All Things Dog

Who Rules Your House: You or Your Dog?

Your dog starts to whine, so you get up and fill his food dish. He jumps up on the sofa or bed and somehow manages to take over the entire space. He scratches at the door and you let him out. Does this scenario sound familiar? How did your dog suddenly become the one in charge?

Take control of what's important to your dog

The key to getting your household back is by controlling those resources that are important to your dog—things like position, food, play, exercise, and attention. While it might feel like you're being too tough at times, it's important that you re-establish your role as pack leader. If you think about it, it's not unlike being a parent. You lay ground rules for your children because you want to teach them what's right and wrong, and what's safe.

Important steps to take

  • Don't allow your dog to have access to bedrooms, chairs, or laps without your permission.
  • When you let your dog outside, command him to "wait" or "stay" at the door first. Then, open the door, step outside first, and tell him to "come."
  • Never allow your dog to start or finish games: You should do this and play on your terms, not his. For instance, if your dog will not bring the ball back to you, walk away and end the game.
  • Make your dog sit and wait before you give him his meal.
  • Do not allow your dog to pull on the lead or "demand" to go for a walk.

If your dog is showing signs of aggression by snarling or growling, don't approach him, and never try to physically punish him. Simply say nothing, walk away, and leave him on his own for about half an hour. If you must return to the room, completely ignore him and do not respond to any attention-seeking behavior. Walking away is a powerful punishment for aggression and is not the same as "backing down."

It may feel strange at first to act this way toward your dog. You may feel like you're being unfair or cold. However, as a pack animal, your dog understands your actions and, in the end, will be more than happy to play "follow the leader." He'll also end up having more respect for you.

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