Ten Rules to Great Leadership with Your Dog or Puppy
Leadership, in short, is the ability to guide, direct
or influence. Nowhere in the definition does it
say “dominate,” intimidate, or control, and yet
over the years many dog trainers skewed and
twisted the definition so out of shape a
contortionist would be hard pressed to keep up.
Even today with all the science to the contrary,
there are popular books and videos for sale that
insist on rough and harsh treatment of dogs to
obtain optimum obedience.
These misshapen ideas leave many pet parents
confused— and ifthey are confused, just think
how the dog must feel with so many conflicting
Luckily, there is so much more information about
learning theory, behavior and, frankly, dogs today,
that it is a breath of fresh air to finally let go of
those old ideas and get back to the real meaning
of leadership with our dogs.
1. Leadership begins with benevolence as you
teach your dog the rules
A study published in the February 2004 issue of
the British Journal of Animal Welfare found, “Not
only that rewards were more effective in eliciting
desired behaviors from the dogs, but that those
owners who used punishment-based training had
seen a variety of bad behaviors in the their dogs
including barking at/aggression towards people
and other dogs, fearfulness, excitement, separation
anxiety, and inappropriate mounting.” The dogs
that were trained exclusively using positive,
reward-based methods were significantly more
obedient than those dogs trained using either
punishment or a combination of rewards and
punishment. The authors of the study suggest that
“the use of punishment-based training might
create a state of anxiety or conflict in the dog that
is later expressed as bad behavior.”
Think positive, not punishment!
2. Reward, don’t ignore
Humans tend to focus on the things they do not
like their dogs to do; spending way too much time
saying, “No,” and expending far too much energy
trying to make them stop what they are doing. It
is time to start putting all of that energy into
“catching” dogs doing the correct things and
rewarding those behaviors. If your dog has finally
settled down and is quietly chewing a bone, do
not ignore that behavior— reward it. Walk by
your dog and quietly drop a treat by him and
move along. If you don’t have a treat, a single and
quiet “Good dog,” will do.
If good behaviors are ignored and unwanted
behaviors are the ones that get all of the
attention, your dog may very well decide that
good behaviors aren’t worth very much, but those
“bad” ones sure do get everyone to pay attention
3. Manners are learned, rewards are earned
Some people have a hard time using food rewards
but are more than willing to present an entire
bowl of kibble to their dogs without so much as a
thought. You are going to feed your dog a couple
of times of day, so why not let him earn his meals
by using some of that kibble as a training reward.
There are trainers and pet parents out there that
do not even own food bowls for their dogs—
every piece of kibble is a paycheck for a job well
It is not necessary to go to extreme unless you
want to, but plan to use a portion of your dog’s
food to train, or to use it in food carrier toys such
as Kongs or Buster Cubes so your dog can
expend some mental energy working for hiskibble each day.
Domestic dogs studied in natural settings are
observed spending most of their days looking for
food. When you put your dog’s food in a bowl
and it’s gone in 30 seconds, your dog has little to
look forward to the rest of the day. This is why
some dogs walk the path of destruction—they are
Training and the use of food carrier toys exercise
the mind, not to mention that in other studies,
dogs preferred to earn their food rather than
have it delivered in a bowl.
4. Love your dog- limit your dog
Like children, dogs appreciate and live very well
with rules and limits. There is always time to relax
rules after your dog learns them, but much more
difficult to go back and put rules in place when
your dog has not had structure in his life.
Training is one of the best ways to limit your dog.
It should always be fun, but the reason for training
is to give your dog some life skills that help him to
resolve conflict and live peaceably with humans.
Teach your dog how to love his crate, be left
alone and relax when he is not sure what to
do so if he is ever in doubt, he will know to
relax, rest and/or kickback, rather than become frantic with panic or
wild with excitement.
Manage your dog’s environment if you do not
have have time, or are not sure how to train
something— prevent the behavior from happening
until you can teach your dog something else. Use
his crate, baby gates or leashes to prevent him
from practicing unwanted behaviors which only
allows him to get better and better at it.
5. Mental and physical exercise
It is easy to exercise your dog’s body, but many
people neglect exercising their dog’s minds. Do
not be one of those people! Get creative and find
things that will challenge your dog’s wonderful
mental capacity. Hide and seek with his favorite
toy, clicker training, food puzzles, digging pits,
shredding toys, trick training, doggie trash cans,
are all good ways to stimulate your dog’s mind.
Be willing to let your dog make a few messes here
and there—better a mess of organized play than
one where you dog digs up the yard, or shreds
6. Let your dog be your teacher
Learn about dogs. Read, get on the internet, go to
workshops and seminars (always with an open
mind since some of these might not be the
correct direction to head with your dog) and then
learn to watch your dog. Your dog always knows
what he needs. Dogs are great teachers if you are
willing to be the student. They are the masters of
body language and have beautiful etiquette if
allowed to express it. Learn what your dog is
“saying,” and your relationship will grow.
7. Respect your dog’s boundaries
You expect your dog to respect your
space and boundaries; in return,
you should do the same. If your dog
just settled down to rest by your feet, it is not an invitation to reach
down and touch him. In fact, this can quickly
teach your dog never to relax in your presence.
If your dog shows his belly to you or another
person, it is not always an invitation for a belly
rub; it might be his way to say he is worried or
concerned. If you watch how dogs interact with
one another you would not see a dog start to pat
or pound on a submissive dog’s belly. He would
simply sniff and move away—anything else would
be considered rude in the dog world.
If you personally, would not like something done
to you in the context of what you might be doing
to your dog, respect your dog and back off. Body
pounding, constant patting on the head, strangers
grabbing his face, are all good examples of how ahuman might invade a dog’s personal space, and
while he might tolerate it from you, that does not
mean he enjoys it, especially from people outside
of his comfort zone.
8. Lead by example
Your calmness will teach your dog to be calm.
Learn to breathe and smile at your dog. The
more you display calmness, the calmer your dog
will be when he needs it the most.
9. Believe your dog
If you have heard yourself say, “My dog is stubborn.
He “knows” how to sit (come, heel, etc.) but he
won’t do it if we go anywhere outside of our
neighborhood,” your dog is trying to tell you
something. He is not stubborn; he might be
nervous, fearful, overly excited, or the behavior
has not been trained to fluency in different
environments—but certainly not stubborn. The
same goes for behaviors like reactivity toward
other dogs or humans; your dog is trying to
express how he feels about the situation.
Whatever the reasons, your dog is communicating
that he needs some help, not criticism.
10. Laugh with your dog
Dogs are truly the comics of the world. Enjoy
your dog for what he is—a dog! There is poetry,
music, and laughter in every moment of living with
dogs (some messier than others) but dogs offer
life lessons to each and every human that will take
the time to look and not judge them for being
dogs, but respect them for being so tolerant ofliving with us.
Thank you Nan for letting me use your information!!