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How to Establish/Assert Dominance Over and Control your Puppy Dog

Dog training is a multi-million dollar business, but it doesn't target the animals. Dog training is a benefit for the dog OWNER. As the crowd goes wild, let me say that animals learn very easily. I am not an expert, but I know first-hand what is working with my unruly dog - and I'm prepared to share these things I have learned with you.

First, let me tell you about the dog that prompted this hub. When I adopted her, Sierra was a copper and white Siberian husky about nine months old. Sierra was in the process of learning her place in the pecking order of my family. She was terrible on the leash, and because the dominance order had not been put into place, she was destructive when we are away. This forced me to crate her, a concept she eventually warmed up to, and in so much as a high energy animal can warm up to being put in a box twice her size.

The tips and information I am presenting to you here are the same rules and tips I put into place at my own home.

being-the-alpha-dog

Walking Behavior

Dogs need to walk. It is vital to their training and establishing the heirarchy in your family. I use a six foot leash with my 'leading' hand about eighteen inches from her collar because this gives me a pretty good amount of control, makes correction easy, and is still long enough that when she's given me her little "pee-whine" she can go do her thing. I don't use a harness, mostly because she is currently shedding about five dogs worth of hair, and a harness would aggravate her poor self.

  • Posture is a key element in walking your dog. Until your dog is leash trained, they will either pull or drag, jump or otherwise fight the leash, and to counteract this you will want to be standing straight with shoulders squared. Since Sierra is a tugger, I have to keep my elbow close to my body so I can brace for her tugging.
  • If they tug, jump or turn, just stop moving. Ignore the dog for as long as it takes for the dog to come back and give you it's attention. Then, begin walking again. Repeat this every time they deviate from walking at your side. You may stop a million times between your door and the end of the driveway, but you will notice a BIG difference over a short period of time. With Sierra, I carry a pocket full of her favorite treats, and every few steps that she isn't tugging, she gets a treat.
  • Work on path recognition with your dog as you go on your walks. By allowing your dog to walk on grass or sidewalk, but correcting with a light tug or by stopping completely, rewarding your dog for remaining on these surfaces and correcting when they veer off for the street, you reinforce the idea that the dog should stay out of the road. Sierra is fairly good at staying off the blacktop, which leads me to believe she's been trained in this before.

General Behavior

You will hear it over and over again in obedience classes, on TV, from that Dog Whisperer guy (Cesar Millan or Milan or however his name is spelled) that confidence is key. If a leader is wishy washy, meek, submissive - we don't want to follow them! The same principle goes for dogs. You gain a dog's respect by behaving in a confident manner. You can assert your dominance over your dog in a few basic ways in everyday interaction:

  • Walk through doorways and up/down stairs in front of your dog. If they try and go ahead of you, step in their way, or stop them. With Sierra, I have to be quick to block her, but when I do she backs up and let's me through.
  • When entering a room your dog is in, don't make immediate eye contact, and basically ignore your dog for the first fifteen or twenty seconds. Sing a verse of happy birthday and go about your business without acknowledging the dog. This gives them the impression you're coming to them on YOUR terms. You're the alpha, you get to choose. Sierra despises this. All eyes must be on her when you enter the room. She jumps and gets in the way, but I simply move over her.
  • If your dog is in the way, step over them. By doing this you tower over them for a moment, and show the dog that you go where you want, when you want. Sierra takes this well, generally jumping up to follow me wherever I'm headed once I've cleared the other side of her.
  • If you are meeting eyes with your dog, let them be the first to look away. This is a sign of submission to you. Sierra loses all staring contests, hands(paws) down.
  • A light tap on the nose goes a long way in correction of minor behaviors. This generally makes your dog close their eyes momentarily, which may help them refocus on another activity or object.

