The Secrets To A Better Understanding Of Your Dog

So you made the decision to become a parent to a sweet little puppy for the next decade or more? You decided to love your little pal for better or worse – even when he chews up your new pair of running shoes!

Just like a human relationship, you need to understand each other in order to live a happy and wonderful life together. Some may even venture to say that dogs are much easier to understand – but I didn’t say it.

Understanding your new companion is the key to successful training and a bond that will last a lifetime.

I’m going to share the secrets to a better understanding of your dog so you can have the best possible relationship with your new best friend.

There are so many trainers out there with their own opinions, you will find people who agree and others who disagree with the following information. Just keep in mind,

the only thing two dog trainers can agree upon is what the third trainer is doing wrong.

The Pack

In the wild, gray wolves – the closest ancestor of your new puppy, have a structure in their community. This community structure is known as a “pack”.

The pack has a ranking structure within the community with the alpha male and/or female as the leader(s) while everyone else being subordinate pack members. There can also be a matriarch, but we don’t need to get so technical for this post.

This ranking structure is ingrained in your pup from the moment he opened his eyes, similar to needing to drink or eat. For this reason, it is extremely important for you to make him feel comfortable as part of a pack.

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The Alpha

The alpha is a dominant position in the pack.

The position of alpha isn’t always permanent – it can be challenged, which is why it is important for you to establish your position as alpha and maintain it the moment you bring your pal home, no matter if he’s 8 weeks or 3 years old.

Your establishment as “the alpha” gives him a sense of community and belonging. back to menu ↑

How Do You Become The Alpha?

So you want to be the alpha – the pack leader? You and your family should always be seen as pack leaders to your dog.

An older dog that you adopted and has already established himself as the alpha – this could be a little more challenging but still doable following the same advise outlined in this post, it may just take a little more time before your dog understands.

Puppies follow your guidance naturally because they don’t know how to lead yet. Establishing trust and simply loving and caring for him will start you on the path of establishing your role as pack leader. Although, to continue on this path the following are a few simple rules you should know and practice…

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1. Sleeping Arrangements

This is probably one of the biggest mistakes new dog owners make – they allow their dog to sleep in their bed immediately.

Bad idea. This will only give the new dog a sense that he is in a leadership role.

Alpha leaders and elder pack members sleep higher in the den than other members of the pack. This is an important rule to not only know but follow since you don’t want your furry pal to be confused as to his position in the pack.

Now, I’m not saying that you should never let your buddy sleep with you, I’m simply saying to hold off – until your role as the alpha is firmly established – then get him some doggy stairs to make climbing into bed easier on his hips!

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2. Feeding

Although the temptation is overwhelming to give your pal a treat while you’re eating, don’t give in!

You and your family should eat without your dog begging or watching you eat. Your buddy should be commanded to stay in a designated area, whether that be another room, in a dog pen, in his crate, etc.

The alpha always eats first, undisturbed. Giving your dog food while you’re eating is doing to things; it’s reinforcing that you are NOT the alpha – that he is on the same level as you and you are also training him to beg, believe it or not. Dogs are extremely intelligent and they will learn from you – intended training or not.

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3. Walking Order

This seems like a petty action but in the wild, the pack leaders always walk first.

Making your dog sit until you walk through the door first or walk down the stairs first will maintain the understanding that you are the alpha. It will also prevent the obnoxious behavior of barging through the door and knocking over anyone in the way.

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4. Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo is getting something in return for something.

So giving your dog a treat just for the sake of giving it to him is not only unproductive but it makes your pup think you are “serving” him due to his higher place in the pack. You don’t want this type of thinking.

Instead, make him do something for that treat. Sit, down, speak, juggle some apples, whatever you want – just make sure you’re getting something out of him in return for that treat. By the way, if you’re dog can perform that last feat – make sure you send me a video link! I’d want to see that!

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Crate Training

Should I crate train my dog? The answer – YES! Absolutely.

Not only can it make potty training faster and easier, crate training is probably one of the best ways to create a feeling of safety and security for your dog.

In the wild, wolves sleep in a den. Whether it be a cave or a borrow in the ground, they have similar characteristics. They provide an entrance with walls and a dark place to sleep. This gives your dog an instinctual feeling of security. Now, he may not like it for the first few days…but he will, I promise.

Check out my tutorial on crate training if you’d like to read more.

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A “Bad” Dog

What I mean is this; have you seen those pet owners at the dog park who can’t control their pet? They yell for the dog to come…but get no response. The four-legged, 2-foot fury continues chasing the squirrels around trees – because he doesn’t feel like he needs to listen, in his mind, to a lower ranking pack member. This is a bad place to be – but not an impossible one.

Remember, that owner can challenge the dog’s position and gain the alpha role – it’s never too late. 

So many dog owners are extremely excited to get a new dog from the local breeder or the rescue down the street but within a few weeks abandon the poor guy because they think he’s a “bad” dog. There must be something wrong with the dog – he won’t listen.

Well, I’m here to tell you…there’s no such thing as a “bad” dog. Only an ignorant owner. The owner failed to establish themselves as the alpha, therefore the dog put himself in that role.

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The secrets to a better understanding of your dog are simply, know your role. Your dog wants you to be the leader. They want to follow you no matter where you go or what you do – they want to experience it with you. Dogs are obedient to their pack leader.

No matter what breed you may have, they have an instinctual need to be a leader or a follower.

It’s your choice whether you allow him to choose his role or you choose it for him. Establish your place as the alpha and your dog will forever be a member of your pack.