How to Teach Dogs to Obey: Tips for Establishing Leadership and Boundaries with Your Dog

January 14, 2019
As a dog owner with over 25 years of experience, I can attest that having a dog is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life. The companionship and joy they bring is incomparable.

When you don't set boundaries and let your dog know you're in charge, you struggle with behavioral problems. A happy dog has boundaries and respects you as the boss. 

It’s easy to fall in love with a new puppy. Too often, when that sweet puppy grows into an unruly dog, owners can feel overwhelmed, trying to get their dog to obey them.

Most often behavioral problems in dogs stem from a lack of leadership and boundaries. Realize that dogs are pack animals where someone has to be in charge. If there’s not a clearly defined leader in the home, then the dog assumes she (or he) is in charge.

Put Yourself First

Putting yourself first may seem selfish, but if you let your dog control you, you’ll build up resentment and she will soon assume the role of leadership in your household. Even worse, your family will feel neglected.

How to Establish Leadership

Leadership simply means you, as the owner, tell the dog when it’s time for an activity, and not the other way around.

Eating routine – Rather than offering an all day cafeteria, you decide when your dog should be fed. When she finishes, pick up her food dish, placing it out of reach. Then, when it’s time for that second meal she should be hungry. This also works in potty training. If you let your dog eat at will, anytime of the day, you won’t be getting her into a routine, but will be at her mercy for whenever she needs to go outside and relieve herself.

You eat first – By your dog seeing that you eat your meal, before she’s served, she sees that you are in charge. Give her dog food and not elaborately prepared human meals. It’s actually better for her.

You initiate playtime - If your dog initiates playtime, ignore her. That’s not to say you don’t play with her because quality playtime is important for bonding, as well as exercise. However, you, as the leader, should be the one to instigate it. Notice when she’s sitting quietly and not begging for attention. That’s the time to toss her a ball and play.

Sleeping arrangements – Your bed belongs to you and not your dog. If you’re sleeping with your dog, it’s not a good idea for either of you. Set up her own personal doggie bed and if she tries to jump in bed with you, lovingly and firmly place her in her own bed. In fact, she actually prefers her own sleeping quarters.

Greeting and jumping –It feels good to know you’re loved and get a warm reception when you walk through the door. However, if you let your dog jump up on you, you’re teaching her bad habits and she’ll jump on guests that visit. When you first walk through the door, don’t give her eye contact at first. If she jumps, turn your back and fold your hands, ignoring her. Then, when she sits and settles down, praise and greet her.

Don’t Baby Your Dog

Smaller dogs tend to be babied more than larger ones. Babying your dog may include dressing her up in doll clothes and treating her like a doll or human baby. Pampered dogs are spoiled dogs, which are not happy pets, because they fail to get along with people and other pets.

Finally, learn all you can on dog obedience techniques. Before you feed or play with your dog, first have her sit. Also, take advantage of informative television programs, such as Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog”, which incorporates many of these principles. You’ll enjoy your pet much more once boundaries are set and your dog knows you’re the boss.

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