Taking charge over your best friend is a fundamental task if you want to be able to live peacefully and happily together. Dogs are direct descendants of wolves, which live in packs obeying a very simple hierarchy. In all packs, there is an alpha male who is the leader of the pack and the one who decides and commands. What you need to do with your pet is make him understand that you, his owner, are the alpha male and as such, he should respect and obey you. It’s really simple to learn how to be an alpha male.
A dog who thinks he’s the alpha male is an unpredictable and potentially dangerous dog. It might not seem like a big deal, but it’s actually one of the most important things to teach your dog; if he doesn’t understand that you’re the alpha male, you’ll never be able to take charge of him.
It’s important to realize that he will only have one owner; even if there are five of you at home and everyone wants to be his owner, he will only identify one as the alpha male. This doesn’t mean he won’t be respectful and obedient with the others, on the contrary; it just means that he’ll understand one member of the family as the leader. Never, ever let your child or any of the younger family members be the alpha male. Over time, he’ll see that they must respect their parents and this will confuse his concept of who is the leader of the pack. Your family is his pack.
It’s very important to understand that this only applies when you have a very dominant dog. And before thinking that your dog might have a problem understanding who’s in charge, you should first assess if he has been previously socialized with other dogs and people.
Only when your dog understands that you are the alpha male of the pack will he obey you, and will you be able to start training him in something else. Below, we’re
going to discuss some vitally important points to teach your pet who’s in charge:
- Never, under any circumstances, use physical or psychological violence to punish your pet. This will never teach him that you’re the alpha male, just that you are someone to be scared of. He would never do that to you, so don’t do it to him. To train him or show him who the leader is, you don’t need to punish him or yell. You just have to do things correctly so he can understand.
- Your dog isn’t stupid: if he doesn’t learn, it’s possible you’re the one being stupid. You’ve probably explained it a thousand times and he doesn’t listen, but think for a second… does he understand you? He’s a dog! He can’t understand us, so we have to make him learn things the way other dogs learn. You have to learn to think like a dog to be able to get him to rise to the challenge.
Now that we’ve clarified those very important points, let’s talk about the steps you should follow to teach your dog or puppy who the leader of the pack is. Remember that this won’t be accomplished in a day, or even in a week… you have to be persistent, and you’ll see that gradually your dominance will take charge over his. Let’s take a look:
- The owner is the first to exit the house or door, and the first to enter the house or door. Your dog should always go behind you or only leave when you tell him to – you should never let him be the first to enter or leave.
- On walks, you should use a short leash and never let your dog go out in front of you. That will make him think that he’s the leader and is something you shouldn’t stand for. He should walk at your side or behind, never in front. When the walk is finished, it’s good to let him go free for a bit (where possible, in a field, dog areas, etc.) so he can blow off some steam, run and smell whatever he wants.
- Don’t ever let your dog jump up on you or try to jump with his front paws. As the leader, you shouldn’t let him do that.
- If his dinnertime is the same as yours, you eat first and then when you’re finished, he eats. You should never let your dog eat before you if you’re eating at the same time, as this will make him think he’s more important than you. If meal times are different, there’s no problem, he can eat before or after.
- The owner decides when to play and when not to play. Never let your dog be the one to decide when it’s time to play and when playtime is over… this is a mistake. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play with him, just that if you don’t feel like playing, he shouldn’t insist. Give him a firm “No” and he should obey.
- Don’t play fight or tug of war, etc. The best games are throwing a ball or frisbee so he can run and get it. Afterwards, you should teach him patiently to give the ball back to you to throw it again.
- Don’t let him on the bed or sofa. You might think it sounds silly, but it’s a very effective way to show him that this is your space and that you’re in charge of which spaces he can and cannot enter at home.
- Brush him often, even if it’s not necessary. It’s a way to teach him that you can touch him when and where you want, without him complaining.
- When you feed him, hold the bowl in your hand and have him sit (with the command “sit”). When he sits, put the bowl on the floor a little ways away, a few feet for example. And don’t let him move or go to the bowl until he looks at your eyes. When he makes eye contact with you, give him permission to start eating (with the command “come”).
- Don’t stroke him just because. If you want to pet and rub him, have him do something first. A simple “sit” or “lie down” is enough to give him lots of caresses and belly rubs, after he’s obeyed.
As you can see, they are very simple rules that are easy to do. They’re so easy in fact that it’s hard to believe that these things are enough to make him understand that you’re the leader. But the truth is that with just these small habits, he will understand perfectly who is leader of the pack.
To do this with puppies, you need to remember that puppies aren’t self-aware until they’re four or five months old and that they hardly have any reasoning ability until they’re one year old. For that reason, you should use these guidelines but gently. It will be really difficult for puppies to follow the rules but that’s completely understandable. Nonetheless, you should be strict with the rule about entering and exiting, getting on the bed or sofa, brushing him and walking.
Consistently following these guidelines will make your dog understand that you are the alpha male, not him. There’s no need to punish or scold him, just follow these simple rules.