Are You the Pack-Leader? How to Communicate Effectively With Your Dog for a Harmonious Relationship
As dogs are pack animals, it is crucial to understand that they are always aware of their position in the pack. This pack will encompass you, your family, other pets, and of course, all the dogs in the household. Your dog sees the Alpha dog or pack leader as the leader and protector of the whole pack, and you must take on this role. Your dog will be healthier and happier if it feels secure in its collection, knowing that its leader is doing its job and keeping everyone safe.
The first step to doing this is to know which signals your dog will understand. You will need to consistently communicate "alpha signals" to your dog compassionately and respectfully. This does not entail being aggressive, overbearing, or bullying your dog! It is simply a matter of learning the language that a dog understands and using the correct signals. Mixed signals and inconsistency will confuse your dog, making him think that the pack leader is inadequate. Your dog will be stressed and feel burdened upon him to take over as alpha to stabilize the pack. If he does this, it is not because he is "bad," but that you have given him the wrong signals.
So what are these signals, and how do you communicate them effectively? Firstly, the pack leader always eats before the other pack members, so you MUST eat your dinner entirely and clear the table before giving your dog his bowl of food. He should see you eating and understand clearly that he can only eat once you have finished. Then make him sit before placing his bowl down for him and allowing him to eat. If you have been in the habit of feeding your dog before your dinner or even during, this may take a while for your dog to become accustomed to. Be aware that any fuss he makes while you're eating is part of his learning process. You are giving him new signals, new information about the pack, and you must let him understand this. He may need time to assimilate this further information, so be firm but patient.
Secondly, you should always lead your dog, primarily through doorways and narrow passages. NEVER let your dog push past you or in front of you. The pack leader in a dog pack would never allow a subordinate dog to move past or "lead" the group, and therefore neither should you. Use a leash if need be, but always ensure you enter doors, rooms, gates, etc., in front of your dog. Neither should you let your dog run upstairs in front of you? This allows him to run to the top and look down on you, displaying classic dominant behavior. The key to this is NOT to punish the wrong behavior – it is too late to do that – but to not allow him to exhibit alpha behavior in the first place. Use a leash, close doors, give a short, sharp shout, whatever your dog responds to, but remember to be firm, kind, and respectful. You are talking to your dog, not trying to bully him into submission. The key to all these techniques is repetition, consistency, and patience.