Every team needs a captain. Did you ever notice how the captains of sports teams aren’t necessarily the biggest or physically strongest members of the teams? They may not even be the best players. They usually do share at least one common trait, though. That trait is leadership ability. They’re also likely to be calm, confident, and assertive.
You Too Can Be a Good Leader
If you’re not a natural team captain, don’t panic. You just have to fake it until you make it. Behave your way to success and act like a good leader. Acting like a good leader means that you set standards, and expect and insist that they are met. It means remaining calm and taking charge of situations that might cause your dog to misbehave or panic. If you get frustrated and hysterical in response to your dog’s hysteria or out-of-control behavior, no one is in control, and the leadership position is up for grabs. If this happens repeatedly, your dog may decide that you’re not worthy of the leadership spot.
Control your breathing! If you hold your breath in stressful situations (and most people do), you hold on to tension, which telegraphs directly to your dog. Consciously force yourself to take regular, even breaths; you and your dog will both feel better!
Don’t Forget to Breathe!
You may need to force yourself to take a deep breath (don’t forget to let it out!) and tell yourself “I am in control of this situation,” but your calm, confident energy will instill your dog with confidence and trust. With a little practice, not only will your dog believe you’re the leader, but also you might even start believing it yourself!
The Foundation for Training
Whether you want a dog that excels in obedience competition or just a great family pet, your relationship with your dog is the foundation for all of the training that you’ll be doing with him.
Your relationship is the difference between creating a dog with a desire to work for you, instead of a dog that wears a “will work for food” sign, or worse, a dog that only performs out of fear. Nothing is more annoying than a dog who only responds to a command when a bribe is dangled in front of his nose.
It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Don’t have a discussion with your dog about a command, or pose it as a question. Say it once like you mean it. Praise should be enthusiastic and sincere; you want to see a tail or butt wagging!
A Solid Foundation
You can help build a solid foundation for training by providing your dog with clear, consistent boundaries and guidelines. When he can expect predictable consequences for his behavior, it’s in his own best interest to make the right choices and be rewarded for them, rather than being corrected (or at least not rewarded) for poor choices. A healthy relationship is the cornerstone on which to build your great dog.