One thing most dog owners tend to forget is that dogs are pack animals. Dogs in nature have a rank order they must respect and adhere to it strictly. When behavior issues seem to arise most likely the dog does not know his place in your household and very likely is trying to climb up the dogie rank ladder and step over you. These problems seem to arise when there is a lack of discipline, when the owner has not dedicated enough time to teach the dog manners and treats the dog as a spoiled child, resulting in a dog disobedient.
How to Gain Back Leadership
In order to gain back the respect you deserve, you will need to follow some basic guidelines and adhere to them persistently so the dog will see you in the “Alpha role” and therefore, behave. These guidelines are part of the program called “Nothing in life is free” which basically teaches your dog how to earn privileges.
While obedience training may be necessary in most cases, if you follow these guidelines religiously you may be able to shortly see already some impressive results. It may come as a surprise to learn that most dog behavior issues arise due to the owner’s behavior rather than the dog’s. Rather than teaching dogs how to behave owners must learn how to behave with their dogs. This is why obedience classes require that the owners attend.
In order to adhere to these guidelines your dog should be familiar already with some basic commands such as: sit, stay and come.
Now to the “Nothing in life is free” guidelines:
- Never let your sleep in your bed with you but always let him sleep in his own comfy blanket on the floor.
Discourage him/her from staying on the couch as well. I know everybody loves to cuddle with their dogs but this is best if done on the floor. Dogs that are dominant in nature prefer to stay in elevated spots. By letting him stay on the bed or couch you are giving him too many privileges that may make him think he is higher rank than you or see you as equal.
- Never let your dog exit the door first but always get out first.
In nature pack leaders are the first to walk through narrow places so if you allow him to exit first he will think he is the leader. Rather, have him sit, put the leash on and exit first, only once you out of the doorway let him come to you.
- Never give food or water for granted but always let your dog sit and stay.
The dog will take food for granted and may even feel he will need to guard it. If you let him sit and stay until you put the food bowl down you will give him a clear message. The dog will quickly realize that you are in charge of his food and respect you. You should never hear him growl as you pass nearby.
- Never let the dog decide when it is petting time but always decide yourself.
A dog that is pushy for being pet is in command. He may come to you, jump over you waiting to be pet. Do not overcome your instinct to pet him. He may look cute but all he is doing is demanding rather than deserving affection. Rather, catch him when he is behaving well, order him to sit and stay and then pet him lavishly. You decide when it is time for affection and he will sit before receiving it.
- Never feed table scraps at dinner time but always feed at set times.
By feeding the dog at the table you are only teaching him to beg. It only takes once and he will be faithfully your dinner companion for ever. A dog begging is a hard habit to get rid of, so try to avoid encouraging this behavior and make your family and guests aware of your no-feeding -the dog- at- the -table policies.
- Never call a dog to punish but always call the dog to praise.
Sometimes dog owners catch their dog doing something bad and call them only to punish them, or call them in a threatening voice. What do you think will happen next? The dog will be reluctant to come to you. Always make recall something exciting to look forwards to. Call your dog and give a treat or praise him lavishly petting him on his favorite spot. A dog coming when called is vital as you can call him in time before a car runs over him or in any other instance where he needs to be by your side immediately.
- Never physically punish the dog but always use alternative discipline sources.
If you smack your dog on the face very likely he will learn that hands are threatening. Next time, a child may pet your dog and your dog may bite. Do not be surprised if this happens. Dogs that are hit turn into fearful biters and may grow up lacking confidence. Rather look for other positive ways to redirect your dog to positive behavior. If you catch your dog doing something wrong say a loud “No” or clap your hands or make a loud noise to startle him.
- Never be inconsistent but always adhere to the guidelines.
If one day your dog is allowed on bed and the next day he is prohibited the dog will only get confused. He will see you as a weak leader that doesn’t even know what is expected from him. Rather be consistent, make clear what you expect him to do or not do and stick with it. This is the most vital guideline, the king rule of the “Nothing in life is free” program. Disregard this general guideline and all the valuable training may be lost at the blink of an eye.
Hard Work Always Pays Off!
Training a dog may take some effort but at the end it is very rewarding. You may think it takes time, consistency and lots of patience but after all, nothing in life is free!
For further Reading: Do Dogs Speak English?
*Disclaimer: All remedies suggested are not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your pet is sick please refer to your veterinarian for a hands on examination. If your pet is exhibiting behavior problems please refer to a professional pet behaviorist.