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.

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.

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