Cabana's Quest for World Domination

cabana standing on her hind legs with front paws on a globe, bejeweled crown on her head, with the words long live the pack leader in an arc overhead
Okay, so it's a slight exaggeration to say that Cabana wants to dominate the world. But I think many would agree that Cabana sometimes tries to dominate ME! I have a tendency to be too accommodating and "soft", and being the keen observer that Cabana is, she knows how to take advantage of my weaknesses.

But Cabana has improved greatly in the past couple months, in recognizing that I am her pack leader. She is MUCH better on walks and tends to be less solicitous at home (not always trying to grab my attention by staring at me or shoving her head into my arms when I'm working). She's gotten very good about just hanging out near me or amusing herself with toys. Though it's probably the result of a combination of factors (my session with the dog trainer, Cabana being spayed, and plain old growing up), there are also some small day-to-day tactics we've tried to employ diligently. These routines can lay a strong groundwork in helping our dogs see us as the pack leader.

1. Eat your dinner before feeding your dog. The pack leader always eats first in the wild.
2. Enter and exit doorways first. It's best to teach your dog to wait until you invite your dog to cross the threshold. (Same goes for stairs.)
3. Pet and play with your dog often throughout the day--but make sure YOU are the one initiating. If you only pet and play in response to your dog's solicitation, you are setting yourself up for constant pestering.
4. Have your dog do something to earn treats, rather than handing them out pell-mell.
5. On walks, keep your dog at your side, not out in front of you. You are determining where to go and the speed. If your dog wants to stop and sniff, make sure she waits until you release her to do so.
6. Some dog experts would say not to let your dog get up on furniture or on your bed (Guide Dogs would concur with this). If you do choose to let your dog sit on furniture, make him wait until he's been invited, rather than giving him full ownership of the couch.
7. Puppy push-ups (sit, down, sit, down) are great for establishing obedience randomly throughout the day.

These things are taught and recommended in the Guide Dogs puppy raising manual (except #6 since puppy raisers don't know if their pup's future partner is going to allow them on furniture in the future). The message is subtle, but dogs are experts at picking up on our subtle cues. It may not be necessary to incorporate all of these ideas, but even two or three of them will go a long way in teaching your dog who's pack leader.

Of course, this list is far from exhaustive. Any other suggestions for establishing leadership? Please feel free to add to the list!

Katrin  – (January 19, 2010 at 10:13 AM)  

That is a very good list except #1 is bogus. In the wild the pack leader eats LAST. It's true, look at any research on wolf packs or wild dog family packs and the pack leader may take the 1st bite, but then he or she backs off and allows the remainder of the family to eat their fill before he or she eats their fill.

Also the whole 'dominancy theory' in relation to dog and humans also doesn't hold water. Dogs in multidog households have a pack amongst themselves where they may have a dominate pack leader and other hirearchy in that pack, but they see us as humans and themselves as dogs. We are not part of their 'pack'. We as humans can be in control of the resources and stay in control of our dogs that way and ask them to respect us because of that but really there is no 'dominating' of humans or anything like that.

Dogs do what works. If they get reinforced when they are being obnoxious they will continue to do what works which is being obnoxious. Dogs are the BEST manupulators in the business and they simply 'do what works'.

So really Cabana is not trying to dominate you, she has simply found that certain behaviors will get her- attention, food, toys, play, etc and so she does those behaviors even if you find them to be inappropriate because they work for her and get her those things she wants. You need to turn the tables by doing things in your list to encourage her to respect you more and do other more appropriate behaviors that work better instead.

Just my .02 Good luck with your training!

Mimi and CC Cabana  – (January 19, 2010 at 12:10 PM)  

Thanks for your comment, Katrin! I hadn't known there was debate about the pack leader/dominance thing, but after I read your comment, I googled it. And it seems to be a rather heated debate! As are so many things in the dog training world!

I also came across this list for establishing leadership that I thought was very good, with some of the same points as mine has, but better worded and with more detail.

Kari in WeHo  – (January 19, 2010 at 12:24 PM)  

we are big on wiating before getting on the furniture. Its been difficult to teach Carl

Mandy and Cancun  – (January 19, 2010 at 1:55 PM)  

check out Patricia McConnell's book leader of the pack. All raisers in my club are required to read it when we get a new pup, whether we've raised 2 or 20 pups. It's just a pamphlet so doesn't take long, thank goodness. Anything she writes is worth reading.

She blogs at

Mimi and CC Cabana  – (January 19, 2010 at 2:51 PM)  

Thanks, Mandy, I've read two of her other books: The Other End of the Leash and For the Love of a Dog. But I haven't read Leader of the Pack--it's now next on my reading list!

I think it's great that puppy raisers in your group are required to read it.

