It is much easier to establish and maintain leadership if people begin to act as leaders the day they acquire a new dog. Establishing positive leadership with a new dog is the best preventive medicine. Dogs should not have the opportunity to learn that they can be leaders of the family(pack). Establishing positive leadership should begin with the acquisition of a puppy at 7 weeks of age or with an older dog at any age.
1. Use the natural social instincts of dogs to respond to people for rewards of attention. Attention rewards include looking at and talking to your dog, giving verbal praise with happy enthusiasm and stroking and petting. As social animals, dogs respond eagerly to rewards of attention, especially from your eyes and voice, if these rewards are not given too freely so the dog becomes satiated. Adjust frequency of the rewards to the needs and temperament of your puppy or older dog to respond to you as the leader of the pack and have good things happen when he obeys.
2. Temporarily use food rewards to complement the rewards of attention and then phase out food rewards with scientific use of a variable ration schedule.
3. Avoid scolding, yelling, spanking, hitting with hands or objects, shaking by the neck, choking with a collar and other negative actions. First teach, then use a positive command to prevent unwanted behavior so the dog can be rewarded for obeying. But do not be permissive.
4. Control the dog while showing him you are the leader by looking into his eyes and staring him down until he moves his eyes or moves his head to look away, and by stroking him slowly and firmly over the head and shoulders to show dominance. Holding puppies or small dogs for 1 minute between two hands with fingers clasped under the chest is also a good exercise to establish dominance. The “controlled down,” in which the puppy is kept quietly on its side or on its chest and hip for 10 to 60 minutes each day, will also help to establish leadership.
5. Teach the dog to sit and wait as a subordinate dog waits for the leader dog (people) to go first through outside doors. Leader dogs always go first. This reinforces the desirable leadership for people.