Dog dominance: it doesn’t take much for a dog to start running your household. However it may take time and effort to gain back your throne and earn the respect you deserve from your canine friend. A bossy dog means a dog looking for trouble; he will think he makes the rules and will start exhibiting dominant behavior. Behavior problems will shortly arise, causing owners to wonder why their dog has turned out for the worse.
There are several rules dogs need to abide to in order to honor your leadership. The solution is simple and it will take some time, consistency and effort.
An effective method of training for dogs with dominant behaviors is called “Nothing in Life is Free” Training Method.
If you have never heard of this training method, it consists in having your dog earn everything. It should preferably be started upon adopting your puppy, but adult dogs can still benefit from this method. You may think: “but what does my dog have to earn? It’s not like he will look for a job and start getting a paycheck!” Well, not really so, but the principle is the same.
Many dogs in the past have had a job: some where chasing foxes, while others were gathering sheep, some were going hunting with their masters and others helped with household chores such as carrying wood and protecting property. Also most dogs in the wild had to “work” for their food, stalking prey and chasing them in order to have a dinner meal.
Today, dogs have almost nothing left to do other than try their best to please their owners. Some have become lazy and obese couch potatoes, with not much stimulation left in life, others have found their own favorite “hobbies” such as chewing on your furniture or digging in your yard. These are more often than not, bored dogs that have lost their job. These unemployed rascals, may be desperately telling you they need you to exercise them more, giving them chores and bringing them back to being the obedient helpers they were meant to be.
Dominant dogs are never relaxed. They have to enforce their rules on a daily basis and protect their food, toys and favorite sleeping spaces. They must ensure everything around them in in their control. They ultimately turn to have behavior problems often requiring professional help.
This is where the “nothing in life is free” program comes into place. Dogs are given chores to earn their food, water and even cuddling session with their owners. By doing so, they come to realize that their owner is the leader and they relax. At the same time, they are given something to do to please their owners while perfecting their obedience training.
In order to practice NILIF training in your home, your dog should already be familiar with some basic commands such as: sit , stay, enough, come and go. Along with NILIF training, owners must also train themselves to refrain from some behaviors and enforce others. Obedience training after all does not involve only the dog but most of all it involves the owner that must learn how to interact with his dog in the appropriate manner.
The Dog Owner’s Ten Commandments For Claiming Leadership
1. Decide when cuddling time starts and ends
Never allow your dog to decide when he wants to be pet. Rather, call the dog to you and tell him to sit nicely. Then you may pet your dog and praise lavishly. When you are done, tell your dog “enough” and ignore your dog’s attempts to get petted more by you. You are the boss and you decide when cuddling is started and finished. Also, try to limit cuddling sessions to a few a day. Dogs that are treated like babies and fussed on all day, become spoiled and think they are in charge of you.
2. Sitting before meals
Are you simply putting the food down on the floor as your dog eagerly chases you and almost makes you trip over him? Not any longer! From now on your dog will eat only once he is sitting nicely. Then you will put the bowl down but your dog must wait your command to release him to eat. Doing so, makes your dog understand that you are in charge of his food. Then after a few seconds you can say “GO” and your dog will then eat acknowledging that you are his food provider and in charge of it. If he should leave a few kibblestakethe dish away. This will reinforce the fact that your are in charge of his food. Do not allow a dog to access his food freely all day. By doing so, you are depriving your dog from an essential leadership lesson.
3. Eating only after you
In nature, dogs live in a pack. What this means is that there are dogs that are leaders and the rest are subordinates. Leader dogs are known as alpha dogs and they make the rules. When eating time comes, alpha dogs eat first and the best parts of the meat, then the subordinates will take over once the alpha dogs are done. In a home setting, try to eat first and once you are done, feed your dog. Some trainers even say to spit in a dog’s food so the dog knows that they are eating your left overs just as in the wild.
4. No begging allowed
Now that we know about how a pack works around meal times, we should also understand why begging is not allowed. In the wild, subordinate dogs will never dream of going towards the alpha leaders while they are eating and ask them for a few bits of their meal. So at home a dog should not sit next to you waiting for a piece of your juicy steak. Dogs that do so often have been trained by their owners who out of pity could not resist the look of those pleading eyes. This behavior should be stopped. You should be eating at the table undisturbed and your dog should be laying down a few feet away totally ignoring you.
5. Owners get out first
Upon opening a door, your dog should stay seated until you get out and tell your dog to come. In nature, alpha dogs are the first to get through tight passages. So as an owner you want your dog to wait until you are out. Wiggling its way through the door upon opening it, is rude behavior. Teaching a dog to wait until you tell him to come out is also a good safety measure, countless dogs have been ran over by escaping from homes, totally ignoring their owner’s calls.
6. Claim the bed and couch
Do not let your dog on the bed or on the couch. Your dog should stay on the floor as nature intended. Alpha dogs in nature can be often found sleeping in higher spots that allow greater views. A dog placed on a bed will think he is equal to you and may therefore growl when you order him to get off or may be reluctant to do so. Same with the couch, do not allow him on it, your dog may still be a comfortable foot warmer.
7. Decide when play time is over
Just as with cuddling sessions you must decide when to start and end a playing session. Do not accept your dog’s invitation to play fetch. Rather, minutes later, call the dog to you, tell him to sit and then play for a few minutes and when you are over let your dog know by saying “enough”. You will then ignore the invitations for further play.
8. Play appropriate games
Wrestling and tug of war may not be great for obedience training. Tug of war is often used between litter mate dogs as it helps them establish leadership. Losing a game of tug of war often may cause your dog to see you asweak. While, not all dogs portray you this way if you have a good leadership role in other areas, if you lack leadership tug of war should be avoided unless you always win. There are many other better games out there such as fetch that have a greater impact on your leadership skills.
9. Let your dog follow you
When going for a walk your dog should be following you and not the other way around. Ideally, your dog will be behind you orslightlyby your side.Yourleash should make a loop and not be tense. While this may sound difficult, obedience training classes my perfect your dog’s leash walking skills.
10. Obedience sessions
Practice at least 2 sessions of ten minutes a day on obedience training. Let your dog sit, stay, roll over, shake paw and do all the repertoire of tricks he knows. This reinforces your leadership while it keeps your dog focused and mentally stimulated.
Dogs can be a man’s best friend if they can be brought back to their status of working in order to earn privileges. While in today’s modern lifestyle keeping up with obedience training may be challenging, following the above guidelines will help you grant your leadership role. Don’t let your dog be your boss. By turning things around a bit, your dog can turn into being the loyal, helpful and obedient companion he was meant to be.
*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.