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Monday, September 26, 2011

Who's The Boss

Thanks for joining me as we explore the ways we can help our favorite pets get over their fears and anxieties. Last time we talked about teaching your dog a few tricks to help him gain confidence and to relieve his fears. There's an even bigger benefit to good training, though: It teaches your dog who is boss.

Dogs are pack animals, and in every pack there is a dominant dog who is in charge. That dog provides the meals for the pack, decides where they live, and ensures the safety of all the pack members. To your dog, you and your family are his pack, and if you don't take charge of the pack, he may feel the need to step up and become the leader.

And this can lead to serious anxiety issues for your pet.

Imagine if you're in charge of the safety and health of a group, but every day that group locks you up and goes away. You don't know where they're going or when they'll return, and you have no way to follow them. You'd be a worried mess all day, too.

In order to avoid doing this to your pet, you need to make it clear to him that you are in charge, and that he can relax. In short, you need to establish yourself as the boss. There are books that recommend scary-sounding tricks like the alpha roll, but that's a good way to scare your dog even more. Instead, consistent training is the key.

Never give your dog a command you can't enforce. In other words, unless you're prepared to make your dog sit if she doesn't comply, then don't give the command. Allowing her to disobey you reinforces the idea that you're not the boss - the exact opposite of what you're trying to accomplish. If you tell your dog to come and he doesn't, then go and get him. Not in an angry or upset way, but firmly.

The same goes for repeating a command. Don't do it. When you repeat a command what you're really teaching your dog is that he or she only needs to obey you sometimes, because other times you don't mean what you say. That's a sure fire way to confuse your dog and escalate his anxiety rather than alleviate it.

So give your pup the training he needs and wants, but do it consistently and firmly, so there is never any doubt in his mind just who's in charge.

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