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Who’s the Leader?


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Who is in Charge in Your Household?                        by Dr.  Becky Marks

Dog behavior is rather simple. Someone has to be in charge. Is it you or your dog?

Ask yourself some basic questions. Do you enjoy walking your dog? Is your dog respective of your property and possessions? Does your dog readily come to you when you call him in an outdoor setting? Are you ever protective of his behavior (“he does that because he’s scared…”)? Can you remove food from your dog’s mouth without him growling? If you answer no to any of these questions you are not a strong leader.

Dogs are pack animals. They will always have a leader known as the Alpha dog. The Alpha dog is strong and smart. He organizes the pack.   This dog gets anything he wants through respect. He doesn’t “steal” the best food he just uses body language to express dominance and the other dog relinquishes the food. He gets the best sleeping quarters. Every dog wants to follow the leader because it is a privilege. You don’t run from the leader you are simply submissive to him. In a true pack dogs run together because it is more efficient for hunting purposes. The alpha dog leads the hunt.

Examine your pet relationship.  Do you know how to dominate your dog? Here are some tips. Never feed your dog first and never feed from your table. This indicates he is getting the best food. He should be fed last.  Expect your dog to respect you. As you pass through doors you should go first. If you are moving down a hallway expect your dog to get up and move. Regularly exercise your dog. A long walk 30-45 minutes daily (not just a mega-walk on weekends). Dogs are meant to track and trail and exercise their brains as well as their bodies. Exercise may also provide a job description, which avoids frustration.

If your dog is frustrated he will not respect your property (chewing, digging, jumping). Appropriate leash training can be taught from an obedience class or other sources.  These are basic rules for dogs without issues. Once you fail to provide these needs then you have a “problem” dog.

A problem dog is simply means you have to correct your errors. If you have a toy breed dog do you permit him to jump on guests as they arrive? Would you permit a Great Dane to do the same? Certainly not! All dogs should have good manners. If your dog constantly barks it is very annoying. You are letting him bark. Theses are indicators that you haven’t followed the basic rules.  Indicators can get serious. The biting , aggressive dog is an example of a fractious situation where the dog had no rules and made his own. Obviously correcting the problem is much harder than doing it right the first time.

If you expect from your dog then he will know what is expected from him. Your dog will be happiest when you are in charge.  Of course, the easiest part is providing love and affection. That’s the gravy.