Pack Leader

Establishing Leadership Over A Dog And Modifying Behaviour Without Force

What most people desire is the ability to influence their dogs to eagerly perform acceptable behaviour patterns by showing positive leadership skills without expressing dominance or control over all types of resources.

We might want our dog to always come when called. We might want our dog to lie down and remain put until further notice. We might want our dog to walk focused on our presence rather than distracted by other activities in the environment. People are moving away from forceful dictatorial influences and bullying tactics to try and achieve desirable behaviours and becoming more inclined towards rewarding good conduct. Pet owners can obtain influence, higher ranking and priority access to resources without exhibiting forceful dominance, rather by controlling all resources and using them as motivators for rewarding appropriate behaviour.

There are numerous definitions of leadership but, whatever these may be, the same end result is necessary. There are various leadership styles with the ultimate aim of the leader achieving respect and willing cooperation through consistency, meaningful communication and effective pleasant rewards.

Dogs, instinctively, are gauged towards following the instruction of a pack leader. Leadership is established as dog owners by setting clear rules and boundaries for behaviour. While dogs thrive in the hierarchy realm with a pack leader there are very few people today who can express genuine assertiveness and strength of character which is why so many dogs suffer from anxiety and stress due to dysfunctional confusing relationships with their owners. Pets are more beneficial to people than humans being beneficial to animals. If a canine survey could ever be conducted in an attempt to discover what dogs thought about their owners, certainly most would be approved as meal-tickets, comfort zones, cooperative slaves, submissive servants and having no option of altering the scenario but a very, very small percentage will be revered as pack leaders. A lot has to do with the changes of human nature in the modern claustrophobic city environment including human depression and loneliness.

The effects of valuable leadership can only be realized if the communication is effective and timeous for any form of behaviour. One has to respond within a second of the deed whether it be ignoring the situation, whether one has to implement diversion or aversive therapy or rewarding the correct behaviour. Timing is of the essence. It has to be meaningful and must not linger. It must include body language and a sound which is easily conditioned repetitively so that it may be ingrained in the dog’s nature to want to repeat good behaviour because it is so pleasant in every way.

Bad behaviour must never be rewarded. Most people make the mistake of shouting, hitting, talking or responding in whatever way they feel fit when they disapprove of a certain behaviour. Even if it is negative the dog is obtaining a response. A common example is shouting at the dog if it is barking. What the dog perceives is that every time it barks it receives attention albeit uncomfortable but it is better than being ignored. If a dog has its nose pushed into its mess for soiling indoors all it will learn is that that person is aggressive and every time it sees that person in the future it is going to toilet out of fear and then the uneducated owner exacerbates the problem and can never even apply for pack leadership.

A model approach is for a pet to understand that nothing in life is free. Withholding all resources from the pet and only offering them to reward correct behaviour. Unfortunately people cry “shame” and feel sympathy for an animal which does not feel sorry for its owner. A dog needs to perform a good deed before obtaining a benefit. The dog can be taught to automatically sit and look at the owner before getting a treat. This has to be done by making the dog slightly hungry. Not all dogs sated after a recent meal are going to fall for a titbit. By the same token one can teach the dog to sit, stay or lie down before being petted, go out the door or have the ball thrown. This teaches the dog self-control and look up to its owner for permission for access to any resource it so desires.

This does not require a battle of wills between the owner and dog. The dog is merely taught a novel way to receive all its preferred items such as food, toys and treats and its preferred activities such as fetching a stick in the river. It is incumbent upon the owner to instill these principles all the time, day and night and not when people feel like it or when they attend the training class for one hour only. It has to be a way of life.

The rules must be decided at the outset of the relationship when the puppy arrives at the house.  The rules must be consistently reinforced until they become a habit for the dog and the owner.

If the owner pats the sitting dog and the dog starts to get up into a standing position to approach, the owner must immediately go cold and remove all attention or else the dog will be unintentionally rewarded for excitement and disobedience. People must not break the rules! If the owner wants to play with the dog on the carpet the dog must be commanded to sit or lie down before commencing. It has to earn the pleasure of its owner’s company.

If people can meet all the criteria as discusses they will be seen as dependable and trustworthy in the eyes of their pet. This induces feelings of safety, security and respect.

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