Dogs are pack animals and the pack has a strict hierarchy, with the “alpha” at the head of the pack. Establishing yourself as the pack leader in your home is the best way to ensure that your dog takes you seriously, follows commands, and behaves in a predictable manner. You don’t become pack leader by being a bully, but instead establish control through resource control, confidence, giving direction and following through with everything. A specially prepared dialogue which everyone in the household knows to use when communicating with the dog is also essential, so he knows exactly what’s expected of him no matter who is giving the command.
Don’t Spoil your Dog
A dog that gets everything he wants when he wants will soon come to think of himself as the pack leader. This applies to both larger breeds like Labradoodles to smaller breeds like Moodles. Make your dog earn everything including petting, feeding, or even talking. If he is demanding attention have appropriate obedience commands in place to use before he gets what he is asking for.
The head of the household eats first in any pack and in the home environment this means all the humans eat first. He should be made to wait politely before eating and should not do so until he is invited. It should also be made very clear that humans are the food givers. Feed him once or twice a day only and remove all food after 10 – 15 minutes. Treats should only be handed out once the dog has earned it by obeying a command, or even performing a simple trick.
When entering or leaving a building, leaders always go first. Dogs should be made to sit and wait, and then be given permission to leave or enter. This also includes outside environments when walking through a gate. If your dog is still learning, block the entrance with your body so they cannot rush past you.
Lead The Way
An alpha dog would never step over another animal blocking their way. They will always make the other animal clear the path. You should treat your dog the same way. If they are taking up the hallway, or doorway, they should be made to move before you go any further. The same goes for sitting down. If the dog is sitting in your favourite chair gently remove him in a non-confrontational way and then sit down – then give him position to sit where you say he can sit.
Never give a command without following through. If you give the command to sit, ensure the dog always does what you ask of him. If he fails to do so don’t beg, plead, whine, yell, or punish but help the dog achieve the desired action. When he finally does obey be sure to shower him with praise. Obedience training is also highly recommended as you will receive expert guidance on the best ways to handle your dog.
If you think this system is being too controlling or unfair to the animal, consider how many dogs are given up each year due to behavioural problems. Dogs thrive on structure and firm guidance and it is the owner’s responsibility to provide it – with it always being to the detriment of the dog if they don’t.