Don’t let your dog become the pack leader

After writing my most recent column, I felt my point regarding voice control needed to be addressed further. I have heard multiple stories of unpleasant episodes where wandering dogs have suddenly approached people and their pets during an encounter on backcountry trails, local parks and even on city streets. Many of these folks feel frustration towards other pet owners’ lack of respect in controlling their animals, especially when there are multiple dogs charging toward them.

My ending statement in my last column referred to voice control — on the first cue. Have you ever watched someone call their dog three or four times before the stubborn animal even turns its head? The owner is usually bent down trying to coerce the dog to come back in either a loud, forceful directive or a mild, meek, “good dog” summons.

Meanwhile, their dog turns toward whatever new encounter they may have had on their expedition, completely ignoring the voice command from their owner. Teaching your dog to come is one of the most difficult concepts for most pet owners. Throughout the years, I have heard so many people say, “My dog just won’t listen to me!” especially when they are out of their normal environment.

The problem generally lies within the communique between a person and their four-legged companion. As with any species interaction, there is always a pack leader. In the relationship you develop with your best friend, the responsibility of becoming the lead in your pack rests entirely on your shoulders. Your faithful companion turns to you for food, water, shelter and — just as important — guidance.

If you are unable to fulfill the duties required to teach your pet good behavior, quite often your dog will assume the dominant role, and that is where the problems begin. In most instances, the variance in animal behavior is generally affected by an individual’s perception of leadership. Some folks have a difficult time relaying their message in a convincing manner. A passive tone used when requesting an action from your pet will often result in an unreceptive response. Likewise, intimidation from a bellowing command jeopardizes the fundamental foundation of your relationship, creating fear and uncertainty.

Developing a respectful relationship between you and your dog is actually fairly simple if you understand the basic idea of good communication. Whereas your direction as pack leader must convey your authoritative position, in turn, you need to be intuitive to the silent connection your dog is generating with you. Only then will the bond truly begin to develop.

The easiest way to create mutual understanding is to spend time with your best friend. Teaching your dog cues as you learn to communicate effectively will be a pivotal point in your relationship. Leash training, especially in the beginning, is one of the fundamental tools in building that rapport with your dog. By incorporating voice and/or hand commands in your training sessions, you will establish a solid foundation to build on.

As with most learning processes, teaching your dog to respond to your cues will take some time. However, regular daily interactions as you both work together to achieve an understanding will help expedite your goal. Consistency is the key to your success. Additionally, achieving a level of firmness that teaches your pet without overbearing forcefulness or passive acceptance will contribute to the success of your work.

Voice control on the first cue needs to be achieved before you allow your dog to run off-leash. First and foremost, it’s for the safety of your pet due to any number of uncontrollable factors that may be encountered on an outing. While you may think you know how your dog will react to an unforeseen happenstance, having the ability to instantly retrieve your pet through a voice cue will typically thwart a sudden predicament.

More importantly, though, having respect for others should be the principal influence to consider. Some people and even their pets are extremely fearful of other dogs, especially those running sporadically off leash. Oftentimes, aggressive or protective breeds are intolerant of another dog’s sudden approach, creating unpredictable occurrences.

Anytime your dog is off-leash, consider that others may not appreciate your four-legged friend’s intrusion. If you cannot restrain your pet using voice control in any public domain, be respectful of others and keep your dog on a leash.           

Charlé Thibodeau has been a passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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