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Monday, October 27, 2014

Who’s the Leader of Your Pack?

One of the main causes of dog behavioral problems is when a dog doesn’t understand its place in the family hierarchy. Dogs are pack animals and they need to know their pack position in order to feel happy and settled. In a human household, the dog should be bottom of the pack, below all of the human members and, often, below any cats that might also be resident. If your dog is submissive, he will almost certainly know his place and you are unlikely to have any problems with him. But if your dog exhibits dominant traits, you could be in for trouble further down the line.

Don’t Treat Your Dog like a Human!

Dogs are not humans. For one thing, they have four legs and for another, they don’t think the same way we do. Many owners make the mistake of mollycoddling their dog and treating him like a person: they let their dog sleep on the bed, eat off the same plate, and generally behave like a spoilt child. The end result is a badly behaved dog with no manners and an attitude problem. This type of behavior is bad enough in small breeds of dog, but if the dog is a large breed with a lot of physical strength it can be catastrophic.

Dominant behaviors include:
  • Disobedience
  • Aggression if you try to remove a favorite toy
  • Jumping up
  • Bad manners
  • Overtly sexual behavior

How to Deal with Dominant Behavior

A dominant dog is unpleasant to be around. They are usually badly behaved and difficult to control. The best way to avoid this is to prevent it becoming an issue in the first place by implementing a dog-training program  from day one. You need to act like a pack leader from the moment you introduce the dog to your home.

The dog must behave appropriately at all times. Feed him on a schedule, so he knows you control the food. Don’t let him snatch food or toys and if he does, remove them immediately until he learns not to. Pay attention to your dog when you want to, not when he demands attention. 

A useful way of punishing bad behavior is to remove the dog from the room and let him have some ‘time out’, in much the same way as you would a naughty toddler. Dogs are social animals and to remove them from the family is upsetting for them. Ideally crate the dog up in another room, but if you don’t have a crate, shut them in a room where they can’t be too destructive. After a short time, release the dog and observe to see if his behavior improves – if it doesn't rinse and repeat.

When to Back Off

If you ever feel physically threatened by a dog or he refuses to back down, it is time to ask for help. Simple behavioral management techniques will work with a badly behaved dog, but if the traits are well established or the dog is aggressive rather than badly behaved, it is a good idea to consult a behavioral expert or check out online resources such as My Pawson.

A dog that knows his place in the pack is a happy, confident dog, which makes him a pleasure to be around. And a happy dog is a happy owner.

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