Effective Leadership Part 1

Effective Leadership – the way to a happy pack”

Dogs naturally live in a pack with each member having a special role to play. The ‘alpha’ or lead dog and bitch are the ones who are best at hunting, protecting and nurturing the most young pups into adulthood. A successful, pack is functional and peaceful.

When a dog comes into our human pack, it should be easy for us to assume the ‘lead’ role – after all we control not only access to food, water and shelter but to a large extent exploration, exercise and social interaction as well. Good leaders are not only good providers however, they are
• kind (practice mutual respect)
• confident (able to keep their dog safe in all situations)
• understanding (not have unrealistic expectations)
• knowledgeable (provide structure and education )
• reliable
• consistent and
• fair.
It is your job to earn the respect of your dog not through physical domination or confrontation but by quiet, consistent demonstrations that you are in control of his environment and that all good things in life come through you. The following steps will help you to be an effective ‘leader of the pack’.
Step 1 – Have a plan
Many owners say they want their dog to ‘be good’- but ‘good’ is not a behaviour. Provide structure for your dog by planning exactly what you would like him to do in everyday situations – and have all the family stick to it! For example when visitors arrive are you happy if your dog keeps all four feet on the ground, would you prefer a sit or would you prefer your dog to stay on a mat in the kitchen? Once you have decided on the exact behaviour you want you can start to reward your dog for steps in the right direction. Be specific, be consistent and be patient.
Step 2 – Living is Learning
Your dog is learning from you every time you are together – not just when you are having a ‘training session’. In all your interactions with your dog be conscious of rewarding the things you like and ignoring the things you don’t like. Things that you reward will happen more and more often. Don’t forget to reward quiet, passive behaviours such as lying quietly and sitting. Use all the rewards you are likely to give your dog anyway such as part of his dinner, your attention, praise, cuddles or games but only provide them immediately following good behaviour. For behaviours that you wish to discourage, take away rewards. This could be as simple as looking away or stopping a game, to a minute of ‘time out’ in another room.
Step 3 – Nothing In Life is Free
Insist your dog says ‘please’ with a ‘sit’ (or any other behaviour you have trained) for anything he wants such as coming inside, going outside, having leash put on, waiting for dinner or playing with a toy. Let your dog learn that you control the consequences of his behaviour – a polite sit – dog gets his dinner delivered – jump up – and the food bowl moves away. Your dog is learning that he can control what happens to him by co-operating with you – this is empowering for both you and your dog .
Step 4 – To Have and to Hold
Your dog needs to learn that you have the right to restrain and hold him. This will be necessary for effective grooming and easy vet checks as well as being a great way to reinforce your role as leader. Handling and restraint should be associated with good times, massage, treats and positive attention, please, do not use physical force or fear. You want to teach your dog that all humans – male or female, young or old, weak or strong – have the right to gently hold and handle him. This is an exercise in trust and acceptance and may one day save your dog’ s life.
Step 5 – ‘What’s yours is mine too’!
Make a practice of regularly taking toys and chewies from your dog, looking at them and either giving them straight back or swapping them for something better. This is a safer way to teach your dog it’s ok to share than trying to use power tactics to persuade him to give up a bone or toy . The aim is to form a positive association between people and possessions so that the approach of any human – big or small – is good news for your dog.

Step 6 – Every game has rules
Games can be a great way to have fun with your dog and to reward him for good behaviour but there are some definite do’s and don’ts.
√ Teach your dog to retrieve. Bringing toys back to you is a great way to reinforce your leadership position especially if you wait for a ‘sit’ before throwing the toy again.
√ Keep possession of toys you play with together like balls or tug ropes and only bring them out when you feel like playing. Toys are effective rewards and shouldn’t be given away ‘for nothing’. Remember all good things in life come through you!

[This article first appeared in Dog’s Life magazine and is reproduced here by kind
permission of the author]

Article courtesy of Karin Larsen Bridge, partner of Get S.M.A.R.T. Dog Training, Sydney.
You can also follow this and other articles at my publishing site publishing site.

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