Dogs need guidelines and boundaries just like kids. Good leadership will earn your dog’s respect and help him to feel confident and secure.
1. Control the Resources
Just as parents control allowance, curfew and use of the car, you should control all the “good stuff” when it comes to your dog.
Food: An incredibly valuable resource. As such, it should come from you, not from that round thing that is always magically full! Feed once or twice daily, rather than leaving the food down all the time. For dogs with severe leadership issues, or to kick-start your program, hand-feed meals (a few pieces at a time) for two weeks. Have your dog sit or perform another behavior for each bit of food.
Toys and games: Leave your dog with a few toys, but reserve the really special ones for when you are present. Bring these special toys out periodically and play with them, with your dog. Now you are also the source of all the fun! Note: Playing games like tug-o-war are fine as long as your dog understands the rules of the game and doesn’t get overly aroused when you play. Rules: Don’t grab for the tug toy, drop it or release on cue. Bring the toy out; initiate the tug by saying something like “let’s tug” or “get it”. Periodically freeze, followed by a “leave it” cue, when your dog releases, wait a second, say “get it” and resume the game. If at any time your dogs’ teeth touch your skin say something like “oops” and immediately stop playing. When you’re finished playing, put the toy away where your dog can’t get to it.
2. Nothing in life is free!
This means that your dog must do something in order to earn things that are valuable to him. If your dog wants to go outside and play, he must sit and wait at the door until you release him, not rush past you almost knocking you over on the way out the door. Have your dog sit or perform another behavior before you give him meals, treats, walks, toss a ball, click his leash onto his collar, and anything else he finds valuable. Incorporate obedience exercises into everyday life. Keep practice sessions short and frequent.
3. Your vet will love you for it!
It is a good idea to inspect your dog regularly for cuts, bumps, ticks, fleas, etc. To make this easier for both you and your dog, teach your dog to accept handling and petting. Do daily massage sessions that include handling your dog’s paws, ears and mouth. My dogs particularly enjoy Touch massage: http://www.tellingtonttouch.com
- While training your dog to accept and enjoy handling, never force him to let you handle him, it will only damage your relationship and trust.
- Try it when your dog is calm and relaxed.
- Start massage in areas where your dog is already comfortable being touched.
- Work with your dog when he’s hungry.
- Begin by dropping treats next to on the floor and inviting your dog to come sit by you.
4. Nobody likes a bully!
Good leaders are kind and patient. Use praise and rewards to let your dog know when he is doing the right thing. Use verbal reprimands sparingly and your dog will know you mean business when you do use them.