What does it mean to be the leader of your pack? What does it take to have your dog turn to you for direction with a thousand rabid squirrels running around him? Here are a few ideas:
- NOT physical force. True leaders don't use physical force, because they don't have to. When people see a dog who is extremely expressive, constantly jostling for status, and hypervigilant about the behaviors of other dogs, they often say, "Oh, that dog's an alpha." Wrong! The alpha is the one calmly laying down on the other side of the room. No one's challenging her. She has nothing to worry about. Her authority is solid, and she has nothing to prove. So when we are wondering how to earn our dogs' respect, we can channel that idea - lead like a true leader, not like someone who is worried about their position. That is worthy of respect.
- Protection. When we take ownership of a dog, we not only take on legal responsibilities in society, but we also enter into a pact with our animal himself. We promise to protect him. If we're aware and willing to tell the rude dog charging head on down the block to NOT mug our considerably less playful one, we'll have shown ourselves to be valuable and capable protectors. If we assume that role, regardless of the other owner's perception of rudeness on our part, we'll let our dog know that it's worth their while to look to us for direction in stressful situations instead of handling them themselves. Usually meaning acting out, or even fighting.
- Providing for basic needs. This is something our dogs can't do for themselves. In return, they'll give us unconditional love.