If you have more than one dog, you have a pack. You could have a two dog pack or a 12 dog pack, it is still a pack. Some older dog books tell us that a person must establish dominance in order to rule a pack correctly. Unfortunately some people took that advice the wrong way and the misinformation has become wide spread. Establishing dominance in your pack requires no physical contact, angry words or depriving your dogs. Dominance or control comes from consistency, observation and kindness.
You are the pack leader
Every pack needs a leader. You are the leader by default. You are the great supplier of love, food and bacon, you are naturally in charge. In order to remain in charge you must take control. If your pack consists of a pair of old Labradors, chances are you already have it all under control. They have their routine and you have yours, life is easy. If you have a pair of pit puppies with a mind of their own, you should probably work on your consistency and guidance skills.
Establishing order and control
An ideal pack leader exudes confidence and calm assertiveness. If your leadership skills are still developing, do not be discouraged, many dog people have figured out how to fake it until they make it. Consistency and understanding are keys to becoming a great pack leader.
Understand your pack structure.
You may have two puppies but if you also have an older dog chances are they have already designated him the lead dog. If they haven’t, you must. Pack order is important because it helps to reinforce roles, alleviate group bickering and calm anxieties and insecurities. You can establish the order by feeding your dogs, passing out treats and even giving pats and snuggles in pack order.
Deciding pack order
You should decide the pack order based on a few factors. Your most stable dog should be the lead dog. This is usually an older dog who is emotionally secure and comfortable in the role. The middle of your pack should contain the dogs with anxiety issues or dogs with less confidence. This gives these dogs a status boost and less pressure to perform. Young dogs who still have a lot to learn should be the ones at the bottom of the pecking order. Ideally the top dog and the bottom dog should both be stable and confident, this increases the stability of the pack.
You are in charge, be consistent
Just as important as pack order, consistency increases pack harmony and stability. When you give a dog or your pack a command you must expect and require them to follow through. When you say “go lay down” you must mean go lay down. You don’t mean “its ok silly dog, I’ll love and pet you anyway because you are cute”, don’t let your dog get away with not listening. Go lay down means go lay down. This applies to any command. If you plan to give a command, plan to follow through. Even if that means standing up, waiting or repeating yourself.
Listen to your dogs
Understand when your dog is communicating her needs. Sometimes “go lay down” is ignored because your dog needs something else. Perhaps she is hungry, wants to go outside or needs more water. It is important to remember that your dog will communicate with you about her needs. A good pack leader will consider the dog’s needs along with their own.