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Positive Dog Parenting®

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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Puppy Training Establishing Leadership - Q&A

Leadership Dos and Don'ts

Pet Professional Tip

Fit boarding dogs that are unruly with head collars before walking them to an elimination area. Take puppies to exam tables and give treats as you slowly introduce them to positive handling. Use treats as lures to teach dogs to sit.

Words to the Wise

Remember your dog's learning becomes solid through many repetitions
and rewards in many
different situations.

Don't expect too much
too fast.  Learning is a continuous process, not
a finished product. 

Be patient. Keep the sessions short and positive


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Introduction to Leadership Exercises

As a responsible, loving dog parent, it is important that you recognize and provide for your dog's basic needs.

  • Just like children, you cannot expect dogs to be seen and not heard ALL the time. Dogs depend on their leaders for basic survival which includes both physical health and mental well-being.
  • Dogs were not intended to be cooped up alone in a house or yard day after day with nothing productive or entertaining to do. If you want the joy of living with a happy, healthy, well-behaved dog, then you MUST understand and satisfy your dog's basic needs.
  • Take your dog to the veterinarian on an annual or more frequent basis to be sure your dog is in optimal health.
  • Provide your dog with daily, exercise, companionship, and something productive to do. 
You will reap the rewards of a well-mannered dog when you learn what your dog needs and provide a lifestyle that prevents common stress-related behaviors.

Following the leader...

IF the dog is pushy, pulls on the leash, jumps on you, is hyperactive, or unruly, THEN use a head collar such as Behave®, Gentle Leader®, or Halti®. Leash control of the nose and head immediately creates a "follower" mentality in a dog.

Leaders go through doorways first

Teach your dog to sit and wait before entering or exiting any door. If necessary, hold the dog back by either grasping the collar or using body blocks (i.e., blocking access with your body) to teach "wait." Then, you enter or exit first through doorways. Leaders lead. If the dog reacts to reaching for the collar and does not respond to the use of body blocks, have him or her drag a leash and use this as a handle to teach "wait."

"Learn to earn"

Establish your leadership by asking your dog to earn his or her food, petting, and praise (anything that the dog wants) by performing one or more instructions (e.g., "sit/stay"). This is the "Learn to Earn" exercise. Once your dog will readily obey any known instruction in most any setting, this suggests he or she recognizes you as a consistent leader.

Gentling exercises

Then, practice gentling exercises and physical examinations frequently at home in a positive setting. Use food treats, to reward passive acceptance, then gradually try in gentling exercises in a less familiar settings to GENERALIZE your leadership position.

Telling your dog to move...

Don't walk around your dog every time he or she is in your pathway; teach your dog the instruction "move." Use your voice to move the dog, not your foot (it is okay to stomp). This instruction is handy if you have an arm full of groceries.

No sleeping in your bed

If the dog challenges your leadership by not responding right away to your requests, then have the dog sleep on the floor at the foot of your bed, not on it or on furniture. Use a three foot leash or a comfy kennel to confine the dog if necessary. It is best if a bossy, challenging dog does not sleep on the owner's bed and is only allowed on the bed "with permission".

Teaching indoor behavior

Teach your dog quiet indoor behavior with the Close Tethering Technique (leash tied to your chair or ankle when you're home). Praise calm behavior (remember to reward spontaneously good behavior!) and ignore tantrums. Give a chew toy.

Teaching the "quiet" correction

Avoid giving your dog what he or she wants after barking, scratching, whining, or begging — even if you think the dog looks so cute and innocent. (He or she is attempting to control you!). After correcting attention solicitation or excess barking with a "quiet" correction and asking for a "sit" instead, you can give the dog what he or she wants. Make sure the dog does a few things to earn what he or she wants so that the barking isn't a well-planned plot to start this chain of events that leads to the doggy jackpot!

Stay calm

Avoid losing your temper when frustrated. You will put your training success and relationship back months. Leaders do not lose their cool!  Dogs respond best to reliable, kind, and predictable leadership. Spend 99.9% of the time praising good or correct behavior.

Timing is everything!

For reprimanding, use no physical punishment (with your hands); instead use verbal scolding but only while the pet is actually doing the unwanted behavior.

Stop scolding immediately when the dog stops the unwanted behavior. Then, return to being a happy, loving owner. Ask your dog to sit, to earn positive attention and praise. If the scolding continues for even two seconds after the behavior stops, then you are scolding the pet for stopping!

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