One of the things that people mention most often when asked about what their dogs give them is “unconditional love.” It seems that, no matter how our dogs are feeling or how we humans are acting, the dog is always there to show its love for us.
The more important question to ask, though, is, “Does my dog respect me?” Your dog can show you all the love in the world and yet still not respect you as the Pack Leader. Does he chew up your clothes or furniture? Does she jump on you in excitement when you get home? Does he seem to ignore any command you give?
Those are the acts of a dog not showing respect, no matter how much he seems to love you. Note that I don’t say that your dog is disrespecting you. That implies an intentionally negative feeling that dogs aren’t really capable of. But your dog is failing to show respect by treating you as an equal.
Testing the limits
When your dog treats you as an equal, it means that you’re not being the Pack Leader. Now a lot of people may think that’s fine. After all, dogs are known as “man’s best friend” for a reason. But dogs don’t want to be equal in the pack, and only a very few of them are born to want to be in charge.
By not showing respect for your territory and your rules, your dog is telling you, “Hey, I’m not sure what you want, so I’m going to keep testing until you actually act like a leader.” Sometimes, people react to this in exactly the wrong way. They know their dog is misbehaving, but they don’t step in and provide discipline and correction because they’re afraid of hurting the dog’s feelings.
A vicious cycle
It becomes a vicious cycle. The dog keeps pushing the limits and the human becomes more and more frustrated. But, instead of giving the dog the rules, boundaries, and limitations that she needs, the human may just yell and get angry. This will stop the dog’s behavior in the moment, but not teach her to never do it again.
Without leadership, a dog lacks direction, a sense of belonging to the pack, and of having a purpose. To a dog, this is extremely frustrating, and frustrated dogs will develop all kinds of behavioral problems.
In order to gain your dog’s respect, you must become the Pack Leader. Here’s how and why that works.
It begins with trust
Before your dog can respect you and follow your leadership, he must trust you. The best way to earn that trust is to be calm and assertive whenever you’re with him. Calm energy will reassure him that there’s nothing to worry about because you’re not nervous or tense or upset. Assertiveness will show your dog that you have things in control.
To a dog, calm and assertive energy is almost like a magnet. If you watch a bunch of dogs in the park, you’ll notice that certain ones seem to naturally attract the others, and when those calm, assertive dogs move around the park, they have followers behind them. They don’t demand that the other dogs follow them because they don’t have to. It’s something that’s hardwired into them and it’s instinctual.
When you’ve mastered projecting calm and assertive energy, you’ll notice that your dog will start to follow you without trying to get in your space or herd you. Congratulations! Your dog trusts you.
As I always say, a Pack Leader’s job is to provide protection and direction. Once your dog feels protected, she will trust you. The next step is to create those rules, boundaries and limitations — teach your dog where she can and cannot go and what she can and cannot do, and control the length of time she can do it.
Once you have their trust and have claimed what’s yours, then your dog will respect you and look up to you as the Pack Leader. They also won’t love you any less for it. The only reason that they won’t love you more is that they already loved you as much as they possibly could.
Stay calm, and earn respect!
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