It's very important that your dog recognizes that you outrank him in the social hierarchy of the household. The concept of alpha status is one that you need to be familiar with in order to maintain a healthy, functional relationship with your dog. It may sound cruel from a human perspective, but your dog is happier when he knows that someone else is in charge of making all the decisions including his day-to-day behavior and obedience levels. It is not possible to have a good owner/dog relationship if he does not understand that you are the clear-cut authority figure: he must know that he is beneath you in the chain of command.
Your first step in dealing with generalized disobedience is to reestablish your dominance, is dog basic training:
Here are some tips on doing so:
- When leaving the house and the car, you must always leave before your dog. This is unmistakable alpha behavior: to a dog, only the alpha leaves first. If you allow him to exit the house or the car ahead of you, you are saying to him or her, you're stronger than me; you should go first because you're the decision-maker. Inside doors are not so important, but every time you leave the house or the car to go outside, you must make him "wait" with this command for you to go first, until you release him with a "OK" command release-word.
- Make him wait for his food. Your family and you must always eat before him or her if it means he has to wait an extra half hour or so for his meal, it won't hurt him or her any. When you put his food down for him, make him sit and wait until you release him to eat. Keep his feeding schedule varied, so he is always aware that you're in charge of his food and don't allow him or her to form expectations of when he should be fed.
- Don't allow him free, uninhibited access to the whole house. The house is your den: you're allowing him or her to be inside. Remind him or her that you're allowing him or her into your den and it's a privilege for him to be there, not a right - but sometimes allowing him inside, and sometimes sending him outside for half an hour or so. Keep certain areas of the house strictly for your own, as well (such as your bed, certain pieces of furniture, or some rooms).
Another fantastic way of counteracting disobedience is to start and maintain a basic obedience training plan, and enrolling your dog in basic dog training classes. You don't have to do anything fancy or super-demanding; just ten minutes a day of learning and enforcing commands. This can drop to five minutes a day once your dog is completely reliable with the commands.
Here are some tips for a good training program:
- Never give a command that you cannot reinforce immediately if he chooses to disobey you. Every time your dog takes the opportunity to ignore your command, he's learning that it's both easier and a lot more fun to ignore you. For example, if you call across the park for him to come as he's playing with some other dogs, the choices are clear-cut to him: he could cut his play-time short and come to you, or he could ignore you which is easy, since you're so far away and continue to have fun. Until your dog is completely reliable with commands, he should be on a long line or retractable lead so that you can enforce them if necessary.
- Remember to use your voice to the best effect. Praise should be in a light, cheery, happy tone of voice; if possible, smile at the same time. It makes a difference to your tone of voice, and most dogs will study your face to make sense of your expressions, too. Corrections should be uttered in a stern, brook-no-nonsense tone: you don't need to shout, but your voice should be low and authoritative.
- Do not repeat a command. Remember, you should be training on a leash or a long line: if he ignores you, he gets a short, sharp tug (some call it a flick) on the leash to remind him that you're present, and you are in charge. Repeating yourself teaches him to wait for the command to be repeated at least once before he obeys you.
- Five to fifteen minutes per day is an adequate amount of time for training. Any more than this in one sitting, and your dog's concentration will likely lapse: fifteen minutes of intense training, where your dog is concentrating hard on what you want, is enough to send even the most energetic dogs to their beds for a snooze afterwards.
- You can move on to more advanced training and tricks if you feel like it, once your dog got the basics down; but it's not something that you should feel like you have to do.
- Another great option is formal obedience training classes or dog basic training classes. They're a great way of socializing your dog (he gets to interact with other dogs, and those dog owners), and also teaches him to concentrate on what you want despite the manifold distractions taking place around him. It's also very helpful to have face-to-face contact with a trained professional: they can pick up on any mistakes you might be making, and give you advice for tightening up your training techniques.
Written by Mark Watt