Becoming your dog’s pack leader is a question many dog owners ask. This is an important question, but the answer isn’t so simple. The idea of becoming the pack leader is that you will convince your dog to trust you and your authority. By positioning yourself as the person in charge, your dog will be confident in your decisions and be more apt to listen to you.
As pack animals, dogs require a leader by nature and instinct.
Without you positioning yourself as a leader, your dog will feel obligated to take that position because having a leader is an absolute instinctual requirement for their “survival” in life. As the pack leader, you have to be responsible for every decision—and it’s outcome. That means it’s up to your to pick a walking path. And it’s up to you to decide how to behave in different situations, and up to you to determine how to respond to all the strange things you and your dog come across out there.
If you don’t make a decision, your dog will feel obligated to make a decision for you. When you don’t direct your dog, your dog will try to direct you as they will feel like they will need to act as the pack leader. If you go along with your dog’s decision, you will be reinforcing that superior position. However, if there comes a time when you try to ignore or “disobey” your dog’s decision, especially if they are used to you just following along (even if you don’t notice it, because it’s little things you let slide by), you will end up in a battle of tug-of-war with your dog—often times literally.
So, how do you position yourself as a pack leader?
You can begin with little things, like having your dog sit down before you provide her with her dinner. But to be a stable pack leader that your dog recognizes, you have to be stern with everything. The point is not to be aggressive, but consistent. If you let some things slide your dog will be confused about who the leader really is, and it will only lead to more behavioral issues.
The point isn’t to dominate the dog, either, and showing your physical strength is no training method. You’ll end up in a battle of tug-of-war or a real fight because you have unknowingly provoked your dog’s instincts (fighting to prove who is stronger/dominant). The right way to show your dog who the pack leader is to remain calm and confident in situations. Become a trusted leader, not a feared one. When danger arises, think through your next step before committing to something.
Lastly, don’t let the little things slide. Walk through doors before your dog, have your dog walk beside you. Have them sit and be quiet when asked to constantly be maintaining your position as leader.