Providing leadership for your dog is different to being the pack leader
Not so long ago clients were taught they had to be the pack leader, alpha male, top dog in order to control their dog!! Thankfully dog training ideas has moved into the 20th century and research has shown this is nonsense.
However, we appear to have gone a little too far to the right. I propose that providing sound leadership for your dog is not about being the pack leader.
Providing Leadership For Your Dog
I believe that a fundamental element of you having a dog which fits into the boundaries we set in our society is the leadership you provide your dog. A dog who has guidance it can trust is by far a better dog than the dog who is forced into that position.
My work usually involves us going right back to basics. There is little point trying to train a recall in the park if the dog doesn’t listen to you in the home!! We set the scene where you set the boundaries and provide the guidance for your dog so that it can make choices,the right choices. Training is about cooperation and understanding between the owner and the dog. We need to be rewarding the positive and re-direct the negative. It is about making you factor high in whats important to your dog. You need to be fun and hold all the things which your dogs considers important. You then become important, someone the dog wants to try and please and take notice of.
This is achieved through kindness, being consistent and persistent in the boundaries you set. Leadership does not mean dominance, being the pack leader, physical abuse, electric collars and other outdated means of control. It is about setting boundaries for your dog in a kind and positive way so both people and the dogs can live together. These boundaries are no different than the ones we set in our society or for our children. We, as a species, accept there will be a consequence for our actions. If dogs are to live with us then they need to live to those standards. We re-focus unwanted behaviour in a positive and non-physical way by being persistent and consistent in the communication we give our dogs. We can soon teach the dog that the behaviours we want are rewarding and those we don’t want will not be rewarding. A well trained dog will no longer decide what is rewarding and what isn’t and so make bad choices. We help them make the right choices
Once we have this balance correct then we can look at the issues which you were concerned about. Sometimes once we have changed the status quo the issues are minimal or non existent.
Being Proactive, not Reactive in Dog Training
Anyone who does dog training classes with me soon hears my mantra about being proactive, not reactive and they will hear it many times. So what does this mean?
If you are constantly assessing the environment you and your dog are in and how this could impact on your dog you are being proactive. If you anticipate situations before your dog does then you are avoiding the unknown. You are providing good leadership skills for your dog and not putting them into a position when they have to start making decisions.
If you ignore whats around you and disengage from the environment and its impact on your dog then a situation will arise. You suddenly become reactive to what your dog is doing. On the whole when you leave decision making to a dog it will make a bad one.
An example to highlight this would be as follows:
You are out in a park and have taken a dog off the lead knowing his recall is not so good with distractions. Off he goes and you get your phone out to check your emails. You have failed to see the large dog off the lead with their owner also on the phone. You fail to see your dog checking in with you looking for guidance and you fail to see him then heading over to the other dog. Your attention is caught as you hear two dogs fighting. You start shouting your dog as you run over, but he ignores you. When you get to your dog you and the other owner are able to separate the dogs and you can see yours is hurt quite badly. The way your dog looks at you is as if you let him down, you did!!
This might seem as extreme scenario, but it is played out daily in parks. It could have easily been avoided if the owner had been proactive and anticipated what was happening in the environment they were in and considered what their dog might do. Instead poor leadership was given and the owner soon found themselves in a reactive situation because the dog had made a bad choice.