You don’t need 10 dogs to have a pack. Your pack consists of you, your family and your dog, whether that is one dog and you, or you and your spouse, 3 kids and 2 dogs.
Does your dog pay attention to you? Does he listen the FIRST time you ask him to sit, come or stay? If you answered no, you are probably not your dog’s pack leader.
It is important to establish yourself as your dog’s pack leader from the first day you bring him home. But don’t panic, even if you have had your dog for years, you can still shift the leadership from your dog to yourself.
Dogs are pack-oriented, social animals. Failing to be your dog’s pack leader, will force him to take the position of the pack leader for himself… and trust me that is not a good thing. Being the pack leader does not mean you have to be a screaming mad dog parent… it simply means you need to be confident and show your dog leadership and right from wrong. In fact, showing your dog love is part of being a balanced pack leader.
It is your house, your bed, your couch, your toys, your food and you give your dog permission to have these things. Start by restricting your dog to certain areas of your home until your dog earns access. Your dog is only allowed on furniture and your bed IF YOU invite him. Purchase a nice dog bed or mat so he has his own place to sleep. By showing the dog that you control all access to all areas of the home, you are proving yourself as a pack leader.
Your dog should be dependent on you to feed him. He should not have free access to food all day. Feed him twice a day on a schedule, preferably after he sees you eat. Your dog should not be allowed in the kitchen while cooking and eating. The pack leader eats first and controls the food. You, your spouse and kids should always be seen as higher in the pack than your dog.
Your rules must be very clear and consistent to your dog and everyone in the family must be on the same page. If you tell the dog he can’t be on the couch one day, and the next day you are too tired to tell him off, he is going to be very confused next time you tell him he is not allowed on the couch. Same rules, every day, all day, no matter what the situation is.
Teaching your dog basic commands such as sit, stay and come are an important part of your role as pack leader. Taking a class at your local dog training facility or doing this on your own is a great start. We also have many resources on our website to learn how to train your dog.
Walking your dog every day is very important for so many reasons. Walking is great mental and physical exercise for you and your dog. It will help release any extra energy he has and allow him to follow YOUR lead. Your dog should not be allowed to pull, lunge, bark, or mark his territory during your walk. Your dog should walk next to you with a loose leash. Do not use a retractable leash that allows your dog to roam anywhere he wants. The purpose of your walk is to follow you, not you to follow the dog! 90% of your walk is controlled, the other 10% you can give your dog the freedom to do his business.
When your dog does something good, such as when he listens to your command to sit, praise and praise more. Showing him you love him at the right times, making him work for your affection will allow you to love your dog and become his pack leader at the same time! Finding the balance between pack leadership and affection is important.
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Debi McKee is a life-long dog lover and owner, volunteers for Fetch WI, fostering rescue dogs, performing home visits and more. She also attends every dog training seminar available to her, and is continually looking for ways to build her knowledge of dog adoption, health and training. Her goal is to guide you through every step of your dog journey. Read her story and learn about the dogs behind Rescue Dogs 101. If you have a question, please feel free to send Debi a message here.