Being a true leader for your dog means you and your dog learn how to work with each other, to be in sync with each other. It does NOT mean bullying your dog into doing what you want it to do.
Bullying has three major characteristics: aggression, repetition of that behavior, and an imbalance of power. In dog training, bullying can look like this:
using a bonker to punish unwanted behavior
leaning over the dog and giving hard eye contact
“hanging” or choking the dog by the leash to correct mistakes or unwanted behaviors
cornering the dog in an effort to force submission
These are just a few of the more obvious ways of bullying a dog – and I can promise you that if you use these methods, your dog will not trust or respect you, nor will they follow you because they want to.
Now, if you are truly leading your dog, you are recognizing that they are trying to learn, and you are rewarding those efforts with whatever most motivates them – food, toys, pets, verbal praise. If they make a mistake, you are giving them a calm but firm “no” and perhaps a light leash correction – and then, you are encouraging them to try again. When you’re truly leading your dog, you’re recognizing their limitations and working within their thresholds to help them become more confident, you’re advocating for them when they’re struggling with their triggers, and you’re respecting their need for time-outs when they’re showing you they’re feeling overwhelmed.
True leadership is respecting and honoring your dog’s needs while helping them learn how to handle daily life. It’s showing them that you always have their back, no matter what. It’s being aware of your energy and body language, and ensuring that they are correctly interpreting the signals you’re giving them – or, to say it another way, being very clear about your expectations.
If you need help with this, get in touch with me. I’ll be happy to help you.
Have a great day, and remember to stay calm and lead on.