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Ask Nancy: Who’s Running the House?

June 18, 2010

Does your dog or pup have a mistaken idea of who is in charge of the house? Does he or she think the dog rules over all of you?

Does your dog get angry or upset if you try to leave the ‘pack den’?

Does your dog act like all the toys and food are his and that no one else gets to have it if he wants it?

This is not an uncommon problem with strong personality dogs of any size and frequently the smaller ones get away with it so long they believe they rule the world.

Dogs do like to be the boss if they can. They may see children as low ranking ‘puppies’ that can be bullied or your spouse as a lower ranking pack member..

You can change your dog’s mind about who the pack leader is and who makes the rules. Probably your dog has had lots of practice thinking about your relationship in the wrong way so it will take some time to convince the dog that you humans are the leaders.

One thing that can help change a dog’s view on you is using the nothing in life is free program which you can read about here.

This is a non violent way of putting yourself in the leader role. Think of it as making him say please and thank you instead of demanding what he wants. I sometimes think of this as the old joke that ‘if mama is happy everybody is happy!’ and NILIF works to make sure mama is happy!

If you have problems leaving the house, then instead of trying to punish your dog’s behavior just before you leave try settling the dog down with something good and distracting. Many people like a food stuffed Kong type toy for this.

When you come home do not make a big fuss of your dog but instead ignore your pet for those first few moments and then greet only when the dog calms down.

If your dog grabs items and holds them ‘hostage’ from you here is an article that discusses a way to get the dog to allow you to remove things he should not have such as the toys or juice bottles etc.

Changing behaviors is not easy and often is not quick, but I can tell you that working with the dog is your best chance at changing any behaviors you are dealing with and need to change and training is far better than putting up with behaviors you do not like.

Rewarding right behavior can be a huge help to changing a dog’s attitude about doing what you want and can making living with your pet in your home far more pleasant for you and your family.

Some people find that clicker training helps them quickly tell the dog yes that is right and speeds this sort of communication along. This site has clicker training demonstration videos so you can see how the training works.

You may also find some good positive type (i.e. not punishment) training clues here for specific issues.


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