Understand Pack Theory

Before you can train your dog to listen to you, you need to understand just what makes her tick. Although you may not look like a dog, your dog responds and respects you as though you were. Straight down the canine ancestral line, dogs habituate behavior that is reflective of pack theory: where one is the leader and the others respect the leader's direction. Training is based on this instinct.

Who's in Charge

Long ago, dogs were domesticated from the wolf, and many of their social instincts remain the same. Wolves live in packs in which the social structure and hierarchy are predetermined and respected. Every pack has a leader who is responsible for everyone. This is a big job that can fall to either a male or a female. That leader and his or her partner together make up what is called the alpha pair.

When you bring a dog into your home, she is primarily interested in establishing who is in charge. This is why training your dog is so important for both of you. Most dogs prefer the relaxed role of a follower, but if you don't take charge, the dog will.

Dogs who are in charge typically exhibit a few to all of the following behaviors:

• Bark or paw at you for attention or a treat.

• Ignore you or run away when you say COME.

• Are unruly with company.

• Go to the bathroom in forbidden spots.

These behaviors are not signs of a "bad" dog; they simply show a dog who thinks she is supposed to make decisions and be the leader.

Dog's Motivation


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Your dog's behavior is chiefly motivated by your attention. Relating to you is the highlight of her day, and she will do anything to get you to notice her, even if it's acting up.

Attention Is Everything

You dog thrives on your attention; she doesn't care whether it is negative or positive. In fact, negative attention is often perceived as confrontational play or, worse, instills fear. For example, it you yell loudly enough at anyone, they will look afraid. The same is true of your dog. You may be yelling at your dog, telling her that she's bad and thinking that she understands that you're mad at her. In reality, your dog may be misinterpreting your frustration and not making the connection. Your dog may be reading your frustration as confrontational play, making her even more excited and unmanageable.

Consider what I call the Attention Scale, a scale ranging from 1 to 10, with 1 representing sleep and 10 representing totally out-of-hand behavior. For our discussion we will further split the scale into 1 to 8, or the happy, civilized zone, and 8 to 10, the manic zone in which your dog literally can't control herself. As puppies, all dogs have this range; however, as they mature, most learn how to contain their impulses.

A lot of people focus on behaviors that fall in the 8-to-10 zone, manic impulsive activities, in an anxious attempt to gain quick control. Yelling, pushing, kneeing, and grabbing, however, are all forms of attention, but instead of teaching the dog to be calm, these reactions excite her, and the behavior gets worse or happens more frequently. Remember, the behavior that gets the most attention is the behavior that your dog will repeat over and over. Your goal is to help your dog understand how to control her own impulses and to live in the 1-to-8 zone: civilized and polite.

90 Dog Training Tips

90 Dog Training Tips

You will receive tips on basic commands, tips on leash and collar, tips on eliminating howling, tips on respect and confidence, tips on house training, tips for dogs to stop chewing, tips for stop chasing cars and tips for separation anxiety.

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