Are You The Pack Leader for Your Dog?
As dogs are pack animals, it is important to understand that they are always conscious of their position within the pack. This "pack" consists of you, your family, other animals, and any other dog(s) in the household. The Alpha dog, or pack leader, is the leader and protector of the pack. It is crucial that you accept this role. Your dog will be healthier and happier if it feels secure in it's pack, knowing that their leader does their job and every person that is safe. The first step in establishing your position as the pack leader, or "Alpha" is to learn which signals your dog will understand. You need to regularly communicate "Alpha signals" to your dog in a compassionate and respectful way. This does not entail being aggressive, bullying, or overbearing your dog! It is definitely a matter of learning the language that your dog understands, and utilizing the correct signals. Blended signals and other inconsistencies will confuse your dog, making them think that the pack leader is not effective. Your pet will be stressed and feel that they have to take control as Alpha to stabilize the pack. Although they are being "bad," you have given them the wrong signals so they feel justified. So... what are these signals and how would you be able to communicate them effectively? Firstly, the pack leader always eats before the other pack members, so you MUST eat your dinner completely and clear the table before giving your pet their full bowl of food. They should see you eating and understand clearly you have completely finished before they are allowed to eat. Then, make them stay before you by placing their bowl down for them to eat. If you will be in the practice of feeding your pet before your dinner, or even during, this usually takes a while for the dog to become used to. Be aware that any fuss they makes if you are consuming is part of their learning process. You are giving them new signals, new information regarding the pack, and so you also must let them realize this. They might need time to assimilate this new information, so be firm but patient. Next, you must always lead your dog, particularly through doorways and passages which can be slim. NEVER let your puppy push past you or in front of you. Th Alpha in a dog pack would not enable a dog that is subordinate to push past, or "lead" the pack, and consequently, neither should you. Use a leash if need be, but ensure that you enter doors, spaces, gates etc. before your dog. Neither should you let your dog run up stairs in front of you as this permits them to run to the most top allowing them to look down on you, displaying classic behaviour that is dominant. The key for this is not to not punish the incorrect behavior, but to not allow them to exhibit alpha behavior in the first place. Once they do so, it will be too late to achieve that, but is is possible to not enable it. Work with a leash, closed doors, giving a short, sharp shout (or whatever your dog responds to), but remember to be firm, kind, and respectful. You're talking to your dog, not trying to bully them into submission. Major part of becoming a pack leader for your dog lies in these techniques. Practiced repeatedly, patiently and consistently.
John Silver runs a small dog training site, focused on German Shepherd Dog training. The free e-course there has helped hundreds of new dog owners to train their dog.