Dogs are pack animals, and as such, need leadership. In the dog’s world there is no such thing as “even Steven”. Dogs don’t care who’s in charge just as long as someone is. If you don’t provide leadership for your dog, he just might take over as leader himself. Leadership is not about age, size, gender, or seniority. Leadership is an attitude. Good leaders are strong, fair, confident and benevolent. They take responsibility for those that follow their leadership. Because dogs are non-verbal communicators, they are very good at observing body language and can spot a leader by observation. Therefore, you can use actions and body language to communicate to your dog that you are the leader.

Personal space – personal space is very important to dogs. However, dogs should yield to leaders. For example, if your dog is lying in the way, don’t step over him. Instead, walk toward and into him until he moves.

Being polite – Does your dog pester you for attention? Does he paw at you or poke you with his nose? Does he constantly push toys at you? This is not polite behavior; in fact it’s quite pushy! When your dog engages in attention seeking behaviors ignore him. Even telling your dog to “go away” is giving the dog what he wants, attention. Wait until your dog is quiet or offers a sit then pet and play with him.

Dogs on the furniture – Your dog should have a place of his own for resting. If you allow your dog on the furniture, he should willingly give up his spot when you ask. Teach your dog to get off the furniture when asked by first luring him off with a treat and saying “off”. Then switch to asking for the “off” and rewarding with a treat.

Toys – Your dog should have plenty of chew toys available to him at all times. However, you should also have special toys that only belong to you. Tug or fetch toys are ideal for this. These are toys you will bring out and initiate a game. Then when the game is over, you put the special toys away. The games should be started and ended by you.

Food – Food is a wonderful resource and something you can use to affirm your leadership. Feed your dog by hand occasionally, keeping the bowl in your lap and offering small portions. Also, put the food bowl down empty and place the food in it by hand, in small portions.

Grooming – Your dog should cooperate when being brushed or bathed. Teach your dog to accept handling by offering tasty treats while touching and grooming him. A good way to get your dog to sit still for grooming is to smear some peanut butter or squeeze cheese on a washable surface and brush the dog while he’s licking it off.