These are the rules that your dog knows but has never shared with you. They are the rules that he lives by:
- Everything is a resource.
- Every resource has a value.
- All the resources belong to the pack leader.
- The pack leader always enforces the rules.
EVERYTHING IS A RESOURCE
This rule is simple. All you have to do in order to understand it is to step out of your human multi-dimensional world and believe that only one thing exists, resources. Again, everything is a resource and this means everything: the couch, the bed, the kitchen, the back yard, the dog's bed, the front door, space, time, activities, people, water, food, affection . . . everything. And if your dog wants one of these resources, then he goes into problem solving mode and thinks of nothing else but how to get what he wants.
EVERY RESOURCE HAS A VALUE
The reason your dog might be good about not chewing your shoes but doesn't miss a chance to dart out the front door is because being outside has a higher value than shoe chewing. One toy might be more valuable than another, which is why your dog always seeks it out. It could be that the reason you have to step over your dog to get down the hallway is because the hallway space is a valuable resource and it belongs to the dog. If your dog growls or nips it could be because he is guarding something of great value. Do not try to second-guess the value of something to your dog. It is unlikely that you share the same values. Remember, some dogs highly value eating bugs and cat poop.
ALL THE RESOURCES BELONG TO THE PACK LEADER
Now here is where it starts to make human sense; all the resources belong to the pack leader. This means that if your dog really believed that you were the pack leader you would never have to worry about him chewing your socks, running out the front door or trying to bite your significant other when they climbed into bed. If everything is a resource and all the resources belong to the pack leader, then the dog would not guard them unless they belong to him. And if they belong to him, then he must be the pack leader because the pack leader owns all the resources. Are you starting to get the picture?
THE PACK LEADER ALWAYS ENFORCES THE RULES
Now why does your dog think he is the leader? Exactly, you don't always enforce the rules and the leader always enforces the rules. If you are not the leader then by default the dog is. See how easy it is. There are a thousand ways you could show your dog that you are the leader, but the best way to start is to think about these rules when you interact with him. If it is your furniture, then don't let him jump on the couch unless you invite him to.
If it is your house, then don't let him go in or out the doors without permission. If you own playtime, then ignore your dog when he drops the ball at your feet, no matter how cute it is. Wait until he goes away then call him back and ask him to play. Make it your idea. If he is lying on the kitchen or hall floor, don't step over him, use your foot to gently nudge him out of the way. After all, isn't it your floor? In short, your dog is not allowed to own anything or make any decisions.
Of course, there are some dogs that will not respond to these obvious leadership signals. If you have unusual problems dealing with your dog, or his behavior is endangering himself or others, then you need to invest in private lessons or a more comprehensive training program. Responsibility also means knowing when you are in over your head and need to call a professional. But if you are just looking for more respect and a relatively well-behaved dog, then give it some thought. A slight change in your behavior can amount to a significant change in his.
Dogs love their owners but they respect their leaders. You need to train your dog and you need a well-balanced relationship with your dog in order to train him.
Now that you understand a bit more about pack leadership, stop copying TV dog trainers who pin the dogs to the ground. Alpha rolling your dog does not make you the pack leader. This is great entertainment but does not automatically earn you your dog's respect. There is a good reason that the television shows flash disclaimers across the TV screen, someone can get hurt. And remember, you do not have to be a tyrant to be in charge; you can choose to be a benevolent leader.