Effictive Leadership Part 2

Good leaders are good teachers
Dogs know how to live in a dog pack but they need to learn how to live in a human pack. We have different codes of conduct and firm ideas about ‘polite’ behaviour. A good leader is above all a good teacher, providing structure and learning opportunities to help a dog integrate into our human world. By implementing the steps in Part 1 of this article, even the rowdiest dog will soon learn that doing the things you want is the best way to get the things he wants – a win/win situation for all.
√ Teach your dog an ‘on’ and ‘off’ switch by interrupting games every minute or so with a sit or a down. This is especially true for games of ‘tug’. Teach your dog to let go on a cue such as ‘enough’ – stand, still as you do so and look totally uninterested in continuing the game. As soon as your dog let’s go either reward with a treat or invite to play again with your ‘on’ cue such as ‘playtime’. Now you are able to use play as a reward for quiet behaviour which gives you excellent control of your dog and the games you play together.
√ Quit play immediately if your dog seems to be getting over excited or if teeth should touch human flesh (even accidentally).
√ Encourage children to play suitable games ‘by the rules’ with the dog and supervise as necessary.
√ Make sure you and your children spend lots of quiet time with your dog as well as play time.

  • X Don’t Play any wrestling games with your dog. This will only convince your dog that you are another dog and can be treated as such. It will do nothing to teach your dog respect for humans in general. This rule applies to adults, teenagers and children. Many dogs have been labelled aggressive due to inappropriate play in puppy hood.
  • X Don’t’ Allow your dog to bite/wrestle/tug directly on human skin – all play should be directed onto toys.
  • X Don’t Allow games of chasing. Chasing after your dog will only convince him that he can direct the games and can’t be caught! Allowing your dog to chase you or your children encourages nipping and biting.
  • X Don’t Allow young children to play with any dog unsupervised.

Step 7 – School’s in!
Teaching your dog to follow a few basic commands is a great way to reinforce your position as leader and gives you a chance to practice ‘compliance’ on a regular basis. If possible, children should also be allowed to train with the dog (under supervision) so that the dog learns that these ‘little people’ are also above them in the pack hierarchy. There are four important exercises all dogs should know.
1. ‘Settle’
Following on from the ‘handling and restraint’ exercise above, teach your dog to ‘settle’ quietly in the house. Assuming your dog’s need for exercise and play have been met, bring your dog into the home and reward him regularly for ‘settling’ in his special place. This can be your dog’s confinement area, in a crate, on a mat, or tied next to your chair. Your dog needs to know that, as leader you are able to gently ‘insist’ on quiet times and that good thing happen to puppies who co-operate.
2. ‘Sit’ and/or ‘down’
Teach your dog to ‘sit’ and to ‘down’ by luring him into position with a small treat. Drop the lure and move your hand in exactly the same way – then reward from the other hand. Soon your dog will recognize your hand signals for these behaviours.
3. ‘Come’
Dogs who have learned to trust and feel safe with their leaders should happily come when called. Teach your dog from the start that coming to you will always be a good choice.
4. Walk nicely on lead
Dogs don’t have to walk perfectly by your side to respect you as the leader but by the same token they ought not to drag you from pillar to post. If your dog has learnt to accept restraint, he should quickly accept the restraint imposed by a leash. The next step is to make it clear to your dog that you decide which direction you are going to move. Change direction frequently and only move forward when there is no tension on the leash.

Article courtesy of Karin Larsen Bridge, partner of Get S.M.A.R.T. Dog Training, Sydney.
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