The Best Ways to Teach an Unruly Dog Who Is the Boss

To have a good relationship, your dog must learn to listen to you.
Hemera Technologies/ Images

A dog who thinks he is boss creates problems large and small. The worst-case scenario is a dog that refuses to listen to his owner, and growls or even bites if the owner attempts to enforce any rules. A dog that is less aggressive can still create problems if he refuses to listen to you. He may chase the cat, refuse to get off the couch or get in the trash every chance he gets. This behavior is exhausting for the owner and others who live with the dog.

Step 1

Manage your dog while on walks. Use a regular lead when you have your dog out. Long leads and flexi-leads aren't a great idea for any dog, but for the dog who thinks he's boss, they can be a disaster. Keep your dog alongside you, his head even with your leg. A quick tug at the leash or change in direction should bring your dog back if he forges ahead. Change speed and direction frequently so your dog learns to listen and pay attention to you.

Step 2

Feed your dog after he performs. Before you hand your dog his dish, make him sit, lie down or perform another command. He needs to learn that you control his resources, and he needs to keep you happy if he wants to be happy.

Step 3

Play games that increase bonding and decrease conflict. Dogs that have a natural affinity for control and bossy behavior do not need the encouragement of playing tug-of-war or having you on the floor wrestling with them. Fetch and games that require mental stimulation, such as you hiding a treat that he then goes looking for, are fun games that enhance bonding.

Step 4

Keep him off the couch and other furniture. In addition to his crate, you may want to provide a dog bed for your pup in the room where you spend the most time. This will give him a soft spot to relax, and you won't feel compelled to let him up on the couch beside you. A dog that believes he is the boss should never be permitted on the furniture, which puts him on the same level as the people in the home.

Step 5

Stay off the floor. Just as your dog doesn't need to be up on the couch to relax, you shouldn't hang out in the floor with your dog. There needs to be a clear line of separation between where you hang out and where your dog hangs out.


  • Once your dog learns his boundaries and begins to show respect for you, you can loosen up the restrictions some, such as occasionally sitting on the floor to play with your pup. Pay attention to his behavior, though; some dogs willingly accept their status while others constantly challenge it. A dog that constantly challenges what is acceptable requires a firmer hand and less latitude than one that doesn't test the rules.

Items You Will Need

  • Walking leash
  • Dog bed