If you’ve ever watched a litter of pups at play, you’ll recall the pups jumped and nipped one another. Some were pushier than others. What you observed was the forming of a pecking order. The pups instinctively know that a hierarchy must be established for the survival and safety of the pack. These patterns of behavior have evolved from the wolf. By understanding these behaviors we can learn to deal effectively with domestic dogs.
When the new pup is brought into a human household the instinct does not change. It is still a member of a pack, in this case, the human pack. You must take over as leader and teach the pup that he falls below humans in his new pack. The pup will accept and be comfortable with the lowest position as long as you are a kind, strong, firm and consistent leader. To fail means the dog will assume he or she is the leader. You will find the dog will be very difficult to control. Obedience commands are the primary tool used to establish leadership. Anything your pup wants or needs must be earned by obeying a command (sit). Nothing in life is free. This is difficult because it is natural for us to give our dogs food, petting and attention without thinking about it. However, this indiscriminate attention sends the dog the message that he is the dominant member of the pack. Leaders eat first. Feed your dog after you eat. Leaders enter and exit a door first. Use a leash or command to have your dog wait until you invite your dog to follow you out the door. A dog that perceives himself as dominant over you is certainly not going to be easily trained and may cause you some serious problems. Practicing obedience commands will firmly establish you as the leader of the pack.
Dogs love to learn. Training your dog helps you gain control and gives you the ability to communicate what is, and what is not expected so that your dog can live harmoniously in your home. In teaching dogs, leadership and authority are the secrets of success. You must establish your authority and leadership and communicate with your dog in a positive manner. There are many different ways to train a dog. The old way of training used punishment and force to compel the dog to obey. Today, modern trainers have discovered a more successful and humane way of training, using positive reinforcement methods that emphasize PRAISE. “Good Dog!” This method makes training easy and enjoyable for both you and your dog. It’s more motivating for the dog and it minimizes stress. It is imperative that you use positive reinforcement with a dog adopted from a shelter. Hitting, heavy leash jerking and other forms of punishment are counterproductive. If you learn how and when to praise effectively and how to properly correct your dog, you will have at your fingertips the primary means of communication with your pet. Praise is the language of dogs — and people.