Head of Household: Man or Dog?

I am guilty of it. You have a cute, and I mean cute-make-you-change-your-voice-and-dance-around-cute, puppy. He’s so cute that you want to just cuddle with him all the time. He’s so adorable that he looks at you with those big, brown eyes and you give him the left over dinner on your plate. He’s so cuddly, you not only let him sleep on your bed, you give him your pillow. He’s just so precious that you… Yes, fill in the blank.

The puppy now has you in his paw. The problem is, that cute little puppy grows up and sometimes becomes a big, unruly, disrespectful dog.

As much as I hate to use the word “alpha” when speaking of a family member, in any group or household there has to be a leader. Even on our taxes, we have to declare whether we’re “Head of Household”; in other words, the leader. So even in your relationship with your pets, you must establish a “pack” leader. This can either be yourself or your dog. Your dog will look to you as provider, protector, and leader if you establish yourself as such.

You provide your dog food. Teach him to respect your space and learn to wait for his dinner. Before putting the food down, ask him to sit and “wait”. Put the food on the floor. If he lunges and dives for the food, pick up the bowl and start over. Dinnertime should be at a set time every day. Keeping a routine sets your dog up for success and he will look to you as his source of food. Don’t feed your dog from the table. This teaches him to beg or mug the table for food. Have your dog sit outside of the dining room while you are eating and invite him in after all the food has been put away.

No one likes being kicked out of bed, especially by his or her dog. Teach your dog to wait for an invitation to jump up on the bed or to sit with you on the couch. If he becomes pushy or intrusive, gently remove him from the furniture. He will quickly learn that if he wants to sit or sleep with you, then he needs to settle and stay where you asked him to be.

Teaching your dog simple exercises like “wait” and “settle” will result in a better-behaved and more respectful dog. You are the leader of your pack, so you must be consistent. If you are not consistent, there will not be a routine and your dog will not look to you to provide and protect.