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When that little puppy is new to your family, regardless whether it’s just you, or a family of four humans, and/or other dogs and cats, that new little puppy is cute no matter what he does. However, it needs to be established who is in charge—you, or that furry ball of energy, from the onset of the relationship so he knows who is the boss.
When that little puppy is five or 15 pounds, all that romping through the house, along with cute little growls and barks may be entertaining, but when he’s a big boy or girl and 30-100 pounds, some things are no longer cute or funny. If you have not set boundaries or made that little guy know who is in charge, you may inadvertently have created a monster that will be difficult to get under control.
Dogs are pack animals. In the wild every pack has an alpha—that is the leader who makes all the decisions for the entire pack. Typically, there is an alpha male and an alpha female. All other dogs in the pack submit to the alpha’s.
Just because you are a human doesn’t necessarily mean you are the pack leader. Unless you establish this early on, you could easily be usurped by a dominant dog and your safety, or your family members’ safety may become an issue when your dog is having “a moment” (in toddler talk that is a called temper tantrum).
To set things straight, being the pack leader doesn’t mean you have to be mean and aggressive. It does not include beating, yelling and screaming. You do not want to become the monster and have your puppy cowed down and scared of you. Leadership and subordination is all about respect and communication between the members of the pack.
When you establish boundaries for your puppy, and he respects the word NO, you are on the right track. If your dog ignores your commands, there is work to be done. And, like little toddlers, if you let your children or dogs run wild and they are never disciplined, and ignore the word NO, you are in for a rough time because you definitely are not in charge.
At least a toddler does not present the same type of dangerous threat that a puppy or young dog can become. Growling, hair standing up along their spine, direct eye contact and tails stiff means that dog is ready to fight and you or someone in your family could get hurt. Dog bites are not fun.
Be firm when saying NO! Don’t yell or scream. Find a firm voice. And don’t confuse your puppy. Don’t wait until ten minutes after the incident happens. Remember, he is like a toddler and he has a short memory. He will need to understand that what he is doing right then and there—in the moment—is not appropriate. When he submits to you, he understands you are the alpha and there will be peace in your household. Be sure to document your puppy’s training in your The Puppy Baby Book. And, take a look at our beautiful, frame-worthy obedience certificate.