A Dog for the Family
The Perfect Pet
Of Mutts and Men
The Terrible Ten
When Less is More
Glossary of Dog Terms
Types of Breeders
Dog Personality
Dog Behavior
Little Shop of Horrors
The AKC Pure Bred
Breeding Your Dog
The Top Ten
Frequently Asked Questions


Canine Behavior (cont)
As you can see, your dog rules are different from humans.  Dogs are much more precise and follow the rules of hierarchy to a T.  As he crouches low to the ground and  rolls onto his back, your dog is saying,  "You're the boss.  Whatever you want is okay with me".  To speak harshly to him or to punish him at this point is cruel.  In his world, speaking his language, he has assumed the position to end the quarrel or challenge.   

The difference between dogs and humans is also illustrated by the way a mother dog corrects her puppies.   When unruly puppies get out of hand, the dam will pick them up by the scruff of the neck with her teeth and shake them while growling.  Older puppies will find mother's mouth clamped over their muzzle with increasing pressure until the young upstarts yields.  

Unfortunately when Fido sees himself as "above" the children in the family, he'll "correct" them in the same manner.  However, instead of quieting down the instant the dog's mouth goes around the child's arm as a puppy would, a small child will scream and try to pull away.  This results in more pressure being applied by Fido in an attempt to quell the perceived challenge.

Willing your dog to become human and to understand your ways will not work.  You can not educate the canine instincts out of your dog.  If you're going to get a dog, you must commit yourself to establishing yourself as pack leader.

Fortunately, this isn't as ominous as it sounds.  It's as easy as you setting the rules in the house and making sure Fido obeys them consistently.  

If Fido's not allowed on the couch, make sure no one in the family allows him up on the couch, period.  

Do not allow Fido to beg at the table (remember, the alpha eats first) and to wait until supper is over to reward him with scraps.

Other ways to establish your position as leader of the pack are as follows:

  • remove favorite toys from him starting as soon as he comes home!  If he objects, correct him with a guttural growl.  (Rabbits, cats and other "prey" animals who don't command a dog's respect vocalize in shrill, high tones.  Big male dogs who are respected by all "speak" in a low, firm tone.)  
  • Obedience train him.
  • Crate train him.
  • Frequently play with his food in his dish as he eats from puppyhood.
  • Don't play tug-of-war with him.
  • Groom him regularly, checking ears, feet and tail for ticks, fleas and other parasites.  
  • Trim his nails
  • Make frequent eye contact with him.
  • Stop and correct him immediately when he's misbehaving.
  • Teach him to take treats gently, no pushing and grabbing.

I'm sure you're breathing a sigh of relief right now.  It's that easy.  Chances are you were already planning on doing most of the things on the list already.  

It is essential that you remember that your dog will love you no matter what.  That's what dogs do.  You must do the above so you will also have his respect.  Convince the 15 lb puppy to respect you and the 90 lb adult dog will never question you.  

Just as it's the accumulation of the above actions that shows your dog you're the boss, if your dog is going to challenge your position he'll do it by taking baby steps.  He may start by protesting giving up a toy or snapping up a treat greedily.  He may mouth your hand as you trim his nails or rush to beat you out the door.  Your response should be sharp and unwavering.   A low, guttural "Stop it" with a jerk on his collar or chain will usually suffice.  Young dogs will respond to being lifted by the scruff of the neck by looking away and avoiding your gaze.  (He'll remember his mother's correction like this when he was a puppy.)  This is exactly what you want and it should be rewarded.   

Read more and see a list of submissive 
and dominant dog body language