5 Ways to Be the Leader That Your Dog Wants to Follow
Your dog needs someone to look up to and guide them through difficult situations because, let’s face it, this world isn’t designed with canines in mind. There are other dogs on leashes, squirrels, fireworks, loud trucks, cyclists, more squirrels, and tiny humans that don’t always know how to respect a dog’s personal space. The last thing we want is a dog to decide on their own how to handle a loaf of fresh baked banana nut bread on the counter. That’s where you, the pet guardian, come in.
You are the super fun family member in your dog’s life that always knows what to do and creates the boundaries that make sense of the world. Whether you are new to canine companionship, or an experienced professional, these are the 5 pillars of a successful dog leader that will make your life, and the life of your four-legged bestie better, easier, and happier.
1- Pack on the Praise
A good leader builds you up. Have you ever had a boss that only told you what you did wrong, and never appreciated your work? You don’t want to do your best in a negative or hostile workplace, and neither does your dog! Lucky for us, dogs don’t need a gift card to Starbucks or a bouquet of flowers to know that we appreciate them. They just need some kind words, a happy tone of voice, and the occasional treat. Try these ideas out:
Say “Good Boy!” or “Good Girl!” Whenever they look at you. We all want our dogs to look to us for guidance and to pay attention to training cues.
Give a small treat whenever they sit. This teaches your dog that when in doubt, take a seat.
Your dog being quiet and calm? Give them a kind word or a quick pat. Everyone loves meeting a chill dog.
2- Adjust Expectations
Some dogs are outgoing and want to kiss every human they meet. Other dogs may only want to share affection with their close family. Every dog has a different personality, strengths, weaknesses, and preferred hobbies, just like humans. It’s important to recognize these qualities about your dog, accept who they are, and figure out how to grow together as a family. We don’t expect pre-schoolers to not fidget or be perfect about handwashing, right? Just like we can’t expect a dog that is fearful of loud noises to be a great hunting dog. Also, we need to recognize that it’s not fair to criticize a dog with no social skills for barking at the person wearing a big hat.
Your dog will love you in sickness and health, and through heartbreak or happiness. Let’s cut them some slack and keep our expectations realistic.
Dogs don’t speak our language. Surprise! When you change the rules for a special occasion, or ONE TIME only, they don’t understand. It’s incomprehensible to them why they can jump on you to greet you when you come home, but not your house guests.
Pro Tip: Think of the manners you want your dog to have on Thanksgiving, and keep those rules year round. It’ll save you and your pup so much stress.
4- Set Them Up For Success
You need to lose 30lbs. You plan on getting it done by tomorrow. Is that an attainable goal? No way! It takes time to make changes and start new habits. Just like any large goal, it needs to be broken down to smaller goals. Each little goal that you achieve will make you feel more confident. Dogs aren’t any different. Want your dog to sit calmly by the door while you get the leash out? To a dog that can be 4-5 actions that they need to learn.
Sit by door
Stay by door while best friend gets leash
Keep butt and all four paws on floor while best friend very slowly attaches leash to collar
Keep butt and paws on the floor while my human is getting their keys/shoes even though I am really excited!!!!
Don’t Jump and run out the door while it’s being opened, even though I can see outside. Must keep all paws and butt on floor...
Plan on tackling one action a week and by the end of the month, your pup will be politely waiting to go for a walk. If you try and cram all the actions into one, your dog will fail and both of you will be frustrated. Success comes from planning and giving your dog easier to manage goals.
BONUS: Each little goal is a great chance to pack on the praise and be the best boss ever!
5- Provide Variety
A great leader thinks about how to meet the team goals while balancing the needs of each member of the group. Variety is the spice of life. It’s so important for mental health, physical health, socialization, and letting your dog live his/her best life. Is your dog high energy? Try switching up the daily exercise with walking, running, hiking, playing fetch, dog park trips, etc. Is your dog not gobbling down breakfast with the usual gusto? Try changing up different feeder toys, adding some scoops of wet food, special holiday/birthday meals, etc. The ideas are limitless! Not only will this create a more well balanced and mentally stimulating life for your pooch, it’ll also make you look like a king/queen in your pup’s eyes..
If you follow these five pillars of leadership, it will improve your human to canine relationship, and make the world a better place for canine-kind. Need more ideas? Click on the links below. Your dog will be glad that you did!
With puppy and kitty love,
Lily the Dog Mama