Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Loving Leadership Tips

Just like human children, puppies need guidelines and boundaries to thrive.

Being a good leader will earn your dog's respect and help her to feel secure, safe, and loved. Although you might be a natural leader in the human world, dogs have a very different, dogcentric view of how leaders behave. If you're having trouble with your dog listening, don't take it personally... you're not alone. When people who speak different languages are communicating, a lot can get lost in translation. As you might imagine, when you're dealing with two different SPECIES, it can get even more tricky!

Here's a few of my favorite fun, easy tips that help with strengthening loving leadership skills.

Here's the first concept:
The Leader (that's you!) Controls Resources:
Just as a parent controls their child's allowance, curfew, etc., you should control the "good stuff" when it comes to your dog. The number one "good stuff thing" on most dog's lists is... food!

Three EasyPeasy Leadership Try-it Tips:

* In almost all cases, I recommend that dogs have scheduled mealtimes (rather than graze or "free feed.") When a dog understands that YOU are the important person who's responsible for all the deliciousness, it makes your respect level go up-up-up.

* You might also make a habit of taking a bite of a snack of your own before dishing out your dog's meal (maybe have a cracker, chip, sip of water, etc.) Let your dog see you eat or drink something before she eats. Amongst dogs, the leaders eat first, so this is an easy-breezy, visual way to use canine communication to your advantage.

* No free treats for puppies just for being cute (it's hard, I know!) Have your puppy do a simple command (like a sit-stay) before getting a treat, and before being served a meal. Being on a "learn to earn" program gives your puppy motivation to please you, and it helps promote polite behavior.

I've found regulating food is usually an easy, pretty-passive, baby-steps first step for puppy parents (especially for those clients who are inclined to pamper.) These are supersimple, almost-anyone-can-do-it ways to communicate to your dog that you are the leader, and none of them require being gruff, tough, or creepish.

*Reminder: When trying new techniques with your puppy, please keep in mind that all dogs are individuals, with their own unique temperaments and backgrounds. Some dogs have special needs. If you feel uneasy about working with your dog on your own for whatever reason, consult with a professional trainer who can help tailor a training plan especially suited for you and your specific dog.

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