these things are important to a dog in their own way. By being in control of these resources you are telling your dog all good things come from you. And what do you get in exchange? Your dogs respect.
What happens when you have your dogs respect? You will be less stressed as your dog will be paying better attention to you, as you have just taught them that all good things come from you. Your dogs mental state will be healthier. So will yours! All because you took charge and decided to be a leader. 🙂