Communicating Leadership to Your Dog

A dog's instinctual behaviour is to seek calm, consistent leadership. Without this leadership, dogs usually misbehave as they try and be the pack leader.

October 23 2019
Communicating Leadership to Your Dog

Many dog owners buy a dog with the intention that he will be a member of the family, only to discover that the dog becomes the de facto head of the household. A dog's instinctual behaviour is to seek calm, consistent leadership-and to take charge himself if other "pack" members, including humans, do not demonstrate this leadership. This can lead to undesirable behaviours such as charging the door when the doorbell rings, barking, jumping, pulling on the lead and even biting-which are top reasons dogs are mistreated and euthanised.

Bark Busters, the world's largest dog training company, was started in Australia in 1989 by Sylvia and Danny Wilson, expert dog trainers and authors of several dog training books. Sylvia was head of an RSPCA shelter and studied the behaviour and communication methods of dogs for years. She was saddened by the number of dogs she saw being maltreated, abandoned and euthanised for behavioural problems, which she knew was due to a lack of consistent leadership. This became the basis for creating a unique, natural training system that teaches owners how to train their dogs through the use of voice tones and body language, all geared toward putting the owner in control through effective leadership. These techniques have propelled Bark Busters' phenomenal growth-now with hundreds of franchised offices around the world, including locations in Australia, New Zealand, US, Spain, Japan, Canada and U.K.

Dogs are the most common pet, with 38% of households owning a dog. There are estimated to be 4.8 million pet dogs in Australia; 20 dogs for every 100 people. (Stats found on RSPCA site...click here for more information). Understanding the keys to instinctive canine behaviour and following a few simple guidelines can help owners establish leadership and begin changing their dogs' undesirable behaviours:

  • Because dogs crave strong leadership, if they don't get it from their owners, they'll try to take charge. That leads to bad behaviours such as barking, jumping, aggression and pulling on the lead-each examples of the dog taking charge. Owners need to calmly and consistently demonstrate leadership to alleviate their dogs' perceived need to make decisions for the household-a position that most dogs find stressful and would rather not have.
  • There are several ways to establish leadership. First, ignore all requests from your dog, such as nudges to be patted or played with. To do so, break eye contact. Then, when your dog has "given up," call him back to you to be patted or to play. When he responds to you, versus you to him, he sees you as the leader. If he misbehaves, such as chewing on a child's toy, correct his behaviour vocally. As soon as he stops, offer pleasant, high-toned praise. The dog can then understand his mistake and learn a better choice from his trusted leader.
  • In a dog's instinctive social structure, the pack, the leader always leads-literally. Establish your leadership by always leading your dog-up and downstairs, through doorways, and especially on walks. Remember, the leader always leads.

Most dog owners simply accept the disruptive or aggressive behaviour of their dogs because they think it's normal or they don't know how to change it. Learning about leadership and canine communication is incredibly interesting for most dog-lovers.

Gaining a better understanding of the dog psyche strengthens the lasting, emotional human-canine bond, and learning how to communicate effectively with your dog in a language he understands-using voice control and body language-is a critical step in establishing a balance of bond, respect and trust with your dog, which can eliminate many behavioural issues. Through effective training, many dogs can be saved from being abandoned or unnecessarily euthanised.