[This article is the first in a 3-part series about changing dog behavior using positive dog training methods.]
Be a leader, a dog will follow.
Hum, what does that mean?! Simply put, if you lead the pack, your dog will follow you to the ends of the earth. Some basic and easy adjustments in your dog training routine can result in huge changes in dog behavior. The simple truth is…dog behavior is a result of human behavior. That is, your dog reacts to you. If you take the time to teach your dog appropriate behavior, and you are consistent in reinforcing it, your dog will work so hard to please you. One key to changing and reinforcing new dog behavior is using positive dog training methods. This article introduces some basics in beginning to get some respect from your dog.
Dogs are pack animals, and they want a leader to tell them what to do and what dog behavior is appropriate. If you don’t step up as leader, your dog, no matter how big or small or cute and fluffy, will take over as leader (not just of other dogs, but of you, your spouse, your kids, the cats, and anything else that moves and breathes). This is not the ideal situation, as you can see from the following example.
The Franks are a real family where the dog runs the house. King didn’t want the role of leader, but no human stepped up as leader so he felt he had to. His “pack” consisted of dad, mom, and two kids. Being leader was a big job–keeping track of the pack, teaching them the rules (which King made up), and enforcing the rules was a 24-hour job. He successfully taught the family to stay away from his food and toys (growling and snapping when they got too close), not to disturb him if he was napping in main traffic areas like the middle of the kitchen floor, that certain pieces of furniture were his and his alone, and that he decided who got to come into the house. The young boy became a playmate whom he could nip and jump on; the older child and the parents were there to care for him. Any infractions of these “rules” were quickly and severely disciplined by King with growling, biting, snapping, baring teeth.
If King’s household is like what you experience in your family, we’ve got some gentle and positive dog training tips to help you take back your leadership role.
Put these simple steps into your dog’s daily life and watch the dog behavior changes. Each of these steps shows your dog that YOU are the leader. Let’s start simple, with 3 very basic and easy (for you) new dog training ideas. Once you’ve mastered these, in the next article, I’ll introduce several more.
1. Show me your tummy!
Make it a positive experience for your dog to roll over for that yummy tummy rub. This submissive posture indicates a deferment to your leadership.
2. Praise, praise praise!
Praise for being a good dog. Any dog behavior you like and want to keep, praise it and give a small treat occasionally. This focus on what you want is much more successful than a focus on what you don’t want. No free treats or praise for the dominant dog. If your dog wants to be petted, have him sit first! Everyone wins and the dog is learning manners at the same time.
3. Get out of the way!
A leader gets respect. For Scout, that means no lying in high traffic areas (hallways, middle of living room or kitchen), no sitting on your feet, and no refusing to move out of the way. Gently scoot your feet in the direction you want to go while using excited tones and waving your hands to get him up and moving.
For a dog, trying to live with everyone “just getting along” does not work. Dogs live in packs with hierarchies, not democracies. Remember, no human leadership means Fifi will take over and set the rules. It’s time for you to step into the leader position. If you do, you will notice positive changes in your dog’s behavior right away. You and your dog will begin working as a team.
Be the leader–your dog will love you for it and you’ll be surprised how hard he’ll work to please you.
Get started using these 3 tips and check back in a few weeks for the next set of easy dog training steps for outstanding dog behavior!