Dear Miss Behavior: How Can I Become the Pack Leader?

Dear Miss Behavior, I have read that in our relationship with our dogs we are to be the Pack Leader. Can you suggest some things I can do to establish a leadership role with my dog?


For some trainers the concept of Pack Leadership is in question. There are people studying this
paradigm and some are starting to report that this may not be reality.* Others feel that it’s one of the most important tenets of dog training. Either way, we can use some simple steps to ensure that a dog respects his owner and is well behaved.

Be sure Timber has plenty of exercise and give him training sessions everyday. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time; you can practice heeling and recalls on walks. Sit and down stays can be practiced throughout the day.

Tell Timber to do a simple command to earn what he wants. If your dog wants to go outside, ask him to
sit and stay until the door is open. Be sure to enforce the command, and his reward will be being released to go outside.

When it’s time to feed Timber don’t free feed; instead divide his daily food in half, give one half in the morning and the other half in the evening. When you feed him ask him to down and stay while the food is being prepped and placed on the floor. Again enforce the command and release him to eat.

In the evening when Timber nudges your knee asking to play fetch or a game of tug, tell him to do a down or a sit stay before releasing him to a rousing tug session. In each case you’re reinforcing the idea that Timber must work for what he wants. He won’t be allowed to train you or be given things for free. And whether he understands pack hierarchies or not, he understands that you are very important to him.

For more information, read: “Dominance in Domestic Dogs—Useful Construct or Bad Habit?” Journal
of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research (May/June 2009), 135-14. or try Dog Sense: How the new science of dog behavior can make you a better friend to your pet by John Bradshaw.

marcygraybillAfter Marcy adopted her first dog in 1988, she began to research about dog care. Research took the form of checking out books and videos to learn how to train Lady. Eventually, Marcy and her sister began taking their dogs to the dog run and taking formal dog classes. For about six years, Marcy volunteered for the Capital Humane Society, where she performed a variety of jobs, and took time to watch the dogs and learn about their behaviors. Currently, she’s an obedience instructor at GLOC. “I think the most important is to keep up to date on what’s going on in the field.  I try to read articles, blogs and  new books that come out, and watch any DVDs that are available.”


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