Asserting Dominance with your Dog

Some dog owners feel reluctant to assert their authority over their beloved pets, preferring to be nurturing. Dominance training, however, is not only necessary if dogs are to exist peaceably alongside humans but is also expected by them, to a large extent. Dogs are pack animals by nature, which means that they instinctively look for an alpha figure to give them a sense of direction. If you establish yourself as the “leader of the pack”, you will have not only a more peaceful and orderly home environment but also a happier pet.

To reinforce your dominant position, you should have areas of your home – such as your bed, couch, and favorite chairs – that are off-limits to your dog. He can come to these places only when specifically invited. Occasionally pick your dog up and remove him from the area where he’s sitting and take his place. This will serve as a further reminder that you are the leader. Pecking order is another arrangement that pack animals understand, so feeding your dog only after you’ve eaten – and not tolerating begging at the table – will also help to set good boundaries.

Aside from the satisfaction of their primary physical needs, what dogs crave most from their owners is attention. Giving or withholding your attention, then, can be another useful method of reminding your dog of your eminent position. Give gentle praise when he does something that you approve of – like coming when you call – but don’t place too much stress on his misbehavior. Your dog may form the idea that this, also, is a way of getting your attention when you’re aloof. Again, you are the pack master who knows best. Provide proof of this by doling out attention when it’s appropriate and not in response to something that your dog has done to try and get it. At times you may even ignore your dog for brief periods of time – for example, when first coming home after being gone – to remind him that his role is to wait and follow your lead.

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