Pack Leader – Dominance, Aggression or Leadership?

Jordan Dog Training - Blog

Outdated and superseded methods have persisted in the dog training arena

Principles in dog training have changed over the years as our understanding of canine social structures and behaviours have advanced. Many outdated and superseded methods have persisted in the dog training arena despite being shown to be unnecessarily aggressive, yielding poorer results and creating stressed out and fearful dogs.

For example, owners were taught to use alpha rolls, hit the dog or “choke it out” (yes, there is still a company in Brisbane that instructs its clients to do this to their dogs).

If you were to observe a group of dogs, you will see that they do not use aggression and intimidation to establish themselves as the leader. Pack leaders also do not place their subordinates into time-out, yell or chastise them for past indiscretions.

Dogs live in the moment, they cannot rationalise or reason or think back to something they may have done earlier in order to conclude that that is the basis for their punishment.

The difference between a boss and a leader

We all know and have experienced the difference between a Boss and a Leader: for a boss you tend to do things because you fear the consequences of their rage, whereas for a leader you naturally look up to them, not out of fear but out of respect. Our domesticated pet dogs are not conspiring to be the leader of our human packs. They are happy to be a subordinate and have all the stress that comes with being a leader looked after for them by someone that they respect and trust. Dogs will also be more likely to happily obey commands from someone they respect as a leader.

Our day-to-day interactions with our pets is what makes our dogs respect us as a leader and trust that we will be consistent in our actions and keep the pack safe. If we inadvertently send the wrong messages to our dogs, this can lead our dogs to feel insecure in their environment and potentially feel the need to step up and be the leader to ensure the safety and survival of the pack. It is when these things go wrong and the dog has been accidentally forced into the leadership role that we are often called for help to resolve issues like excessive barking, leash straining and aggression.

A professional and holistic dog training approach

As a professional dog training business, we speak dog. When we have a dog with behaviour issues, we take a holistic approach to the situation, which means looking at the dog in its home environment and identifying what may be contributing to the problem. It is very rarely one individual thing but generally a whole host of things the owner may or may not be doing to accidentally send the wrong signals to the dog.

If we can change our behaviour in small ways to send the correct signals with our daily interactions, the dog will naturally and happily settle back down in the pecking order. Once we have these foundations right, it is amazing how easily we can rectify many of the common behaviour issues being displayed. No alpha roll, no force, no yelling, no hitting, simply being a good leader.

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