Many dog owners buy a dog with the intention that he will become a calm and welcome addition to the family, only to discover that the dog becomes the de facto head of the household, due to a lack of leadership by the family.  A dog’s instinctual behavior is to seek calm, consistent leadership, however if the family/owner does not demonstrate leadership, the dog will take charge, in the form of excessive barking, biting, jumping, leash pulling and other undesirable behaviors.  

Recent studies have shown that many dogs are turned into shelters because of behavioral problems that their owners believe to be permanent and unfortunately, many of these dogs are euthanized due to overcrowding.  In a recent article, the ASPCA stated that approximately 3.1 million dogs are turned into shelters annually.  Understanding the keys to instinctive canine behavior can help owners establish leadership and begin changing their dogs’ behaviors and avoid being surrendered to a shelter.

Owners need to calmly and consistently demonstrate leadership to alleviate their dogs’ perceived need to make decisions for the household, a position most dogs find stressful and would rather not have.  Too many dog owners simply accept disruptive or aggressive behavior because they think it is normal or they do not know how to change it.  Gaining a better understanding of the dog psyche strengthens the lasting, emotional human-canine bond.  Learning how to communicate effectively with your dog in a language he understands, using voice control and body language is crucial in establishing a balance of bond, respect, and trust with your dog.  A good leader understands their dog’s needs and gives him directions about what to do next.

A leader does not project emotional or nervous energy, so neither should you.  In the wild, the pack leader uses calm-assertive energy to influence how each member interacts with his surroundings.  Establish your position as a leader by asking your dog to work.  Take him on a walk before feeding him.  Do not give affection or food unless your dog is in a calm-submissive state.  Never yell at or physically discipline your dog.  Redirect bad behavior with a desirable behavior so the dog understands its mistake.

The true test of leadership is knowing what fulfills your dog.  This creates balance.  Then formulate a training plan, set goals, and follow through.  This will create strength in your relationship.

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