Food Training

This may sound hard, and it requires you to pay close attention to your dog's food dishes, but you can't just fill the bowl and leave enough food for the whole day in their dish. First, it gives the dog the idea that they control something necessary, and secondly it is a chaotic way to confuse the dog during the initial ownership phases. Here are the things I've learned so far about feeding time:

  • Feeding time, whenever it is, should be scheduled. This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to feed the dog at the same chronological time every day, but you should feed them following a set pattern. For instance, feed them after you've had your first cup of coffee in the morning, and after you've eaten dinner at night. Sierra eats while we get ready for work in the mornings, and then once everyone has eaten dinner after work.
  • YOU eat first. You are the alpha in this relationship, and that means you take precedence over the dog. Once you have had your fill, THEN the dog gets their food. Resist the urge to feed them table scraps, as this breaks the chain of the top dog. Sierra routinely lays down nearest to whoever is eating, and sometimes requires a firm "NO."
  • When filling their food dish, have your dog sit and stay. Do not allow the dog to jump around or on you. Keep control of the situation even through misbehavior. If your dog will not sit still while you fill the food dish, then put it away out of sight and walk away from where the bowl is hidden. The dog is fed when YOU say, so chin up and don't accept misbehavior during this pivotal time of day. Sierra is very good about her food, she will not approach the bowl until it is set down and she is told to "go eat."

Other things I've learned

Through attempting to train Sierra, I have learned that consistancy is key, much like teaching children to behave. It is important not only to pay attention to the signals and stimuli that your dog responds to, but also what you pick up from your dog. You will, I repeat, you WILL begin to learn your dog's little personality quirks very quickly as you work on establishing dominance.

If Sierra becomes too hyper, or begins barking a lot and rushing around wanting to play when it is inappropriate, here is what I do:

  • First, gain eye contact.
  • Give the command for them to approach you - most commonly "Here."
  • In Sierra's case, this is the point when she comes and begins jumping on me. If she does, I give a light but firm push, then bend over her so I am looming.
  • By now, Sierra is usually laying down with her tail wagging a mile a minute. I reach down at this point and put one hand on the scruff of her neck, one hand just in front of her back legs on the center of her back for about ten seconds.
  • One of two things will happen now: Sierra will calm down and perk her ears forward, looking at me, or she will turn over on to her back and give me her belly and throat.
  • Now she gets pettings, or a treat if I'm carrying one. In a soothing voice I tell her "Good lay down." She has learned this command, and will move from a sitting position to a prone position when told to lay down a couple times. We're still polishing that one up.

Sierra will take a mile if I give her an inch, but the baby steps of progress we make have made a -huge- difference in her behavior since that first day she came home. I have to remember, though, to be consistant. She will not obey if I treat her as my equal, no matter how much I love and adore her.

A Leash Training Technique

Your Mileage May Vary

All of the above being said, there are a LOT of different schools of thought in regard to training your dog and what methods to use. Just like human beings, each animal has and develops their own personality, which is something to take into consideration. The process of training your pup to your household's needs and for its own health and happiness can be long, or it can be short, it can be an aggravating process or not. The success of various methods depend greatly on your patience, consistency, and desire to see it through.

Comments

GERALD W BETHMAN JR. on August 24, 2012:

BUDDY.

Roxy on August 04, 2012:

I have a 5 month old sibi and she will not " come" for the life of me! I let her out to go potty and lord n behold its a game now when i call her she acts like she does not even hear me! She listens to everything else but when it comes to inside or come she is not having it!! What do i do:/ ???

j.g.g on May 17, 2012:

usefull advice, got important insight how a dog thinks (:

RussellLHuey on September 08, 2011:

Great information. You should not give chance to dogs to get over you. They might become abusive.

Logan on May 11, 2011:

Thanks a lot Gamergirl :)

I recently rescued a dachshund puppy that was going to be put down if I didn't.

In an effort to keep her in a balanced state of mind, we've started walking her, hoping it'll be easier to train her because she's young than it will to train the older dogs.

Once she's trained up, we'll take her with one of the other 5 until they're all trained and then we'll walk as a pack.

I found your page because I'm looking for advice on her behavior during the walk. Because most of the other dogs in the neighborhood are unbalanced, they bark a lot at anything walking past the gate, and my pup (Bella) reacts to that energy by lunging for the dogs and barking too. I've tried firm taps on her side with my foot to break her focus, and I've tried tugging on the leash, but nothing works.

I'm glad you gave tips on establishing dominance because one of the 5 (Peanut - a lab mix) doesn't come when we call, doesn't respond to correction or anything. He's still a full male though, and we're hoping that his dominance will at least subside a little when we have him neutered.

