Leadership and Relationship
How do I Provide Leadership to my Dog and Develop a Great Relationship
Leadership is recognising and honouring the fact that your dog is an animal with their own needs and giving our dogs the guidance that they need in their lives to make great choices and to grow into the very best pets and companions that we enjoy spending time with.
Relationship is the cornerstone of all of your dog’s behaviours with you, irrespective of any training they may or may not have had.
So, do we need dog leadership and relationship or the other? Or both? Let’s unpack this a little.
Your dog is a predator and an opportunist. Definitely not a child, a furbaby, a surrogate of any kind nor an outlet for your endless love and attention. If you think of or treat your dog in this way you are on a fast track to an uncomfortable, anxious, unhappy dog and a seemingly endless source of stress for yourself.
Ultimately, your dog derives comfort and confidence from knowing what is expected of them.
This is where Leadership comes in.
We hear people talking about ‘Being Alpha’ and ‘Being More Dominant’ with their dogs. We don’t advocate any of that. We believe that dogs need and desire Leadership, not dominance. If you have to continually tell someone that you’re in charge, then you’re not in charge. In the same way, if you need to attempt to dominate your dog then you’re just a bully.
Developing a leadership role for your dog is showing up every day and consistently asking your dog for his best behaviour and doing this in a manner that shows the dog his position in the household and in relation to you. Leaders are people who can see the bigger picture and can protect and take care of their followers and all of their needs.
When we’re raising our children to become well rounded, mannerly kind and respectful people we show them how to do this by modelling the behaviours ourselves. We treat them with kindness and respect but we’re also clear on where our boundaries are and insist that they are respected. The same applies to our dogs. They also need to know where the boundaries are to help them be good dogs and stay within their set limits.
We also need to take care of the trust that our dogs place in us as leaders. It can be very easy to breach the trust of your dog by being inconsistent in your application of the rules and boundaries that are permitted.
For example; let’s suppose a new dog owner buys a puppy in the early summer and whilst it’s small and cute and running around the house all summer having cuddles with the family and sitting on the furniture. However, it’s going to grow into a 40kg dog. As the year progresses, soon it’s winter and the dog runs in from the garden covered in mud, jumps on the furniture expecting cuddles, because that’s what it’s been used to doing, but that’s not what happens.
The owner then severely disciplines the dog and causes confusion and mistrust. This has been a very substantial breach of trust for the dog as the goalposts/boundaries have suddenly moved. It’s also possible that from breaches of trust like this, other issues such as aggression can emerge as some dogs may feel aggrieved that they have been treated unfairly and become stressed and unsure.
We know that dogs can struggle to understand all the weird stuff that exists in our human world and we want them to know that they can trust us to have their back and make everything okay. They’re safe with us. We are their leader. We will protect them and guide them.
When your dog cannot identify any leadership in their world they can become fearful, stressed and confused and can make some poor choices and engage in problem behaviours.
It can take time to convince your dog that you are a worthy leader, someone worth following and on whom they can depend to take care of their needs. Their needs and worries can be wide and varied, whether it’s being spooky about fireworks or nervous of new people or other dogs, they need to know you’re the safest person to hang with.
What do we need to do to become great leaders?
Firstly, you’re here! You’re trying to learn more about what it takes to be admired and respected by your dog and that already makes you a great owner!
It’s important to make sure that we have balance in our relationship with our dogs. That they understand Yes and No and the consequences of both. Our dogs need a balance of attention and affection as well as structure and discipline.
We want our pups to know that we are here to guide them and as good leaders it’s important that we share with our dogs the foundation of acceptable boundaries and appropriate discipline. We need to consistently apply these boundaries whilst correcting unwanted behaviours and firmly saying No when necessary.
When we do these things, showing our dogs the benefits of Yes and No then we will have a deeper relationship with our dog. This is a relationship that’s based on their understanding that when you say No it’s not the end of the world. They simply pivot, offer a different behaviour and since you’ve spent time building that foundation of learning and trust with your dog, showing them how to access all the good things they desire they can secure the rewards for a preferred behaviour.
Our dogs need to be completely convinced that by co-operating with us all the good things in the world will come to them. They need to trust us and to believe that they will be rewarded for their best behaviour.
We like to use a really simple strategy to keep our dogs engaged and working with us and for us, using obedience commands in exchange for food, play and other valued interactions.
When your relationship is in balance, your dog is balanced and we’re all about living life in harmony with our dogs.
We coach our clients on dog leadership and relationship aspects of dog ownership and offer guidance on how to create and maintain the right relationship with your dog.
Relationship is the secret sauce!
You can learn more about this in our Online Course – Love Is Not Enough
If you’d like more support through our Puppy Foundation or Individual Training programs,
please complete a contact form and we’ll be in touch to help!
You can also find us on Facebook