There are so many misconceptions around the phrase “pack leader”. Being your dog’s pack leader is NOT about dominating, alpha roles or being cruel to your dog. You should never be forcing anything upon your dog!
Dogs are pack-oriented and very social animals. Meaning they want to be part of your family.
What does it mean to be a pack leader for your dog? A pack leader is about being your dog’s parent, his guide, his leader, his protector. Your dog needs YOU to be confident and set rules and boundaries to navigate life, just as our human kids do.
How do I become the pack leader with my dog?
1. Love your dog
Establishing pack leadership with your dog starts with love. Show him you will be there for the good and bad.
When your dog does something good, praise and praise more. If he lays down patiently while you work, or sits and waits for you to pet him… then praise, treat, and pet.
Finding the balance between pack leadership and affection is important.
2. Be consistent
Your rules must be very clear and consistent with 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. Same rules, every day, all day, no matter what the situation is.
3. Basic obedience training
Teaching your dog basic commands such as sit, stay, and come is an important part of your role as a pack leader.
It’s easy to train basic commands at home with the help of treats and praise. Or you can take a class at your local dog training facility.
4. Walk your dog
Walking your dog every day is great mental and physical exercise for you and your dog. Walking together will create a strong bond with your dog.
Your dog should walk next to you with a loose leash 90% of your walk. Allowing 10% of the walk for potty, sniffing, marking, etc. If your dog pulls on walks, teach him to walk next to you with the help of a trainer if needed.
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!
5. Owning your space
The average dog won’t need to be reminded that you control the house and your belongings. But if you have a dog with any behavior issues you will need to set some boundaries.
For instance, our dog Ginger has resource guarding issues. We have to be tighter on the rules of the house with her vs. our happy-go-lucky lab, Bear.
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.
6. You are your dog’s food supply
Food is the way to your dog’s heart. You may think your dog is not food motivated. But what happens if the only time he gets to eat is when you ask him to do something for you?
Using your dog’s meal as a training opportunity is an awesome way to establish pack leadership.
Free feeding your dog not only has health consequences but also leaves no motivation to behave the way you wish him to.
How many dogs make a pack of dogs?
You don’t need ten dogs to have a pack. Your pack consists of you and your dog. Whether that is one dog and you, or you and your spouse, or three kids and two dogs.
Cesar Millan and the pack leader theory
Many people think of Cesar Millan when talking about the alpha dog theory or establishing pack leadership in dogs. Some of his training methods may be controversial, but being a pack leader for your dog goes back way before Cesar’s time.
Cesar talks about calm and assertive energy in his training videos a lot. This is the best advice you should take away from his teachings. Always be calm around your dog. Yelling or getting frustrated with your dog will only backfire.
Definition of assertive: disposed to or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior.
So assertive energy is to be confident in yourself as a dog parent. Be confident that you can be your dog’s leader. Be his confident guide in his life today and tomorrow.
Don’t baby him because he’s been through a terrible life. How does feeling sorry for him help?
Now it’s your turn…
Being your dog’s pack leader is more about bonding together than anything. Pack leadership is not cruel or outdated. It’s about being your dog’s leader, his parent, his guide… however you choose to say it.
Leave a comment below to tell me how you established your pack? Do you struggle with your dog’s behavior in any way? I always reply to comments, so let’s start a conversation… it could help someone else with the same problem or question.
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