When we talk about being a pack leader, it typically means that your dog should follow you because you are higher ranking. It’s based on studies from the 1970’s of wolf packs. It was thought that wolves have a cutthroat hierarchy, where the alphas exerts dominance aggressively for access to resources. Since dogs are descended from wolves, we should apply the same principles to our dogs.
However, there are several problems with these assumptions. First, dogs are not wolves. Dogs and wolves are different species. Dogs are uniquely and adorably attuned to humans and enjoy social interactions.
Second, scientists have debunked what was previously known as wolf pack hierarchy and instead of a rigid hierarchy, a pack consist of the “alphas,” the parents of the group overseeing their wolf pups.
Third, there’s a better, kinder approach to being a leader for your dog. Show your dog what behaviors you like and reinforce them often. Provide your dog’s mental and physical enrichment daily. Lastly, manage your dog’s environment to set them up for success.
Remember if a dog walks in front of you or tries to go through the door first, they are not trying to establish dominance, they are just excited and want to see where the action is. Your dog loves you unconditionally so help your dog by making the choice to use positive reinforcement training.
Have any other training questions? We are more than happy to help! Contact us at 410.782.5862
CPDT-KA and Animal Behavior Consultant