Over the years, Robin and I have talked to thousands of dog owners who thought they were doing exactly the right thing when it came to training their dog. They would tell us that they would teach their dog all the obedience actions such as Come, Sit, Stay, etc.

Be your dog's leader

They would keep them off the furniture and not allow them to jump on their friends and guests.  Even though they were “doing all of this right stuff”, they still had this feeling that they were missing something. They still had an inclination that their dog still felt like “the boss of the house”.

Although I haven’t heard this saying for a long time, I am sure that many of you will remember the phrase “Walk a mile in my shoes“.  We were at a new Home Dog Training client in Norcross last Wednesday and he was having this exact, same problem of “the boss of the house”. Although it appeared that he was taking all the correct steps when it came to training his dog, he just couldn’t get over the hump of being his dog’s leader.

We started off our “training conversation” by telling him that all dogs see the world through their own, unique perspective.  Even though he was teaching his dog all about Come, Sit, and Stay, he didn’t understand that his dog was judging him through the “eyes of a dog”.  Unfortunately, he was still acting “like a human”.  There is a very important difference.  This difference plays a major role in his dog’s determination of leadership and safety.

Although our client thought he was the teacher, his dog still would act as if he, and not our client, was the boss.  We first needed to explain what was actually happening.  Unfortunately, our client was unknowingly, and continually communicating to his dog that the dog was the “boss of him”. He had no idea that he was doing any such thing because he was viewing the world through a human’s eyes and not a dog’s eyes.

So, let’s take a look at what our client was doing, why his actions were imparting the leadership role to his dog, and what our client can do to reverse this process and allow our client to be the boss…

Probably the best way to explain what is going on is to create a hypothetical scenario.  Think that it is a Sunday afternoon and our client is sitting in his comfy Adirondack Chair in the back yard catching up with his emails on his smartphone.  All of a sudden, his dog comes over and sticks his nose in our client’s hand wanting to be pet. Our client thinks nothing of it, stops looking at his phone, and gives his dog a big pat. Unwittingly, our client has just told his dog that the dog is the boss.  The dog can now do whatever he wants because our client told him that he is the boss.  He can tell our client when to feed him, when to pet him, can jump on whoever he wants, take food from the table, and whatever else he wants.  Why not?  He had been affirmed as the boss.

For those of you who can remember Paris Hilton, this is the way she treated everyone around her.  This is not the way we want our dog to act.

The problem arises because, in a human family, any family member can have an idea.  If the rest of the family likes that idea, it is acted upon. For humans, accepting an idea and acting on it does not assume that the originator of the idea is the boss of everyone else. We just liked the idea.

The problem arises because dogs view actions differently.  In their world, there is only one “leader of the pack”.  Everyone else in the pack are followers.  On top of this, the only one that tells the rest of the pack what to do is the leader.  This is a social structure that does not change.  The leader tells everyone else what they must do and everyone else obeys.

The moment our client’s dog requested “pet me” and our client complied, he submitted to his dog’s wishes.  This clearly put him in the role of the submissive follower. It also reinforced his dog’s position in the group as the dominant and absolute leader.

We (humans) innocently do this all day long.  We are repeatedly telling our dog that he is the boss. This inadvertent miscommunication will have our dog appear to be misbehaving and demanding.  Now that we have identified this conundrum, we need to address the issue.

The answer is very simple and absolute.  Everything we do in regard to our dog must be our idea.  We must always initiate the action.

Let’s step back to the Sunday afternoon in the backyard.  When our client’s dog came over and demanded a pet, our client should have initially ignored him.  After a moment or two, the dog would have lost interest and turned away.  At that point, and only if he wanted, our client could have called his dog over to him for a pet.

I know what you are thinking.  The pet still took place.  Well, there was a major difference in the command structure. In the modified scenario, the pet was our client’s idea. When the dog responded to the call to come to our client’s side for a pet, he was doing so from a submissive position in response to our client’s leadership request.  “I want you” came from our client and his dog respectfully responded.

The more our client starts the requests and the more his dog dutifully responds, the faster our client’s leadership role will be established.  Once our client clearly establishes his leadership role in his dog’s eyes, the more his dog will provide him with focus in anticipation of direction. This is the basis of a well-behaved and happy dog.

This all sounds so simple and obvious, but it is very hard to do.  This is because we don’t care whose idea it is.  Dogs care whose idea it is because that equates to leadership and their general safety.

The bottom line is just make sure it is your idea.  You will be amazed at how your dog will respond and give you respectful focus all the time.

Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over nineteen years.  We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and great families and are ready to help you.