Any thoughts on the walk would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for a great article :) (Wheres a Facebook Like button when you need it).

Regards,

Logan

Melbourne Boarding Kennels on September 25, 2010:

Gamegirl, fantastic information, tI had not thought about confidence in my voice and even when entering the room, i had not thought about not looking at jack.. I will try these tips out, and hopefully it will get even better between us..

mogwai2000 on September 10, 2010:

Hi, nice sierra :). You're very right, consistency is really very important when training any dog. And they are like children they tend to learn very fast the "bad" behaviors if we let them.

Pixystik on March 27, 2010:

I just got a dog a few weeks ago and she has been having a lot of issues with mouthing and growling and she would never lick anyone , so when I went to enroll myself and her in some classes the trainer said she doesn't lick anyone because she thinks she is the boss, I will totaly try this training with her and see if I can tell her who's boss I'll try it and see if it works

Emma on March 19, 2010:

Excellent tips, I have a 3 year old Staffordshire terrier and over the past few weeks I had lost alot of control over him. After following just half of these tips I've begun to reign him in again and two days later he's better behaved than he's ever been! It seems that we've resolved his recent bad behaviour and also some long standing issues that we had just gotten used to! Thankyou!

dlgjmg30 from Lytle Creek, CA on July 18, 2009:

Good Hub, gamergirl. You have provided some very good training tips. It makes me want to train some of my neighbors dogs. Of course, my dog is PERFECT! LOL

RosieOne on July 05, 2009:

Great advice. Our dog is generally very good, so I forget to do some of the things you've decribed. It's a good reminder that I shouldn't be lazy in training her...it's not fair to her!

GaryPugsley from Portland Tn on June 17, 2009:

Good advice thank you and you have a Beautiful dog. I have had my 2 dogs for 11 years now and they just kind of know what to do now but I wish I had this information years ago.

appudog from Cyprus on June 16, 2009:

Good article and some advices are very useful indeed.

Dorsi Diaz from The San Francisco Bay Area on April 04, 2008:

Great article. I have 2 dogs (border collies) and the youngest one is very submissive. I don't now how she got that way but I have to actually encourage her to be a little bold- the opposite of being alpha!

Your training tips are helpful though for those things I need to help her learn- thanks!

Kiz Robinson (author) from New Orleans, Louisiana on April 04, 2008:

Thank you thank you! Last night Sierra and I got into a battle of glares over who got to sit on the chaise lounge. She tried to jump up on top of me, so I wound up gently rolling her and putting my arms on the other side of her so I was basically on all fours on top of her (not laying on her, just hovering over her.) What do you know, she calmed right down, ears went back and she started licking my arm with her belly up.

Progress is GREAT!

Angela Harris from Around the USA on April 04, 2008:

Sierra is beautiful, gamergirl. Fantastic hub! It's true that humans have to let their dogs know who is boss. That doesn't translate into being mean, as so many people seem to think. It sounds like you are well on your way to a very happy friendship that will last for years to come. Congratulations!

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on April 03, 2008:

Great information here, gamergirl, not only in the hub but in the comments as well.

I'm a new dog person, and I lap up info about training and behavior. Your hub is both an affirmation of some things I'm doing right and a reminder that there's a lot more I need to work on.

Sierra is just gorgeous, and lucky to have you.

Whitney from Georgia on April 02, 2008:

When walking with a dog with pulling issues, when you stop to wait for the dog to stop pulling, you can call the dog's name to redirect his/her attention, and as soon as the dog looks at you and gives just the slightest slack on the leash, say "ok let's go" and start walking again. The point is when the leash goes taught to stop walking, and as soon as there's just the slightly looseness in the leash, it's time to walk again. Eventually, the dog will learn that if he wants to walk, he will be able to if he doesn't let the leash go taught. Walking is the reward, so by not letting the dog walk when the leash is taught he is punished so to speak by not being granted what he wants.

Posture and tone is definitely the key to present yourself as the dominant one.

I feed my dogs after I eat, but just out of habit and routine. By setting when the dog will eat, you're already setting the 'I'm dominant' idea.

You're really using a sit/wait, technique versus sit/stay when you make the dog wait for his food. Stay is stay and don't move at all, whereas wait is don't proceed any further until I say so.

