9 Ways to Establish Yourself as the Pack Leader for Your Dog

Every dog owner assumes that when they get a dog that they are going to be the dog’s master, because they paid for the dog and they are the owner and are providing food and shelter for the dog. Most of the time their assumption is accurate and becomes reality.

However, there are times that this scenario does not work out and the dog ends up thinking it is the leader of the group with which it lives.

At this point, the dog has become the pack leader and many, many problems arise. The story usually ends with the dog going to the local animal shelter hopefully to be adopted by some unsuspecting new family, or the dog is destroyed if no new owners are found within a reasonable period.

Dogs have a non-verbal language and as such learn in non-verbal methods. In the wild, it is probable that one animal may learn by imitating another, but this is certainly not a rational process.

Instead, the young may simply follow adult animals and gradually go through the process of performing, practicing and perfecting various behavior patterns.

The pet dog does not have pack members to follow and learn from, hence the human family must provide the necessary behavior patterns for the young dog to learn. The following behavior program on the part of the human pack will insure that the dog is able to learn the proper role and live out its life as an acceptable member of the pack that has chosen it.

1. Always eat first.

In the wild, the pack leader provides the food for the pack by selecting an animal for the kill and leading the pack in the attack and killing the prey animal. After the kill has been made, the pack leader is the first to eat and is able to choose the choice parts of the prey to eat. The subordinates are allowed to eat after the pack leader has made his choice and eaten.

In order to provide the proper role for the young dog you have to assume the position of pack leader and provide the food for the dog. However, there is one more step you have to perform. That is eating first, before the subordinate pack member eats. In order to accomplish this you should eat something before feeding the dog. Eat your breakfast in the morning before you feed the dog and your lunch before you feed the dog, if you feed the dog at mid-day.

Eat your supper before you feed the dog its evening meal, and if you feed the young dog four times a day, eat crackers or something before you feed the dog the last meal of the day.

If you have an older dog, whenever you feed the dog, eat something before you feed the dog. This will establish you as the pack leader in the mind of the dog and along with the other behaviors you will be taught to perform, will establish the dog as subordinate to you.

If the dog does not eat all of its food in ten to fifteen minutes, you should pick up the food dish and dispose of the food. Feed the next scheduled meal at the proper time.

2. Choose the resting spot.

In the wild, the pack leader always gets the choice resting spot. No subordinate would dare to lay on the spot that the leader has chosen for him. This means that you sleep in the bed and the dog sleeps on the floor. In fact, you can provide a spot for the dog to lie, such as a blanket or pillow and instruct the dog to lay on that spot.

You are the pack leader and are picking the sleeping area for the subordinate pack member. The dog should not be permitted to sleep on the bed with a child, because this will make the child a litter mate in the mind of the dog.

This will put the child in a position to have the dog treat it as a litter mate and engage in all the types of play activity that go on between littermates.

Many times the problem of a dog mouthing a child or pulling on the child’s clothing or jumping on the child is a result of the dog looking upon the child as a littermate to play with, rather than a higher ranking pack member.

3. Go first to lead.

In the wild, the pack leader leads the pack in a physical sense. This means that when the pack is moving, the pack leader is leading where the pack is going. It is the pack leader that decides where the pack travels. In the pack you are leading it is important that you always go first.

Never let the dog go through a doorway before you. If you are going down the steps, make the dog follow you down the steps, not go first. If you are going down the hallway, make the dog follow you down the hallway, not go first.

The pack leader goes first! If the dog is lying in the door way and you want to go through the doorway, do not step over the dog or walk around the dog, gently nudge the dog with your toe and make the dog move out of the pack leaders way!

4. Initiate eye contact.

In the pack, the leader always initiates eye contact with subordinates and will stare at the subordinate pack member until that member turns his gaze away from the pack leader. In order to teach this to your dog, take a piece of food in your left hand and hold it against your left cheek just under your left eye and say ” watch me”.

When the dog looks up at the piece of food make eye contact and hold it until the dog looks away. As soon as the dog looks away give it the piece of food as a reward. Practice this at least three times a day for several months until your position of pack leader is well established.

5. Make the subordinate earn attention.

The pack leader never initiates attention with subordinates. The subordinates come to the leader and lick his muzzle and groom the leader. The dog must earn attention – rewards – from you as the leader. When the dog comes to you for attention, you must make the dog earn the attention by doing something for you.

Give the dog a behavior to perform such as “SIT” or “DOWN”. Everything the dog does for attention must be controlled by the leader. Do not initiate physical contact with the dog. Let the dog come to you for attention, and make the dog earn the attention you give it.

6. Be the boss.

The pack leader never lets a subordinate get away with anything. This would undermine his authority with the pack. Any member of the pack that gets out of line gets the wrath of the leader. In most instances a brief, furious assault takes place with fur flying, but no serious harm inflicted on the subordinate.

This means that when you give the dog a behavior to perform, the dog must perform the behavior. If you call the dog and tell it to come and the dog does not respond, you must go to the dog and give the dog what is known as a “MOTHER BITCH” correction. Step to the dogs left side and grasp it by the scruff of the neck and shake it three or four times and guide the dog towards you.

Make sure that the dog comes to you. Never tell the dog twice to perform a desired behavior. This teaches the dog that it does not need to listen to you the first time you tell it to perform a behavior. If the behavior you tell the dog is “SIT” the dog must be made to respond to the required behavior even if you have to physically go to the dog and have him properly respond.

7. Win every game.

The pack leader never lets another member of the pack act as the leader. Therefore when you play a game with your dog, you must always play a game you can win. You, as leader start the game and decide when the game ends. Never let the dog end the game by walking off and doing something else, letting you standing there with nothing to do but go sit down.

When playing chase the ball, watch the dog, and before the dog tires, stop the game by taking the ball and putting it away. Do not play tug of war games with the dog as this is a technique used in agitation training and the dog gets very excited during this type of training and learns to use his mouth in manner that is used in killing prey. In addition, the dog has the ability to keep tugging and you are generally the one that lets go of the article, thus letting the dog think it has won.

8. Make the subordinate submit to the leader.

In the wild, the pack leader will hold a subordinate by the muzzle and make the subordinate submit to the leader. You are the leader when petting your dog. Let the dog know this by putting your hand over the dogs muzzle and gently hold it there.

Increase the time you hold the muzzle until you are in complete control of all parts of the dog’s body.

The dog must let you as the leader do what ever you want to do with any part of the dogs anatomy, if its grooming the dog or looking in its mouth or brushing the teeth, or checking the ears. The dog must submit to your control.

This is accomplished on a gradual basis by first getting the dog use to your hand on the muzzle. As you hold the muzzle, gently pet the dog on its neck and back. Do this for a few seconds to begin with; gradually increasing the time you can hold the muzzle. Transfer this technique to other parts of the body, until you have absolute control.

9. Make the subordinate assume a lower position.

The pack leader always makes its subordinates assume a position that is lower than the leaders. If the leader perceives any act on the part of a subordinate as a threat, that animal is made to assume the down position and expose its belly to the leader. This position is known as total submission.

You must practice making your dog respond to your putting it in the down position and eventually exposing it belly. The down position is a difficult learning behavior for the dog because it is a subordinate behavior. The dog is most vulnerable in this position. Hence, teach your dog the down position and rub its belly at least once a day. It will become pleasurable for the dog and help you to establish your position as leader.

Learn to use every opportunity with the dog to teach the dog you are in command of its environment and that you provide the safe, protective atmosphere the dog desires.