How to be a pack leader



A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. ~John C. Maxwell


By becoming your dogs’ pack leader, you will set the stage for a more enjoyable life with your dog.  You will be giving your dog what he needs and in turn he will be much easier to manage and live with. Dogs that live in a dog pack do not develop the same behavioral issues of those that live with a human pack.  The cause of many behavioral problems  are from people “humanizing” their  dog. Humanizing a dog is one of the most detrimental things we can do to our dogs psyche.

When we compare a dog to a human, we cease to give him what he needs to be a dog.  We believe he thinks like a human so should act accordingly.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  A dog is an animal, he thinks like an animal and cannot rationalize like a human or understand what you are thinking, it is impossible.  You would not bring a wild animal into your home (such as a Mountain lion or Grizzly bear) and expect it to understand anything you said or thought, yet people do it with the dog every day. Dogs are domesticated and capable of learning words but are still an animal and need to be respected for what they are.

Becoming a pack leader will make a dominant dog less dominant and give a fearful or anxious dog more confidence.

Below is a list of what the term Pack leader means and how you can become your dogs’ pack leader.

There are two positions in the pack–  1) Leader 2) Follower.  In the eyes of your dog, if you are not one, you must be the other.  A dog that senses no leadership, and is not a born leader, will try to become one.  This can cause problems such as aggression, dominance or anxiety.  A dog that senses a clear leader can relax because he is not responsible for the life of the pack; someone else has everything under control.

The pack Leader is calm and assertive –  A dog will only follow calm assertiveness.  If you are angry, fearful, anxious or nervous your dog will not follow your commands.  Pack leaders are never unstable.  If your dog is not performing or paying attention to you, ask yourself what state of mind you are in and change it if necessary.  Never work with your dog when you are angry.

Pack leaders are dictators but are fair and consistent – The rules of the pack are set by the pack leader and never change. Everyone in the pack knows what is expected.  Do not give your dog one set of rules today and change the rules tomorrow.

Examples include:

  • one family member does not allow the dog on the furniture and another family member does.
  • You make the dog wait before going out of a door one day, and allow him to push his way through the door on another day.
  • You enforce proper leash walking in your neighborhood, but not in other places such as a park or on a trail.

All these things are inconsistent and will confuse the dog. BE CONSISTENT. All family members are part of the pack and everyone should maintain the same rules for the dogs.  All rules apply to all dogs in the pack.  There is not one set of rules for one dog and not the other.  Everyone is treated equally.

All canine relationships are built on 2 things –  1) Trust 2) Respect.  If your dog does not trust you, he will not listen to you. If your dog does not respect you, he will not listen to you.  If your dog is not listening, ask yourself if it is a trust issue or a respect issue and change your training accordingly.

Never do anything to break your dogs’ trust.  For instance – Never Call your dog to you to discipline him or do something he doesn’t like.  If you do this, he will be leery to come to you because he cannot trust that coming to you is in his best interest.  If you punish him for not coming, once he does come to you, you continue to break the trust.  Dogs will not follow someone they do not trust.  If he cannot trust you, you cease to be the pack leader.

Pack leaders do not negotiate and are confident in their decisions.  – If you are on a walk and are afraid of what your dogs might do when a person, animal, bike, car etc. passes by, you are not confident, the dog will sense this and will react accordingly. In a dog pack the lead dog makes a decision and sticks with it. He does not worry about what is ahead, nor does the rest of the pack.  They trust the leader to do what is in their best interest for the survival of the pack.  Know what you want the walk to look like and focus on that, not what you think the dog will do.  This will build both trust and respect from your dog.  If your dog knows you are in control, he can relax.

The Pack leader always protects the pack – Your dog needs to see that you control the situation so he does not have to.  If another dog is acting out or a child or new puppy is being too forward with your dog, it is the pack leaders (YOUR) responsibility  to stop the others from bothering or injuring your dog.  No bullies allowed. Again, if your dog sees that you are controlling the other pack members, he does not have to.

Pack leaders do not give unnecessary affection – Do not give your dog unnecessary affection.  Dogs need to earn affection.   Too much affection is not good for their psyche.  For instance – do not pet your dog and kiss your dog just for being in the room.  He must work for affection by obeying rules, walking on leash properly and being obedient.  If he is misbehaving and still getting affection, you are rewarding the misbehavior and he will continue to do it in the future.

The pack engages with the pack leader – In a dog pack, the pack members are always engaged with (watching)  the pack leader, regardless of what they are doing.  If the pack leader moves, they move. If the pack leader growls, pack members listen. Many problems people have with their dogs are due to lack of engagement.  The dog would rather sniff a bush, chase a bunny, bug, piece of grass , whatever, than look at and obey his owner.  If a dog does not engage with you, he neither trusts nor respects your authority. Engagement is built through leash work, obedience, rewarding good behavior and disagreeing with bad behavior.

Your dog is a reflection of you –  If your dog is misbehaving or not obeying, ask yourself “what am I doing that is creating this situation and what can I do to change it.”  You are a human with higher intelligence DON’T BLAME THE DOG and DON”T BE LAZY! Do the work!

If you apply these principles when interacting with your dog, soon they will come naturally and you will create a new way of being with your dog.  You will see that your dog will become more relaxed, happier and less anxious and with that, so will you!

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, owner of Super Mutts Canine training and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 20 years experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. She is an  AKC/ CGC, CGCU, Community Canine and S.T.A.R. puppy evaluator.

You can read more or purchase her book at 






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