This will be perhaps the most important post on dog training ever: how to become a pack leader (or alpha dog).
Dogs have wolves as ancestors. To make living in the wild bearable and safe for everyone, wild dogs followed a social structure that dogs still follow today. Every pack has a leader who keeps everything in line. In return for protecting the pack he gets some perks. Like eating first, walking first, and doing what he wants.
If a pack member acts up, the pack leader quickly puts him in line. When he doesn’t, the subordinate sees the chance to become pack leader himself and challenges the alpha.
When you show weakness your dog senses that you’re falling down on your pack-leader duties. Here are a few ways to maintain your authority:
NEVER tolerate aggressive growling
Growling is a dog’s way of putting you in line. It’s the dog equivalent of a quick smack to the back of the head. When your dog does this he sees you as the subordinate to be controlled.
Every time your dog growls, tell him NO! Make it clear that you’re top dog and won’t tolerate him trying to steal your position.
ALWAYS go first
Alpha dogs walk through doors first and get first crack at a meal. When you take your dog outside, make sure that you step through the doorway first. Then call your dog to follow you. Feed your dog after you eat. It is also a good idea to place dog food in a bowl and then place the bowl on the floor. You can raise the bowl out of your dog’s reach at any time if he doesn’t act calmly. Let your dog know that his needs come after yours.
The pack leader takes care of himself and his family first; it’s his right. Once your dog understands this he will respect you for keeping the order.
NO sleeping on the same bed
A dog claiming a spot on your bed before you is insubordinate behavior that no pack leader would ever tolerate. Your dog does it because he’s getting signals that he can usurp your power.
Don’t let him! Make your dog sleeps in another room, in a bed on the floor, or at least at the foot of the bed. And never let him get comfortable before you do. You’re the pack leader. You get the perks.
SPACE is respect
When your dog constantly fawns over you, he’s actually displaying dominant behavior. He’s saying “I want to snuggle, drop what you’re doing to make me comfortable, subordinate!”
Do NOT allow this. Any affection should be initiated by you, not him. You won’t hurt his feelings.
TAKE him outside the house
It’s easy to display pack-leader traits outside the home. When you take your dog someplace new and different he relies on you for protection and reassurance.
When you’re confident and firm in a new situation, your dog will naturally see you as the alpha dog.
Are you the pack leader in your household?