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Training your dog: how to be a pack leader

If you own a dog it’s important to get the balance of power right from the start – here’s how.

A dog is instinctively a pack animal and will see you, its owner, and anyone else in the household as its pack, so it is important to make sure it understands its position at the bottom of the pack hierarchy.

This does not mean bullying the dog, but simply being assertive. Famed ‘Dog Whisperer’ Cesar Millan says: ‘In the absence of a clear leader, a dog, even a submissive one, will seek to fill what they see as the vacant leadership role. The dog will ignore the owner, act out, and this can lead to serious behaviour issues.’

Here’s a quick tip list for being your dog’s pack leader:

  • Don’t shower your dog with affection and baby talk, which will get them over-excited. Instead, always address them with calm authority.
  • Stay calm at all times. A dog will mirror your energy – if you are frustrated, the dog will be too.
  • Take your dog for regular walks – pent up energy can lead to bad behaviour.
  • Walk in front of your dog – don’t let him drag you around. Be first out of the door and first back in.
  • Stop playing games and remove toys immediately if your dog touches your hand with its teeth or begins to growl aggressively or get over excited.
  • Dominant dogs always have the best sleeping places. Don’t let your dog sleep on your bed or furniture.
  • Give food only when the dog is submissive and calm.
  • If convenient, make the dog wait until you have finished eating before you give it its food – in the wild the pack leader always eats first.
  • When training a young dog, give it a bone or a treat, but make it sit and wait until you say ‘OK’ before it is allowed to eat it.
  • Always be consistent in your behaviour towards your dog.

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