Establishing Yourself as the Pack Leader for Your Dog
Positive Reinforcement Dog Training Helps Owners Assume Role as Pack Leader
Moviegoers can likely identify with the storyline in which one of the characters portrays a very intimidating individual who simply does or takes whatever they want without regard for other people or their property. In this representation, this person may be particularly aggressive, argumentative, uncooperative, undisciplined in their actions and behaviours, or a combination thereof, thus making very few friends, if any, among the audience.
In many of these settings, the root cause of such a personality (some may use the term bully) is traced back to the lack of a role model in the character’s childhood or to parents who raised the child in an overindulgent environment without any appreciable discipline, responsibility, or consequences; in either circumstance, any undesirable behaviours later in life are often attributed to the lack of guidance and/or the lack of exposure at a young age to acceptable versus unacceptable conduct.
A parallel exists in owning and raising a dog; there are countless examples of young and adult dogs that are poorly behaved, almost to the point of being uncontrollable, due to a lack of adequate training and structure (or none at all) early in life. Of course, there are innumerable examples of respectful, well-behaved, and happy dogs also. The difference is commonly linked to owners who established themselves as leaders, or as the alpha, in their relationships with their canine companions.
It is an accepted fact that dogs are basically pack animals, and within the pack mentality there is a natural/inherent need for a clearly-defined leader, or the alpha dog. In a dog-owner relationship, there is an expectation that the owner will assume that role as pack leader; however, if this opportunity is not grasped early in the relationship, or perhaps neglected altogether, the dog will gladly adopt the alpha role. And that can spell trouble for the future, similar to the movie character’s behaviours as described above.
It is typically more effective if dog owners use an approach that combines collaboration with assertiveness when establishing their position as a pack leader; this is in contrast to a more belligerent and confrontational method, much like the stereotypical, no-nonsense military commander who shouts orders and speaks condescending to their troops as a means of instituting their dominance. Stated another way, the incorporation of positive reinforcement will produce far greater success in the owner’s dog training efforts versus trying to introduce fear and/or instilling any threats of punishment into the relationship.
Based on this approach, here are 10 essential steps in the dog training process that will help both owner and dog in establishing/recognizing the pack leader in their relationship:
- Enroll the dog in professional training classes – to teach basic obedience commands
- Set boundaries inside the home – limit dog’s access to certain rooms, furniture, etc.
- Control amounts of food/water – establish what, when, how much dog can consume
- Always take the lead – go through all doors, corridors, gates, etc. in front of the dog
- Teach dog to walk calmly on a leash by owner’s side – no leading, pulling, or lunging
- Leave and return without excitement – enter/exit in a low-key manner (no big deal)
- Positive reinforcement – lavish praise when dog responds appropriately to its training
- Consistency – dogs learn by repetition; all family members must use same methods
- Include regular activity (daily walks) to keep the dog physically and mentally healthy
- Make dog training fun – include rewards and play time; avoid that all-work mentality
Asserting oneself in the position of pack leader can be done independent of the dog’s age or breed; this is instinctual for dogs, remember, so perhaps look at it as a natural part of their lives. Whether the dog is puppy-age, adopted/rescued, or a mature dog yet to be enrolled in obedience school training, owners can still strive to achieve the alpha position in their relationships.
This effort will set the foundation for a stronger bond and a more rewarding relationship between the owner and the dog, while also creating an environment for the dog lead to a happier, healthier, and more comfortable life.
Dog Obedience School is an Important Step in Establishing the Pack Leader
Of the 10 suggested steps in establishing and recognizing the pack leaders in owner-dog relationships, none may have greater importance than registering the dog for obedience school; in fact, it is recommended that enrolling the dog in training classes take place very early in the overall training process as it will lay the groundwork for any/all future training as the dog adapts to its new surroundings and blends in with its new family.
Dog owners can create this critical footing, so to speak, through the expertise of the dog training professionals from Alpha Paws. These skilled dog trainers can deliver obedience training in one of these ways:
- Board-and-Train: dog remains at the Alpha Paws facility for 10 days
- 10-Day Drop-Off: dog is dropped off/picked up by its owner each day
- Private Lessons: 1-on-1 training at Alpha Paws or in the dog’s home
In these dog training classes, the dog and/or its owners will be exposed to the following:
- Basic obedience commands, given verbally and through hand gestures
- The use of positive reinforcement when the dog responds appropriately
- On-leash training (outdoors); introduction to off-leash training (indoors)
To learn more about the dog obedience training programs available from the specialists at Alpha Paws, please go to
For assistance or support in establishing your role as the pack leader with your dog, call the professionals from Alpha Paws toll-free at 1-647-694-4584 today to discuss which of our dog training classes would be most suitable for you, your dog, and your schedule.