How to Establish Yourself as a Pack Leader in a Family With Dogs

by Madeline Masters
Use standard leashes (not the retractable kind) when training your dogs to walk on leash properly.

Use standard leashes (not the retractable kind) when training your dogs to walk on leash properly.

Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Becoming the leader of your pack not only makes your life easier, but makes life better for your dogs. Dogs are social animals who need someone to guide them. When they're pups, they have their mother, and when they leave the nest, that guidance should come from you.

Step 1

Set your mind to alpha mode. You want to emit what celebrity dog trainer Cesar Milan refers to as "calm, assertive energy." This energy is what projects your leadership to your dogs more than any of your actions or words.

Step 2

Take on the behaviors of the leader. An easy place to start is with eye contact. Hold eye contact with your dogs until they look away. This doesn't have to be a hard stare or in any way threatening, just a steady, calm gaze. When your dogs look away first, they defer to you.

Step 3

Be the first one to walk through doorways and enter rooms. If the dogs charge into a room, they'll act like they own the place and see it as their territory. By making them wait, you demonstrate that they are receiving a privilege by entering your territory.

Step 4

Show your dogs that everything in the home is yours -- even their toys, beds and food. If your dogs are possessive of their toys, keep them somewhere they can't get to them unless you give them. Dogs should always relinquish their toys to you when you request them.

Step 5

Make sure you always "win" when you play with your dogs. Even if you're letting your tiny schnauzer run off with the squeaky banana intentionally, your dog won't know it, and he'll think he's won a victory over you, challenging your position as leader.

Step 6

Maintain your territory. Does your dog love the same spot on the couch as you? Tell him "down." It's your spot. He can sleep somewhere else. That's why you bought him that fancy dog bed he never uses!

Step 7

Eat first. In the wild, the alpha dog gets first choice of food. Your dogs may whine and complain while you sit to eat and their bowls remain empty, but after a while of this routine they'll learn that their dinner is coming, as soon as you're done with yours.

Step 8

Reward dogs with treats, affection or food only when they are in a calm, submissive state. Giving them what they want when they're misbehaving reinforces that behavior.

Step 9

Make your dogs heel when you're out on walks. In a dog's mind, whoever is in front is literally leading the pack. If you are walking multiple dogs at once, put their leash handles on a large carabineer and hold it just behind you to encourage the dogs to walk behind you as a group.

Items You Will Need

  • Dog toys
  • Standard leashes

Tips

  • Consistency in your behavior and expectations from your dogs is key to helping them learn to be good pack members.
  • If your dogs are a real handful to walk together, try taking them on separate walks until they develop good on-leash behavior.

Warnings

  • Acting as the leader is not the same as being the aggressor. Do not use physical correction with your dogs. This can lead to increased aggression in your pups.
  • If your dog is aggressive, consult a dog behaviorist about the best way to proceed with his training.
  • If you become angry at your dogs because of their misbehavior, leave the situation. It's totally understandable to get upset at times when dogs don't listen, but it won't help in their training. Come back when you are back at baseline.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

About the Author

Madeline Masters works as a dog walker and professional writer. In the past she has worked as a fitness columnist, fundraising copywriter and news reporter. Masters won two Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Awards in 2009. She graduated from Elizabethtown College with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

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