Leadership v. Dominance

Dog owners need to be “alpha” and dominate their dogs to make them obey.   Anytime a dog does something you do not want them to, they should be labeled as dominant, bad dogs and their owners are not fulfilling the “alpha” role these dogs need.

This way of thinking is outdated and, in my opinion, borders on dangerous.

The relationship between a companion dog and its’ human family needs to take into account numerous variables including genetics, social skills, learned behavior(s) and individual physical and personality traits.  

The role of a leader is to lead, teach, motivate and care for their pack members.

Inter dog communications are subtle, yet very clear.   Most dog owners are uneducated about how their pets communicate with them and how to best communicate with their pets.   Simple canine messages are missed because they are subtle and vanish quickly. 

Communication is hindered when the meaning and intent behind each species’ communication methods are misunderstood. 

Consider the following:

  • Your dog acts or reacts because they believed it was the best response at the time
    • Unless taught a different response, they will most likely not change their response the next time.
  • When dogs do not respond to a known command, their desire to do something different is stronger.
    • If you want to change your dogs’ response you need to offer them something that is higher value
  • Anxious and fearful dogs generally have low quality social skills
    • They need to learn to trust their leader.  If they do not trust their leader will care for them, in all circumstances, they will not be able to relax and be polite.
  • Most humans, including many self-proclaimed “trainers” have never learned the proper techniques to communicate with dogs.
  • Dogs, like people, have preferences.  This does not make them bad dogs or dogs that need to be forced into enjoyment.
    • Some dogs do not enjoy dog parks and some dogs should never go to dog parks.  
    • Not all dogs can handle the energy, volume or tactile stimulation from children.
    • Car rides can be stressful to some dogs.

When forced dominance is applied everyone loses – the dog, the owner, veterinarian, dog groomer, etc. because the human-animal bond has been damaged.  This creates additional stress, anxiety, uncertainty and fear for the dog. 

By watching and listening to your dog, you can help your dog become consistent and predictable in all situations.  If you are your dogs’ leader, you can alter the outcome and help your dog understand what to do.

Dogs use body posture and facial expressions to indicate what they are thinking, and thus how they will act/react.  They watch what we do much more than they listen to what we say.

Always strive to be a leader who talks less, sets limits, is consistent and predictable.  Care for your pack members by providing for their needs; attention, exercise, play, social interaction and even quiet time.

Posted in Training Articles by dana. Comments Off on Leadership v. Dominance

Separation Anxiety

Separation AnxietyDesensitization and Counterconditioning

The goal is to help your dog come to the conclusion that being left alone is not something to become frantic over.

1) When you are at home, try to distance yourself from your dog.  Put his favorite bed and toys in the opposite corner from your chair or sofa.  

2) Over a two week period when you are not planning to leave, go through the motions as if you were leaving (get your keys, put your shoes on, pick up your purse, etc) but do not actually leave.

3) After the initial period try leaving for very short periods of time.  This can start with a simple walk to the mailbox as your dog is left inside the house.  Gradually increase your time away and include short trips where you actually drive away (2 to 4 minutes to start with).  When you come home NEVER greet your dog with any enthusiasm and do not talk to them, if he gets excited or jumps simply ignore his behavior until he settles down and then calmly give him some attention.  

4) Change your routine as much as possible.   If you always fix your hair and grab your keys before you leave, avoid fixing your hair and keep your keys  in your pocket so your dog will not hear them as you pick them up.

5) If your dog becomes panicked you need to step back as you are progressing too quickly.  

6) Never punish your dog for behavior that is a result of his anxiety as this will only make him more anxious.

Points to remember:

Unless there is a physical reason to prevent it, increased vigorous exercise (daily) is crucial to your dog’s emotional and physical well being.   If your dog is draining his excess energy the likelihood that he will be unduly anxious or excited is diminished.  

Crate training your dog might be helpful BUT if a crate makes the dog more anxious a crate should be avoided.  If your dog is not crate trained, proceed with crate training at gradual increments.

Each time you leave your dog you should leave behind a delicious treat.  Kong’s or bleached bones (the ones that don’t splinter) can be filled with a mixture of ½ cottage cheese and ½ canned food, peanut butter or cream cheese.   You can make up several of these and keep them on hand in a ziplock bag in the freezer.  Freezing the treats also makes them last longer and keeps the dog entertained longer.  You can also fill a Kong with some Natural Balance dog food rolls that you have cut into small bite sized pieces (again frozen).

Be patient above all else.  Your dog will pick up on your anxiety which will make the situation worsen.

If you are not making any progress, talk to your veterinarian about pharmacological intervention.

Posted in Training Articles by dana. Comments Off on Separation Anxiety

Phases of Training for your Dog

By Dana Malone

Each dog is different and I do not believe that one approach or one motivator work for every dog.   In general, a dog that is sensitive or lacks self confidence will not respond well to negative motivation so these should be minimized.  Whereas, a dog that is pushy or dominant is not going to respect the bribery of a treat.


The first step to any training is that you show/teach your dog the meaning of your command(s) through positive motivation. 

The introduction phase should only be done in a calm, quiet area when the dog will not be distracted. 

Find a reward that your dog really likes (food, toy, ball, etc).   When the dog does what you are asking, he will get the reward.  

If your dog does not seem to “get” what you are asking of him, try to break the command down into smaller steps.   


When your dog is consistent with the command(s), the next step is to introduce minor distractions and a combination of positive and negative motivators.

Your dog will be praised and treated (with toys, food, etc) when they have success during minor distractions.  A minor distraction can be something as simple as another person walking through the room without saying anything.

If your dog breaks the command with the distraction they will receive a negative motivator and given the command again as a reminder.   A negative motivator can be a negative noise or a physical correction.


Once your dog has success through the reinforcement phase it is time to increase the distractions.   Success during distractions will help to unify the bond the two of you have.

Types of increased distractions could be some things such as moving out doors to a park type setting, children playing, etc.

Your positive and negative motivations should be increased to match the increased energy of the distractions.

Posted in Training Articles by dana. Comments Off on Phases of Training for your Dog