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By Pete Eromenok

Many people expect too much without putting forth the required effort needed to have the desired relationship with their dog. There are some simple but not easy ways for a pet owner to develop a proper dog-human relationship. I say not easy because it requires a consistent response from the owner which is more easily said than done.

My philosophy is that any time you are with a dog it is learning something good or bad. Dogs seem to absorb and respond to whatever is going on around them. A good example of this is when you put your shoes on or grab your car keys. The dog that was once snoozing in the back room comes zooming in to accompany you on your journey. No one consciously taught him that, he figured it out himself. He quickly made the association between the keys or shoes with you leaving. Or, if you have taught your dog not to get up on the furniture, yet on occasions you allow it, it can send mixed messages. Dogs cannot reason like a human. So what does this have to do with leadership?

In the thought processes of a dog, space is a valuable thing to own. I guess we humans think the same on this issue. Let’s take that first example and continue the scenario. Your getting ready to leave the house and you have your keys and your shoes are on. Rover is standing by the door ready to go as soon as the door is cracked open. You begin to open the door and he forces the door open faster than you expected. What has Rover told you? He just said that this is my space I was here first and hurry up. Also he has no respect for your territory which is rightfully yours. After all you flip for all the bills. As harmless as this picture seems it is not the correct relationship to have with a dog. This behavior is a small notch in his gunstock for dominion. A person should always exit first. This takes about 10 seconds to teach yet it must be consistent every time you exit- which is the difficult part. After a while the dog just accepts the fact that you go first.

How about the dog that sleeps in the door way or hall way? We tend to walk around the dog so not to disturb him.  What does this say to the dog? It tells him you are avoiding his space because he is the top dog. As easy as it sounds to make the dog get up and move most people find it difficult to perform. Don’t disturb the baby he’s sleeping syndrome. Dogs expect to move so don’t worry about it. There are dogs that will not move without a fight. Why? Because they have rightfully earned it. The owners for years taught him it was his by avoiding his space in most categories and just in general obeying the dog or in essence doing what the dog wants. So this simple little thing has a great impact to a canine. We must always remember that dogs think like dogs and not people.

There are many things we do when we are with our dogs that indicate our subordination and weaknesses to them. Most dogs do not manifest their leadership through aggression some are just out of control and do what they want. There is no harm in that .They are just annoying thus making them unenjoyable. However there is an ample supply of dogs that control through correcting their owners.

I talk a lot about leadership between dogs and people because it is part of the framework in which a dog learns to learn. It is the # 1 criteria lacking in many pet/owner relationships.  Leadership does not involve a brutal dictator or an anal-retentive drill sergeant mentality. No yelling and threatening gestures are necessary.

By changing the little things we do we can greatly change a dog’s actions.