Consistency in Pet Parent Behavior

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Pet Parents

As pet parents, our behavior and choices have a direct impact on our dog's behavior, her outlook on life, and her entire existence.

This may feel like a great deal of responsibility, and it is. She is wholly dependent on you, not only for nutritious food and shelter, but also for leadership. It is essential that you set the tone of your relationship and her life as healthy, happy, and well-structured.

Becoming the Gentle Alpha in Your Dog’s Life

Many people hear the word “alpha” and immediately think of harsh or dominating tactics to get a dog to behave or submit. This is definitely not the goal you want to keep in mind when working with your dog and becoming the alpha in her life.

In fact, dogs tend to reflect back what you demonstrate to them, so if you attempt to discipline your dog aggressively, she may very well react aggressively to you in return. Avoid using any confrontational training methods like forcing your dog onto her back or side, staring her down, or yelling at her — all are likely to provoke fear in your dog at the very least, and may lead to return aggression in the worst cases.

Rather, pack leadership is a mindset to adopt in every single interaction with your dog. It is a full-time commitment: every second, every day. Instead of forcing her to behave, demonstrate to your dog that she can trust you, that you are a leader, and that you are actively taking responsibility for her actions, and her behavior becomes a natural consequence.

If your dog behaves perfectly at all times, it is likely that you are already consistently demonstrating alpha behavior yourself, and she already holds you in her mind as her pack leader. However, if she is struggling with any behavior problems, it is important that you first look within before blaming the dog for any issues. In most cases, once you make consistent changes to your own behavior patterns, your dog’s behavior should change, as well.  

Does My Being the Alpha Make My Dog Happier?

First, consider this: if your dog was allowed to do whatever she wanted, all the time, what would her life look like? She could eat herself sick or run out into the street; her life would have little structure and lots of danger. As the parent in the equation, you are responsible for ensuring your dog has healthy boundaries and balance in her life, and acting as her pack leader by establishing routines and encouraging positive behavior is the best way to do that.

Second: no one is happy when a dog is the dominant party in a relationship. Allowing your dog to take too much control can lead to severe problems in behavior down the line, such as growling, nipping, snapping, and biting — all behaviors that are dangerous not only for you but also for your dog. Several states have laws mandating grave consequences for dogs who are determined to be dangerous, so it is in everyone’s best interest to ensure your dog knows her place in the family pack from the outset.

How Do I Set My New Puppy up for Success?

Establishing a routine from day one is the best way to go when you are bringing home a new puppy. To prevent confusion, ensure that everyone in the household is on the same page about the puppy’s routine. There should be a clear pattern for when your new puppy goes outside, as well as when she eats, plays, and sleeps.

Ideally, you should decide on this routine before you bring your puppy home, rather than trying to figure things out as you go. This makes the transition as smooth as it possibly can be.

How About if I Adopted an Older Dog?

As with a puppy, it is important to have your routine planned out before bringing your adopted dog home. Discuss the routine with the household beforehand, and ensure that everyone is on board with the plan.

Be sure to take things slowly with an older dog. During her first few days, as she adjusts to life in your home, it is important that you do not overstimulate her. Give her some time and space; allow her to observe the rhythms of your home before forcing a lot of attention on her.

Whether your dog is a puppy or not, you may benefit from training her to sleep in a crate at night. Dogs feel safe when they are enclosed in a warm den, just as their wolfy ancestors do. A crate is a fantastic way to establish structure and boundaries for your new family member. Giving her a place of her own in your home can help her feel comfortable and keep her safely out of trouble when you are not around to supervise her.

Stay as consistent as possible in all areas of your dog’s life — her feeding routine should be the same each day, as should be her walking, training, and bedtime rituals. You may discover that you need to amend certain things about your dog’s routine after a while, but be sure to make these changes gradually.

Be patient and firm with your dog, demonstrating an attitude of calm, quiet leadership and complete stability. Your dog should appreciate your gentle and predictable daily guidance and reward you with excellent behavior over time.


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