How Your Leadership Helps Your Dog
Since becoming a dog trainer in Buffalo, I have met many people who think that a dog should, for the most part, be a “free” dog. What that means is allowing the dog to have free reign and allowed to make their own decisions with very basic guidance and rules from the owner. For example, I had one client whose dog only knew “Sit” and the owner never taught any other guidelines or boundaries, like not pulling on the leash, jumping on guests, or learning to come back when called. This owner was content with this though, because the dog hardly went on walks, they rarely had guests, and the dog would “eventually come back”, according to the owner.
If it suits your lifestyle and the dog is happy and free (yet demonstrates restraint and impulse control), then so be it. However, even if a person doesn’t want to take the time to teach a dog commands or how to appropriately greet people, they must at least show some leadership for the dog to follow. Leadership is something all dog owners should possess, not just for their sake, but for the sake, health, and happiness of the dog!
Some people might think training a dog—be it leash work, crate training, etc.—can be harsh. Some people have the mindset that animals should be allowed to freely live. However, if you’re bringing an animal (or even a long-term human guest!) into your home, you need to explain to them how your home works. Are there any ground rules? Are certain things and actions forbidden? Do you have any belongings that are off-limits? What is the best way to ensure a successful, happy relationship between you and dog, where you’re not driving each other insane or apart? Asking this questions doesn’t make a person unreasonable or “mean”, it’s communicating boundaries, which is a considerate thing to do rather than let your guest (dog or human) assume.
Dogs are pack animals, which means there must be a leader within their pack. This leader is sometimes dubbed as “alpha”, where they take control of the pack, showing all members what needs to be done in order for the pack to survive and thrive. When a dog becomes a part of your family, they will seek that leadership from you, and it is our responsibility to show it to our dogs. If a dog is without a leader, it can cause great anxiety and confusion for the dog, where the dog might become more fearful or destructive. Some dogs may also decide to take the alpha role themselves, where they become more dominating, excessive, and sometimes aggressive. Imagine a school yard full of children without any adult supervision — there will some kids that are scared and wanting to go home, and some kids that will take control and declare themselves in charge of the other kids.
Leadership does not equal dominance, just ask our fellow dog trainer in Boston. Dominance can lead to more harsh communication and methods. Leadership is simply showing control and showing the dog how to be successful. Our training programs emphasize leadership which is why we work with both dogs and their people. A dog will not behaviorally progress in accordance with the owners’ desires unless the owner shows the dog how to progress. Leadership will get you results, plus give your dog some peace of mind without having to assume control or make decisions that set them up to fail and develop more anxiety.
Our in-home dog training is designed to teach dogs and their people, including leadership within the owners. If you are struggling to be a fair, consistent leader for your dog, call us at 800.649.7297 and sign up for one of our many reward-based dog training programs!