if you’re following the Pack Leader series, you may be wondering what this crazy chic is talking about. Your dog may be peeing on the carpet and I blog about leashes, crates and collars. Your pup might be bouncing off the walls and I blog about having a staring contest with him. Or maybe your furry one barks incessantly at everyone, even a block away, or whines and wiggles at any hint of other human life. Then you read on here to ignore her? C’mon! Really? You may be screaming at this point, “So what’s that have to do with…?”
Becoming pack leader (PL) is less about getting rid of specific behaviors that are a bother.
Pack leadership is more about who your dog can trust. Who can she lean on and look to for direction, sustenance, guidance, and–of course–play time? That better be you!
If you are trying out any of these tips, and doing so consistently, you might already be finding out how it all ties together. This means you are well-equipped with your crate, leash (for walks, etc) and a drag leash (for all day control), and either a dominant dog collar or soft harness. A well-equipped person is essential for a pup to see you as PL. In addition to wholesome food, clean water and great toys, these necessities are tools to assist you in training and raising your pup, or reconditioning your adult dog. These tools back up everything you do with him and help show him that YOU are the head of the pack.
Tools are to assist–NOT do the job for you. You want your dog to rely on you, engage with you, obey you, become your teammate and family. Lots of folks rely on shock collars. I will not do a full review here, but I will say I do not like them. The majority of people do not learn how to use them properly. They do not build the vital relationship with your dog, rather merely give a correction at a distance. Whether you decide to use one or not, you want your dog to respond to YOU. Your voice. Your moves, even rest. Facial expressions, even turning your head can be a signal to your dog. If you’re relying on a collar and a button, how will you come to understand this?
Enough of that.
The point here is that tools are to assist your work in building a solid relationship with your pup, helping him learn who PL is. Later, they are only a back up for a Leader with a well-trained dog. And a dog will respond quicker to a well-equipped leader that knows well how to utilize these tools.
Provider, Protector and Best Play Buddy
A Pack Leader is the provider, protector and best play buddy on the planet! Once you establish a routine with at least some tips given in these articles, your day should look something like this:
- When you’re ready to get your pup out of his crate for the day, you put on the dominant dog collar (or soft harness) with the drag leash immediately.
- Most dogs, especially young pups, need to go outside and do their business first thing. So you get her to the door and make her Sit/Wait. You go outside first. *Another good tip here is that dogs that are moving around will go much sooner than one just lazing around, waiting to go back inside. So, play time! For about a minute or two, depending on your pup, throw a ball, walk her around while chatting her up playfully, or do something that gets things moving–if you get the drift 😉 As soon as she does her thing praise her! If you are still in the training/reinforcement phase, reward her immediately and praise her.
- Going back inside should be the same process. She does Sit/Wait. You go in first. After awhile of this it will become automatic.
- At feeding time, again…Sit/Wait. He waits until you give the “Okay!” *Another good tip here is, since my dog (Hanani) was such a contact-deprived nutcase, I used mealtimes to calm her and get her accustomed to closeness and touch. While she Waited for her Okay to eat, I would stroke her face and get closer over time. Now she is to the point where I can give her kisses without her wapping me in the face with her hard head.
- After meals is down time. Time for pups to rest and I get stuff done. Always remove the dish after 15-20 minutes, whether they have cleaned the bowl or not. Unless, of course, your pup is a tiny toy breed, prone to hypoglycemia.
- Early on, especially with Hanani, I left her in her room (or ex-pen) to rest after meals. After a couple weeks I would get her out by herself (lock Mia away in my room) on her drag leash and let her follow me around while I got stuff done. And yes, I am “aloof” to her whilst I work 😉 At first sign of misbehavior, without a word I would put her back in her room. No yelling. No correction. Just back to her room (and take drag leash off). A few times of this, she learned to modify her behavior because she figured out the longer she behaved, the longer she stayed out with me. Every once in a while we’d mix it up with some spontaneous play times for a couple or few minutes–especially when she was particularly well-behaved.
- Puppies 8 months and younger, as well as adult dogs that need reconditioned, need to go outside for business time around a half an hour after eating, and each half hour after that until they “Do it.” This provides them the opportunity to succeed, so business time does not become a dread for your pup.
Throughout the day dogs will naturally…well…be dogs! He will push his way into whatever you are trying to get done, nose her way into the refrigerator each time it’s opened, bark at every noise, grab your paperwork, knock the trash over to see what smells so delectable, bounce off the couch…. All sorts of cute, and ever-so-maddening stuff! It is what pups do! Your job as PL is to make each and every time an opportunity to help her learn to behave.
Such as, make him “Ask” before getting on the couch (if you let your dog on furniture). Do this by making him Sit/Wait and Look. Have him hold that position for a moment and then give him the “Okay!” It is natural for a dog to sit and stare at the source of what he wants, so teaching a dog to Ask in this manner should come quite easily for most and you can implement this in any behavior you choose.
Another example could be during play time get your dog to “speak” or bark.
- When you get her to bark, reward her immediately. I use a hand signal when doing this because it’s fun to get my dogs to “Holler” or “Hallelujah!” when no one knows it’s coming 😉
- Once she gets the speaking on command part down, right after you reward her for that, get her more worked up! Get her barking!
- Then put your finger to your lips and tell her “Shh”. Most likely she’ll quiet right away because of the strange sound you make. As soon as she quiets, reward her again.
- After a couple days of playing this game with her, periodically give her the speak command (whatever you use) and, instead of a treat, just pet her and tell her “Good girl!”
- Give her opportunities to bark on her own at sounds and things. When she does, tell her “Shh!” and give her a treat immediately when she responds correctly.
After consistently playing this “game”, you can shush your dog from a distance and she’ll still be thinking it’s play!
Oh Gosh! Where did the day go?
I hope you can see with just this much how truly easy it can be–how easy you can make it through the day with your pooch, having fun while teaching him and reinforcing yourself as pack leader. And we just got past breakfast!
Just as important, I hope you can see how clearly the tips provided in the Pack Leader series and other articles tie into reforming bad or unwanted behaviors in your dogs.
Also, I hope you see there are no “secrets” and no “experts” needed to get your pup to become the awesome fur-waggle you always dreamed. It’s all about you–your investment, engagement and consistency. Soon you will be realizing more and more, with each consistent day, what an awesome dog you have–and what an awesome Leader you truly are!
If you still think I am crazy… Well, that’s beside the point 😉
If you do not see the connection between building a foundation of PL and getting rid of unwanted/bad behaviors, drop a line below or on our Q & A forum. I am always blessed to be of help!