Lauren and Don  – (January 19, 2010 at 4:50 PM)  

I've found that the most helpful thing with Don (who also tends to be dominate) is body blocking. By this, I mean using your body to block the dog and lead them in a certain direction. Basically, "run into" the dog, looking in the opposite direction and remaining neutral/calm so that she won't get attention. This really calms Don down when he gets over excited or "mad" and it seems to work even better than collar corrections for behaviors such as sniffing counters or picking up objects. Another helpful tactic is to walk through your dog, not around. If Don is laying on the floor, I expect him to get up and walk away when I want to walk across the floor. Doing this a couple times a day really helps. Hopefully this makes some sense... good luck!

Baby Rocket Dog and Hootie  – (January 19, 2010 at 5:32 PM)  

Oh boy are we bad pack leaders. Both our pooches are now total furniture hogs.My face is red.I'm ashamed of us.I'm afraid it's too late.BabyRD wasn't allowed on the bed until just recently too.
(BabyRocketDog & Hootie's human)

Ms. ~K  – (January 19, 2010 at 7:01 PM)  

Sounds like you're headed in the right direction for a long, happy relationship w/ Cabana. I know how difficult it is to be the pack leader, especially when you're out numbered 3 to 1, as I am! I still need to work on Sassy's dominance uring play sessions...the tennis ball makes her crazy with excitement.
Hugs and belly rubs to Cabana,

Becky  – (January 19, 2010 at 7:43 PM)  

Great list -- good reminders! You are so clever in your posts!

Erin  – (January 19, 2010 at 7:56 PM)  

Yeah so I had to go and blog about the dominance theroy, cause my post would have been at least...5 comments worth here! LOL!!

Love the list though...but do agree with Karin about #1! Check out my blog for more info.

OSU 98  – (January 19, 2010 at 9:21 PM)  

All great tips to consider for my next puppy! One other thing I do every day is mix up Chelsie's food with my hands, so my scent is on it. I also "proof" her - touch her while she is eating and stick my hands in her food while she is eating. To date, she has always given the desired result - that is to stop eating and wait until I move away.

I think I am crazy for wanting to bring a leaky, untrained puppy into our house...

JackDaddy  – (January 20, 2010 at 8:58 PM)  

Am I the only one who doesn't follow ANY of the rules????

Anonymous –   – (January 22, 2010 at 3:11 AM)  

Ok, I know that the stuff about wild dogs vs domestic dogs is debated, so I'll give you some personal experiences from how I deal with Troy.

1. When I feed Troy, I make sure he sits before I put his food into his bowl. Rarely I forget, but that's no excuse in the dog world... so must make that to 100% every time! I use a whistle and blow it three times before allowing Troy to go for his food.
2. I never allow Troy to initiate playtime. I used to, and I've learned my lesson! I've given up on allowing playtime except for when I want to let him since two weeks ago, and this morning he tried to test me by rolling on his back after grooming. I told him that there was no playing and I made him sit. I asked him to lie down, so he lays down and starts playing around. I sternly tell him off and physically restraine him with "There's no playing!" (draw out the the word so it sounds like (playyyyyy-ing", to make it clear that I mean it. Then I pet him for doing what I ask. Then I did some puppy pushups to reinforce my place at the top. Troy regained composure again and was very happy because he realised that I am in charge so he doesn't have to be.
3. I've learned how to body block him from taking interaction of others in harness. If someone tries to pet him, I just put my hands in the way so my hands and arms are handled instead of the dog! When they try to talk and say things like "It's all right... it's all right!" to comfort me, I just gently take Troy's head and get him to look at me. I do this calmly to show him that I'm in control and to just ignore them because they don't understand that they're doing the wrong thing, so if I'm ignoring them, then it's ok for him to ignore them too. Also I find phisical contact in general as well as voice commands works hand in hand. Not only one or the other.
4. It does take some effort, but I reckon doing these things consistently really helps. Modify where necessary and as desired.

The Thundering Herd  – (January 24, 2010 at 4:36 PM)  

Despite all of our joking around on the blog, we actually are very serious about who is in control (and, no, it is not The Herd). That is the only way to live in a large pack. But I find many of these rules are just suggestions, not firm rules. I am sure for each person, the rules can be adjusted and the canines are quite adept at still following whatever rules exist.

The key is that you as the human get to decide. The canines will love, respect, and follow you for that.

P.S, - Glad to find your blog.

Mimi and CC Cabana  – (January 24, 2010 at 5:01 PM)  

Hello Thundering Herd! Thanks for visiting my blog. Your huskies are gorgeous, and I look forward to spending some quality time on your site.

Yes, I purposely avoided the word "rules". The list was just an assortment of things that have worked for me--but I agree with you 100% that each person needs to find what works for them and for their individual dogs.

Jackdaddy, you should do whatever works for you and Jack! He's a lovable looking hunk of yellow.

Thanks to everyone for their input!

Miley  – (January 25, 2010 at 7:22 AM)  

Great blog and great advice!!! Thanks!!!

lotsa licks,

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