Dogs have a specific way of interacting, which includes an instinctual manner of communication. Learning how to communicate effectively with your dog in a language he understands is the first step in establishing your leadership. By leveraging a dog’s instinctual communication techniques using voice control and body language, we humans can learn a new language that clearly positions us as leaders, which results in a balanced relationship of bond, trust and respect with our canine companions.
Dogs crave good leadership, and if they don’t get it from their owners, they’ll take charge. This can lead to bad behaviors such as barking, jumping, aggression and pulling on the leash—all examples of the dog taking charge.
There are several ways for an owner to establish leadership. It is very typical for an owner to want to go to his dog instead of making the dog come to him or her. This communicates to the dog that he is the leader, as the leader will always have the other members of the pack come to him.
You can also establish leadership by always walking ahead of your dog, whether it is up the stairs, through doorways or especially on walks. In your dog’s mind, the leader always leads. All requests from your dog must be granted on your terms. When a dog constantly nudges you to be petted, for example, you should break eye contact immediately. When he has given up, call him back to you to be petted or to play. When he responds to you, versus you to him, he will begin to see you as the leader.
Oftentimes owners grab their dogs or, in the case of small dogs, pick them up, to stop them from going somewhere or doing something undesirable. However, when an owner is physical in this manner, the dog has only two options: fight or flight. If a dog can’t run to get away, his next option is to bite. This may not happen in every situation, but the dog will inevitably feel threatened by the action, whether he bites or not. This is not a conducive mindset for a dog to be in when an owner is trying to train, control or protect him.
If you want your dog to come to you, use body language and voice tones that are inviting, crouch down, and call him in a sweet voice, praising him as he comes to you. If he is likely to jump on you when he comes back, make sure you stand up just before he arrives, displaying confident body language.
Gaining respect and trust from your dog is all about establishing leadership, and the most effective way of doing so is by using your dog’s own language to communicate with him. By learning and practicing proper forms of body language and voice control, your dog will see you as his fearless leader in no time, leading to a calmer, more relaxed household for everyone.
Vicki and Richard Horowitz are dog behavioral therapists and trainers with Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog training company. For more information, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit www.dog-training-new-haven-ct.com.