Are you the leader of your pack?

After going to the Dog Lover Show in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago I have been inspired by the Dog Listener, Tony Knight. He spoke about the pack mentality and I swear I have seen a big change in Coop already, just after two weeks of implementing his theories.

It is actually pretty simple, you need to start thinking like a dog- because your dog doesn’t think like a person. Dogs come from packs and packs need leaders. So if you’re not being the leader, your dog will take on that role for you. And it is from this that so many behavioural problems develop in dogs.

Tony believes that good leadership needs no force, gadgets or dependence on exercise to change a dog’s mind. Good communication at critical times is what’s required.

You need to constantly be thinking and communicating that you are the boss, you need to believe this so that your dog believes it too.

A few small things we have changed and that I encourage you to change are:  

1.    The way you greet your dog when you come home or after extended periods of being apart.

When you walk in the door you must ignore your dog- no touch, talk or eye contact. Once your dog has calmed down, has left you alone and found a quiet spot to lie down, give him 5 minutes and then call him over to you and then you can make a fuss and say hello. Don’t go over to him, he needs to come to you. You need to be the one to tell your dog when you want to greet him. No matter how much he nudges- you need to wait until he is calm. The idea behind this is that as the pack leader, you require your own personal space and your dog should respect this and then when you are ready, you greet your dog on your terms. Cooper brings us toys, he rests his head on our laps if we sit down and he tries to lick us. It is cute, but he is not respecting our personal space. He is very quickly learning that if he leaves us alone and gives us the space – he will then be rewarded.

2.    When you leave home.

When you leave home, do not make a fuss and say good bye to your dog. Your dog does not understand English and is also not going to know if you have been gone for 5 minutes or for 5 hours. They don’t wear watches. The more of a fuss you make, the more you can actually stress out your dog. If your dog believes he is the pack leader, he can become very stressed out when you leave home. Has your dog dug up your garden, chewed up your furniture or just been destructive when you have left home? This is because your dog believes he is the leader of the pack and is worried about you. Just like a mother worrying where her child has gone. In a pack, when a dog goes out to hunt, there is a possibility that the dog will not return. So this behaviour stems from your dog worrying about you and when you will return. So when you leave, don’t make a fuss, just walk out the door with no touch no talk and no eye contact.

3.    The way you give affection to your dog.

How often do you find yourself sitting on the couch stroking your pup? But did you invite him over? No. So the key here is no more patting/ affection unless you invite your dog over for it. It’s tough, but it works. You need to put him in his place and it needs to be on your terms.

4.    Feeding time.

In the pack, the pack leader will always eat first and then give what’s left over to its pack. I now have dried apricots sitting next to Coopers dog food. I put his food in his bowl, and then I take an apricot and start eating it. To Cooper, this looks like it is coming from his bowl, he watches me eat it and then when I am finished, I give him his food. Try it, it is simple but effective! And it really does help to put him in his place in the pecking order.


5.    When guests enter your home.

Again, no touch, no talk, no eye contact. This is so important. People will think your nuts – my friends already think I am nuts but your dog needs to learn to respect peoples personal space. If your dog thinks it is the leader, he can also become protective over you, hence why dogs bark when the doorbell rings, they are trying to notify and protect their pack.

6.    The walk.

When a pack leader goes out to hunt he will want to be in front and lead his pack. If your dog pulls on the lead, it’s because it believes it’s your pack leader. So when you walk your dog, he should be by your side, not in front of you. By changing the above few things and asserting yourself as the boss, you will notice that your dog will stop pulling on the lead because he will no longer believe he is the leader.



These changes should be a permanent thing. If you stick to it – pretty quickly, your dog will learn that you are the alpha of the pack and they will start to respect you more and just enjoy life. Dogs are happy being apart of the pack, as long as they know there is a pack leader, they will be happy. But if there is no leader, they will take on that role and this can become quite stressful for the dog and in turn for the owner.


Try it for a couple of weeks and see how you go. I know it will be tough at first but really stick to it and you will see a difference and have a happier more balanced dog.



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