Dogs are pack animals, and they operate on a social structure of rank – a hierarchy if you like. Whether you have just adopted a new puppy or an adult dog, dogs are naturals at learning manners and new commands. This can only happen though if they understand and follow their social rank. Your dog will obey your commands if he believes you are the pack leader – the alpha dog. If you don’t become the pack leader, then your dog will be forced to take the role himself.
Becoming the Pack Leader
So how do you become the alpha dog? How do you ensure your dog sees you as the pack leader and follow your commands? To become the pack leader you need to understand the importance of how dog packs function. As the pack leader you are the one who makes the decisions on how your dog behaves. If you’re training a new puppy, it’s normal that they don’t understand this hierarchy yet. You shouldn’t get angry if the puppy doesn’t listen to your commands. This takes time and patience, but shouldn’t be difficult.
Steps to Establishing yourself as the Pack Leader
Training is important for any dog, but it can prove to be a waste of time to try to train a dog without first establishing yourself as the alpha dog. Here are some steps to establishing yourself as the pack leader:
Think Like a Dog
The first thing you need to do in order to become the pack leader is to think like a dog. Dogs are visual and physical creatures. They react to their surroundings based on what they see, what they smell. Remember that dogs and wolves are 98.8 percent identical. A dog’s behavior is to a large part driven by its genetics and its instincts. Dogs live in the present and don’t understand the concept of right or wrong to the extent that humans do. If your dog barks aggressively at another dog or person at the park, or digs up the backyard, they’re not doing it to upset you or because they’re vindictive! These behaviors and others might mean that your dog is looking for a leader. Put yourself in their “paws” and try to understand what might be causing their behavior.
Leaders are not bullies. Being the pack leader doesn’t mean you need to dominate over the dog. You need to figure out how to be the leader but also a companion to your dog. Dogs want affection, and they thrive on reassurance. When the dog show positive behavior, make sure to praise them and reward them immediately afterwards to teach them the connection between their good behavior and the praise and reward.
Correct the Dog Quickly
If your dog needs correcting, do it firmly but gently. Don’t hit the dog, but rather pull his leash gently or shake its collar. And once the behavior is corrected, praise it and reward it by showing it affection.
In the wild, pack leaders enforce rules with a calm and assertive energy. If you dog misbehaves, don’t lose your cool or patience. Your dog can sense any changes in your energy and attitude. Remind yourself, you dog is not misbehaving on purpose.
You must be consistent in your training. Dogs learn through repetition. If you are not consistent, your dog will get confused. Once you establish a set of rules with your dogs, don’t change them and make exceptions. Unclear rules are a sign of lack of leadership.
Being the pack leader is something that you need to be for your dog their entire life. This is something you have to do immediately after you adopt your dog and you need to be consistent in your message from the start. Once you’ve established yourself as the alpha dog, your dog will relax and lead a happy life!