Before you can have a balanced pack, you have to have a Pack Leader, and the leader(s) needs to be every human in the pack, all the way from the oldest family member to the youngest — including the grandparents and even the baby.
In order to achieve this position, you have to let your dog know that the people are in charge, but you can’t do that with words. You have to communicate with your dog in the way that she’ll understand, which means that you have to learn to think like a dog.
Before you can think like a dog, you have to understand dog psychology. Below are five important steps to take to put yourself in the Pack Leader position, as well as links to Cesar’s detailed explanations of each point.
- Have the right energy
Animals communicate with energy and body language. It’s why a squirrel can perceive a dog as a threat and a human with a peanut as not. It’s also how animals of different species can get along and co-exist, even forming what humans like to call friendships.Having weak or negative energy is like mumbling. Before your dogs can hear what you’re saying, you have to put yourself in a calm, assertive state.
- Create the rules
Your dog wants you to tell them what to do. Otherwise, they can become anxious or confused, or misbehave by testing the limits of what’s allowed. This is why you need to create rules, boundaries, and limitations, and enforce them.Rules determine what a dog can and cannot do — such as whether they’re allowed on the furniture or not, or whether they can come near when the family is eating, and so on. Boundaries determine where a dog can and cannot go and what a dog does and doesn’t “own” — for example, the dog can’t go out the front door uninvited, or can’t go into the baby’s room. Finally, limitations determine how long or how intensely a dog can do something — when the Pack Leader decides that playtime is over, it’s over.
- Be consistent
Animals learn by making associations between cause and effect — “If I touch my human’s hand with my paw, I get a treat,” or “When I sniffed the oven door, it hurt my nose, so I must avoid the oven.” There’s even an old folk saying that describes the idea perfectly: “A scalded dog will run away from cold water.”Making these associations is how animals survive, but it’s also how dogs try to figure out what you want from them. It becomes confusing for them, though, when a particular cause does not always lead to the same effect. If you only make them get down from the couch once in a while, then the dog will always get on the couch. When you create those rules, boundaries, and limitations, you need to enforce them consistently — and consistency doesn’t mean just when you’re at home with your dog or just when you’re on the walk. It means all of the time, and from every human in the pack.
- Fulfill your dog
A Pack Leader’s job is to provide protection and direction. Consistent rules are part of the direction aspect, while a big part of protection is providing for a dog’s needs. This doesn’t mean just food, water, and a safe place to sleep. You also need to fulfill your dog’s psychology needs, which are for exercise, discipline, and affection, in that order. Exercise drains excess energy from the body, while discipline helps your dog’s mind. Affection comes last, as a reward for calm, submissive behavior.
- Feel, don’t think
Dogs are primarily instinctual, not intellectual, so we can’t negotiate with them using words no matter how hard we try. It also doesn’t help if we try to interpret a dog’s behavior in terms of human emotions — a dog that’s bouncing all over the place and jumping on people is not happy; he’s over-excited and doesn’t know what to do with all the extra energy.Since humans are animals, too, we have the ability to communicate with energy in both directions. We’ve just lost touch with that ability over time, but we can regain it by turning off the voice in our head and listening to our gut instead.Dogs are not complicated creatures. It’s the humans who create the complication. All they want from us is leadership. In return, they will give us all the love and loyalty we can take.
Are you your dog’s Pack Leader? Tell us in the comments.