We all know that dogs have a hierarchy within their social structure. The impact of that hierarchy can be seen when 1 family member tries to give commands to the dog, but the dog ignores that family member over another. That’s because the dog has chosen another family member as the Alpha already. But this can be changed in time.
First of all being the pack leader does not imply that you are a bully. Leadership comes in many ways, be it resource control, through body gestures, through silence, and giving clear direction.
With solid, Alpha behaviors and clear leadership, your dog will come to respect you and then follow your commands.
All dogs must work for their rewards, be it normal dog food or treats. They must earn their paycheck. You will see many homeowners that coddle their dogs and think their outlandish behaviors are “cute” such as jumping from chair to chair to window bay to barking at passers-by. That dog believes he is the Alpha and most assuredly acts that way in other forms throughout the day. Part of reeling him back in is to make him work for everything – for petting, for feeding, talking to, or even treats. You must consistently have him do an obedience command before he gets his reward, whether that be some kisses or a treat.
You eat first while she waits, every time. Teaching him a long stay will go a long way toward accomplishing this. Again, consistency is key. Feeding does not have to be the same location every day – for instance, if you are going out and want to leave her with a stuffed kong willed with frozen dog food, have her wait for 10 seconds before giving her access.
Take control of his toys. Only leave out 3 or 4 toys per day and rotate them. When you gather them in the evening, be sure to have him see you manage these items, so that he understands the toys are yours, not his.
Take charge of the physical space. Once in a while during the day, even if he is resting, walk in his direction and make him get up and move. This form of silent control goes a long way toward establishing your role as the Alpha.
Walk your dog with a loose leash – no pulling. You may need a dog trainer for this, but it’s imperative that your dog understands who is in charge of the walk. I recommend teaching him to heel so that loose leash walking will be an easier ask. Bring treats with you and reward him when he is walking beside you and sitting when you stop at street corners. Throw in a few basic commands during the walk and reward based on his success.
Control ingress/egress to all doorways and hallways. Your dog should look to you for guidance in these situations.
No Jumping, period! This is a hard one to enforce but imperative you have it down. Jumping is often associated with dominance and that is not acceptable. Use a leash and step on it such that he cannot jump – when he tries and is prevented, reward him for not jumping. Simply walk around a large room when you arrive home and teach him “off” and 3 seconds later, when he is “off” reward him for 4 paws on the floor. If he continues to jump, put your foot down on the leash again and start over.
A simple ask – but higher ground usually leaves a dog feeling higher up the hierarchy. Don’t allow that to happen – if he has jumped up on the couch and you are on the floor, quickly get him off the couch.
Never let her bite you for any reason. If you are petting her and she starts mouthing you out of love, stop it immediately with a firm no or “leave it” and put your arms up and folded for a few seconds. Stop the eye contact and talking for a few seconds as well. You can even turn your back on your pup. Use of teeth in any event is a no-no.
Obedience training is a lifelong ambition. In addition to the regular commands, he should wait before you pass a doorway or get in a car and then go on your command. Teach him new commands at least monthly to stimulate his mind.
Groom and handle your pup frequently – bathe him, clean his ears, brush him, and pet him frequently – this will help his impulse control.
When all is said and done, dogs thrive on structure. It is important to instill that structure on them with clear boundaries. You must show you are the one that can protect him, always bring the food and water, and generally take care of his hygiene. In that way, trust will be earned, and loyalty and respect will follow.