Dogs are pack animals
and when any number of dogs comes together, they will form
a pack with a carefully structured hierarchy and a pack leader.
This happens in the wild, in a class environment or at home.
The order within the hierarchy can change at any time, for
instance if a new dog joins the group or a puppy grows up
or a dog becomes old or sick. Dogs are happiest when they
know their place in the hierarchy even if it is at the bottom
of the pack! The pack leader within a pack will have privileges
not available to other members of the pack. He will get the
best and first pick of a meal, get to sleep in the best place
and will be in front of any hunting expedition, leading his
pack. Most interactions within a pack are peaceful and done
with body language or eye contact.
When a dog comes into our family environment
he will need to find his place in the “pack”.
Because dogs are such loveable creatures, because they look
cute, helpless and are dependent on us they are immediately
given privileges. They get cuddles when they ask for them,
we take them for a walk when they ask for one, they get fed
when they look at the food bowl, some are allowed on the settee,
the bed, they follow us around everywhere. Many people put
up with behaviour from dogs, they would never tolerate in
another human being!
Dogs like people have different personalities
and to an extent these can already be analysed in puppies.
Most people will have been told not to pick the shy puppy
in a litter or not to pick the most dominant one. Whereas
an experienced dog owner would probably be able to cope with
either personality, an inexperienced owner will soon encounter
problems. This also applies to rescue dogs. Many owners feel
sorry for the sad previous history a rescue dog has had to
suffer and as a result “spoil” the dog straight
Dogs have a great knack of training us to
perfection in a very short time!
· We are sitting on the settee watching
television. The dog comes up and brings us a toy. We throw
it for him.
· He comes up for a cuddle and looks at us with those
big brown eyes. He gets a lovely stroke. He rolls over and
we tickle his tummy.
· He goes to the back door and barks. We get up and
let him out.
· We sit down again. He scratches at the door, barks
and we let him in.
· He goes into the kitchen and whines. We get up and
· He stands at the front door with his lead in his
mouth. We take him for a walk.
· Etc. etc.
Every time we are obeying his every command
straight away. In most cases this may never cause a problem.
However some dogs will want more and more privileges and if
these are not granted or if he is challenged, problems can
A dominant dog is not a bad dog. In fact most
people who take part in competitive dog sports will chose
a dominant, strong puppy and correctly handled they will make
brilliant pets and working dogs.
If problems occur, some very simple rules
need to be changed to help the dog adjust in the human pack.
A dog that has to be aggressive or challenge all the time
is not a settled happy dog. Rule Number One:
You train the dog; the dog does not train
So any privileges the dog asks for from now
on have to be earned. If he comes up when you are watching
television and wants you to throw a ball, he has to do something
for you first. Make him lie down, count to three and then
let him have the ball. The same if he wants a cuddle, ask
him to sit, then stroke him. You do not have to give up any
of the things you enjoy doing with your dog, but you do them
on your terms. Feed him after you have had your dinner and
do not stick religiously to the same time every day. Do not
let him follow you everywhere. To go into different rooms
is your privilege, shut the door behind you, make him lie
down and wait and if he is quiet, go back to him and praise
him. If you take him for a walk, make sure you go through
the door first; do not let him push ahead of you. You are
the pack leader, you go first. Teach him not to pull on the
lead, by fitting a gentle leader, or similar head collar and
training him to walk next to you. When playing games, do not
let him win all the time, teach him to give up a toy by swapping
it for another toy or a treat. Do not ever let him mouth or
play bite you. Teach him to come to you when called the first
time every time.
Give him some work to do, a dominant dog often needs an outlet
for his energy, go to obedience or agility classes, teach
him tricks and take him for plenty of exercise including swimming.
Vary the venues you walk him at, so he does not become too
possessive of one place. Make sure you are in charge of the
walk, you chose where you go, vary the route, play hide and
seek games, suddenly turn and go the other way, call him often
and reward him, make him lie down and stay for a few minutes
each day in different places.
Have you noticed that with all these changes
not once have you raised your voice or used aggression to re-train