JHwebsites from UK on April 02, 2008:

Very nice hub about man's best friend. The behaviour of a dog is a reflection on the dog's owner. Well behaved dogs usually belong to people who have spent time with their dog, teaching, playing and showing them affection as well as using their voice tone to control. You can find links to many top dog websites below.

http://www.ayrshirekennels.co.uk/links.html

In The Doghouse from California on April 02, 2008:

gamergirl,

First and foremost, your dog is beautiful.  Next, this was a wonderful Hub with a lot of GREAT advice on dog training.  You had me hooked from the very beginning because of your statement about training the owner.  I know this to be so true by my own experience.  I have a yellow Lab that is a wonderful working dog, he is a master in the field of retrieving.  I actually had the opportunity to train with him and a trainer for several weeks, every day to become trained myself.  It always amazed me how other "hunters" would drop their dogs off to be trained and then would pick them up months later and expect to know how to handle them.  I have seen the most magnificent dogs become confused because their owners were not familiar with their training and commands, then in a rage return the dog stating that they must be wasting their money because the "dog is not trained!" It truly is unbelieveable.  Also, a testimonial about the Alpha Dog mentality, it is soooo true.  You have to be the Alpha Dog or you will get no where in the training process, this means you do have to be bold and consistent.  You have given excellent instruction on training.  Thank you for this HUB.

Zsuzsy Bee from Ontario/Canada on April 02, 2008:

Charlotte! Way to go. When you write about a passion it always comes out just right. The hub is just perfect. Sierra looks awesome. She is just perfect.

Great info filled hub

regards Zsuzsy

Kiz Robinson (author) from New Orleans, Louisiana on April 01, 2008:

I was actually afraid I had included too much info, but reading a comment from such an amazing hubber, I'm truly honored! Thank you, Maddie! As I type this, Sierra is laying on my left foot where I commanded her to lay down almost ten minutes ago. She's half-awake and is just happy as a clam. We had a very busy day, I hit the ground running when I got home. Three walks and a lot of brushing her poor shedding coat later, relaxed and pooped out dog. lol

Maddie Ruud from Oakland, CA on April 01, 2008:

FABULOUS hub. Amazing how much great information you expressed clearly and concisely, without overwhelming the reader! (The personal references to Sierra don't hurt... What a cutie!)

Kiz Robinson (author) from New Orleans, Louisiana on April 01, 2008:

Thank you very much, Steph and Donna! I'm working very hard to make sure Sierra gets the absolute best care possible. :)

donnaleemason from North Dakota, USA on April 01, 2008:

Awesome! And your Sierra is absolutely beautiful.

Donna

Stephanie Marshall from Bend, Oregon on April 01, 2008:

Love it! Some really great advice here! (and the photo is oh-so-cute!) Wish I would have done more of this when we brought home our Garrett - though he was an adult shelter dog with bad habits to be broken.... :-)

Kiz Robinson (author) from New Orleans, Louisiana on April 01, 2008:

Definitely, Jenny! Your tone of voice has to exude confidence at all times. Just like you can't physically back down from your dog, you can't verbally back down either.

I wouldn't say I'm an expert. I've only had Sierra a few months, and I'm learning every day with her, but there are a lot of things I've learned and once you get in a groove of learning your dog's habits and breaking bad ones, creating good ones, I've noticed it just kind of flows.

Inspirepub from Sydney, Australia on April 01, 2008:

Great advice, Gamergirl!

I have seen a number of people "training" bad behaviors into their dogs, and it is just not fair on the DOG whe you do that.

One thing you don't say, probably because you are far too experienced to make this mistake, is something I have observed people often do badly - tone of voice.

Don't talk to your dog as though it is a baby, in a high-pitched, pleading voice! Make your voice a deep as possible, and when the dog is doing something wrong, look it in the eye and literally GROWL your "no" or "down" instruction, as loudly and sharply as you can muster.

In one hour I had the neighbor's ten-week-old puppy leaving my shoelaces alone, when all her "oh, Teddy, do stop that, you bad doggy" pleading and pushing him away had no effect at all.

Dogs are not babies, and they don't need their little feelings protected. They need clarity and consistency.

Sounds like you're doing well with Sierra, Gamergirl - and she is just beautiful!

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