Leadership in Dog Training
I get the opportunity to work with a number of different dogs each year, and I have yet to find two exactly the same. They all have their own personality, quirks, and story. Just like people, they’re all unique, and so I have to customize my training approach to each individual. However, one thing all dogs have in common is they need leadership.
I like to use the illustration of a stray dog. These dogs are completely free to make their own decisions and do whatever they want. If you watch them though, you will most likely see a fearful, nervous, and insecure dog. Often their body posture and head are lowered to the ground in a timid state, their tail is often tucked between their legs, and they are extremely sensitive and wary to what’s going on around them. Now compare that to a dog who is engaged with their master. Usually these dogs are happy and more confident. Why? Because they have a leader.
So, how can we become good leaders to our dogs? I thought of a handful of principles in no particular order that can help us become better leaders for our dogs. I know I’m not perfect, but the more I can continue to improve in these areas, the better our relationship is going to be.
TRUST – For any relationship to grow there must be trust. My dogs have to know I’m going to take care of them. Providing for their basic needs of survival like food, water , and shelter is a very easy way of showing them they can trust me. They also need to know I’m going to be fair with them. This doesn’t mean I don’t ever discipline or correct them. What it does mean though, when I do, it’s fair and they understand why.
CONSISTENCY – This plays a big part in gaining trust. The more consistent I am, the more consistent my dog will be. One way we can show consistency to them:
1.) I need to try to be the same person every day to my dogs. My body posture and energy communicates a lot. The more they can see they are getting the same me, the more relaxed they will be. I know we all have our days, and I’ve had my fair share of days when I’m just “off”. When these days come up, I might not train that day, or might just do something less stressful – that’s OK. The last thing I want to do is put my dogs in a situation where our emotions get the best of me and I end up taking it out on them.