As a dog trainer, I get a lot of calls that start with, “My dog just doesn’t listen to me!!” The level of frustration is evident in the callers voice, so it’s my job as a trainer to talk them down from the ledge and explain to them that this problem can be fixed.
The first thing that needs to be done, is to build a trust bond between the dog and the owner. This doesn’t happen when the owner only pays attention to the dog when he’s doing something that the owner perceives to be wrong. What a lot of owners don’t understand is that good behavior should be rewarded, and bad behavior should be “managed”. If you only talk to your dog when he’s getting into the garbage, he will soon learn that tipping over the garbage pail gets him your attention and you will be inadvertently reinforcing a bad behavior. On the other hand, if your dog is sitting quietly in the living room and you give him a pat on the head and tell him he’s a good dog, you will be reinforcing his calm behavior and he will soon connect that when he is quiet is when he gets your attention.
Now to Leadership Exercises. Every dog appreciates a leader. If you do not show leadership your dog will become confused and he will take over the role of leadership which humans perceive as dominance and sometimes aggression. But its just a dog who is longing for a leader.
The best way to become a leader to your dog is to create structured activities that you and your dog can do together. The simplest one is walking your dog. Your dog should be walked at least 2 or 3 times a day, for at least 20-30 minutes each time. If you have a larger dog, longer walks will benefit him greatly. Not only do walks wind down your dog’s batteries, but they create a bond, especially if you practice the heel command as you walk.
Another way of creating a bond is to play fetch with your dog. While playing fetch you can teach your dog the Take It and Leave It commands as well. It will become a real fun experience for both of you as your dog becomes better and better at the game.
There are many other activities that people can do with their dogs, such as agility training and nosework, but I think that you get the general idea – any activity that you can engage in with your dog will promote a bond of trust and in no time at all your dog will be viewing you as leader of the pack!!