Showing pack leadership in dog training
By Martin Deeley
Your dog is often watching you and learning from your actions and reactions just like children do. So training cannot be just a formal five, 10 or 15 minutes of your day. It should take place all the time because your dog learns from everything you do.
You shout at your spouse or the kids and guess what? He picks up on that energy and may think it is directed at him. You feel irritable and under the weather? He knows it. If you make a mistake with your dog, he will remember the body language and repercussions. Of course, the opposite is true also.
Mind your energy
When we are with your dog, it is important to realize that he is learning from your movements, sounds, and the scenting of your emotions.
Your dog will be uncertain, confused, and even resistant at times to what you want to show him. Because of this, you need to be confident, positive, and persistent. Provide him with clear direction and be consistent.
If you are not confident he will realize this and become unsure. You need to show him that you have things under control. Think through what you want him to do, and project calm-assertive energy at all times.
A dog cannot be confident unless his Pack Leader is confident. Carry yourself with confidence so the dog believes in you and wants to follow your positive guidance.
Think of it as teaching dancing where you have to know what the steps are and show someone else by leading them. This is what your dog is looking for.
Consistency comes from your following through with a routine. Remember exercise, discipline, and affection—always in this order.
Patience is key
Sometimes we may even take our feelings out on our dog. It’s a mistake. When you are feeling under the weather or getting frustrated—put your dog somewhere he cannot be the target of your bad mood.
When showing your dog what is required, or when initiating a dog training session, give yourself time. Be patient, stay calm and be clear in your instruction.
One loss of temper can create a lifetime of a bad behavior. So, if you feel the temperature rising, count to 20, and only when you are able to project calm and assertive, you are ready to start again.
Even if you have to simply sit there with your dog for some time, do it. The stress level will drop in both of you, and then you can move forward together in harmony.
Relaxing with your dog
Your dog can calm you. Sit nicely with him, breathe deeply, and let each of you find calmness together. Sit with your dog and let the world settle around you. Just having your hand on his shoulder, feeling his energy, can create a feeling of contentment, helping you to forget some of the pressures of the world.
Take puppy steps
It is always a big temptation to go one step too far, which can result in three steps backwards. Stop on a success stage with each session. Set targets but always be aware that you may not be able to achieve it that day. Train step by step with approximations to achieve behaviors, leading to the final result you desire.
Keep in mind that even dogs have off days, like we do. Don’t make excuses for him, but if he has been out for a long run, or has been playing with the kids or other dogs, or facing a health issue he may be less focused. Not only do we need to dog train when we are being our best selves, we need to read our dog and ensure he is being his best self too.