What it means to be a Leader

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To understand why your canine companion treats you like a dog, you need to understand how they think.

By Alice Williamson, CPT

Dogs are part of our lives.  They are a part of our family.  We want to take them everywhere.  We buy them the best food and their favorite toys.  We love them like furry little children.  But they are still dogs and need to be treated as such.  Sound harsh?  To your dog, it sounds like plain common sense.

To understand why your canine companion treats you like a dog, you need to understand how they think.  It is very trendy to rationalize your dog’s actions or explain away their bad behaviors in this day and age.  However, it is unfair to humanize them by projecting our emotions onto them.  People sometimes forget that they are animals and don’t have the same thought process as we do and can’t always make the same decisions we would.

You need to change the roles in your home.  Your dog needs to know that you are the leader of the household pack.  Remember, the companion dogs we know today are still descendants of wolves, and they still have a pack mentality.  As the leader, it is your job to make sure your dog’s basic needs are met, that he is safe from harm, that he has a clearly defined social structure and lots of love and attention.  If he is certain that you are doing the job well and that he does not have to continue to vie for the “top dog” position, it will remove a lot of pressure from his shoulders.  He can relax, get comfortable and enjoy being a pet dog. Clarifying your position and changing your dog’s interactions can address ninety percent of behavior problems by clarifying your position and changing your interactions with your dog.  He will thank you for it!

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Dogs communicate with body language and eye contact.

You want to remove as much of that as possible, so there are no mixed signals between you and your dog.  To a dog, excessive eye contact is either intimidating or a challenge, and neither of those is really what you want to communicate.  Body language is how your dog reads your intentions and interactions.  It is a lot for them to process if you are chasing after them and screaming.  They are faster than you, and you probably just scared the bejeezus out of them!  For the next few weeks, keep a leash on your dog and let him drag it around.  Only do this while you are home to supervise his safety and do not keep it on him while he is in the crate.  If you need to correct your dog or stop him from playing the chase me game, step on or grab the leash instead of the dog.  It is best to teach your dog appropriate behaviors by setting up the situation.  This way, you control the situation and are more likely to define the desirable response effectively.

Consistency is the key to success.  If you are inconsistent with your dog, then you are confusing him.  Dogs learn by repetition, and they learn that a behavior is either right or it is wrong.  Dogs do not have a gray area and do not generalize.  It is your job to define the rules clearly.  They need structure and boundaries in their lives.  It takes time and effort, but you can have a wonderful, rewarding relationship with your dog.

Some people may dream of a dog who can put his own toys away, and then some want the dog to stop urinating in their home.  Maybe you fall somewhere in between.  Whatever your end goal is, you should know that you are not asking too much and that with positive guidance and effective correction, your relationship will improve.

Let’s talk dogs, or even better, let’s learn about dogs.  Set aside some time to receive Spike’s dog blogs by Acme Canine.

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