By Linda Cole
Taking charge of a dog can be intimidating for some owners. If you start off on the wrong foot and the dog gets the upper hand, that’s when behavior problems begin to show up, which can lead to an unhappy dog and owner. It’s important for you to be your dog’s leader no matter what breed or size your dog is. Picking the right dog for your lifestyle is important, but equally important is picking a dog you can and will manage.
I had a neighbor who had a Rottweiler he walked every day – or rather, the dog would drag him down the street. He was a muscular fellow, but he couldn’t control his dog because he wasn’t in command. She was a well socialized dog, but didn’t listen to her owner. He never established himself as the leader of his pack. Most dog owners are responsible and caring, and want to do what’s best for their dogs, until it comes to taking the lead role.
Behavior problems in dogs can be quickly turned around if you are their leader. Dogs are social animals and expect us to lead them. In their mind, there has to be a leader and if their human doesn’t do it, they will step up and take it. Not because they want the job, but because it’s a role that must be filled. As far as they are concerned, someone has to set the rules, make the decisions and maintain the peace in the dog’s social order. Dogs understand and recognize the qualities of a strong leader and when you’re in charge, it’s easier to correct bad behavior.
How to take the lead role
Establish your role by teaching your dog what you expect from him. Body language is something all dogs understand. They are experts at reading other dogs, other animals and us by how we move, our expressions and our tone of voice. They know if we’re happy or displeased with them by our body language and voice. There’s no need to hit, kick or yell at a dog to get your message across. Positive reinforcement gains his trust and proves to him you are worthy of being his leader.