Behaviour Control and Leadership

Just as children are not born with the moral compass adults often (but not always) have, puppies do not enter this world with the knowledge of how to behave in the way we want them to. It becomes our responsibility to patiently teach them how to properly conduct themselves around us, other people and other animals. This task appears daunting, but don’t think too much about it, once you know how, it will become easier. If you are familiar with positive reinforcement training, then you will know how important it is to encourage good behaviour and to reward it immediately, what people tend to overlook is the puppy’s needs, which are to be met in order for the experience to be truly positive. It becomes relatively easy to stop unwanted behaviour once the puppy is content and knows what will be rewarded. Gaining enough respect from your puppy and being a good leader will ensure that your puppy is responsive to you and will help immensely with this process.

Prevent bad behaviour, encourage good behaviour

Your puppy’s first year will undoubtedly be the most challenging for you, however, whenever possible, you will have to encourage him to respond correctly in a given situation. Praising and rewarding immediately will turn the correct responses into good habits. When preventing bad behaviour you will have to think ahead. Although it can be difficult, you should try and anticipate your puppy’s actions, so that you can either distract him before he does which ever bad thing he is about to do, or, physically prevent it from happening.

Puppies do certain bad things because it makes them feel good, which is why it is really important to stop unwanted behaviour before your puppy realises the pleasure it brings them. If you fail to prevent your puppy from doing these bad things, he will be encouraged by the pleasurable feelings and he will attain bad habits. If you prevent your puppy from engaging in some bad activities during his growing stage, once he finally matures, he is less likely to attempt the unwanted behaviour as an adult. This applies to all different kinds of bad behaviour, like chasing cars or joggers, jumping up on people or chewing on furniture.

If you catch your puppy doing something you do not want him to do, gently take him by the collar and lead him away from the temptation, showing him what you want him to do instead. If he repeats the unacceptable habits, attach a house-line or trailing lead to his collar which will allow you to grab a hold of him faster without having to chase him around the house (line should be around 2 metres long).

Meeting your puppy’s needs

Meeting all of your puppy’s behavioural needs will ensure that he is much more pleasant to live with and better behaved. The needs of your puppy can be sorted into these three categories: safety, body maintenance and social. You need to ensure that all of his needs are adequately met so that he doesn’t become desperate and does something you don’t want him to do.

Your puppy’s safety needs

Puppies rely on their mother or new owners to keep them safe from all the dangers of the world. The reasons for keeping your puppy safe may seem obvious, but, not only are you keeping him safe from getting hurt, you are also preventing him from learning aggressive behaviours that are often associated with anxiety and fear.

Why your leadership is important

A dog that views his own desires and wishes as less important than his masters will be a lot easier to control and live with, better behaved, easier to train and more likely to obey your voice commands. You often hear people complain about their dog’s behaviour, this is usually due to a lack of proper leadership on the humans end. A badly behaved, disobedient dog can be a nightmare to live with, and makes for an unhappy time together for all those involved.

Just as a teacher should earn the respect of his students, you must earn the respect of your puppy. If he believes that he is the pack leader, then he will make his own decisions and refuse to listen to you. However, if your dog feels subordinate to you, he will do his best to please and learn from you.

How to be a good leader

In the beginning of the relationship, your puppy will automatically look to you for guidance, this makes it easier for you to attain the position of leader. The challenge comes from retaining that position throughout your puppy’s growth, especially during adolescence. Humans have bred dogs for many generations, so they are quiet biddable when compared with their ancestors, the wolves. They don’t see the need for a hierarchy, and would rather cooperate with you than to dispute leadership. I good leader earns the respect and admiration from his underlings by demonstrating bravery intelligence and good decision making, he does not force or bully another into obeying.

To be the best possible pack leader you must be benevolent and tolerant, but also tough and uncompromising when the situation calls for it. A good leader knows when to stop, and never acts like a bully, using violence to force their dog to stay inferior will cause a lot of issues in your dog’s life as he matures. Good pack leaders have four main attributes.

They are:

  • Ability to keep the pack safe
  • In control of resources
  • Able to win contests and challenges
  • Good communications