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10 Essential Ways to Show Your Adult Dog that You are the Leader of the Pack

Establishing your role as the pack leader is very important. When you fail to be the leader, your dog will assume the role himself and start to show bad dog behaviors including aggression and dominance. This could result in bad dog bites and unsafe environments for visitors including children. Here, I put down 10 Essential ways to let your dog know that YOU are the leader of the pack.

Please note that this article is for adult dogs. Young dogs will have a similar treatment but there are quite a few things that are different too.

1. Be aloof around your dog.

Feed him, give him water, take him out for walks, and provide a clean place for him to sleep in. However, don't praise or pet him for the first few weeks of establishing your role as the leader. Additionally, don't take him out and try to socialize him yet. We want the dog to realize that you are the leader and that you will get him his basic needs.

2. Keep your dog in a crate.

This helps any behavioral issues from starting. Some dogs will chew at furniture or urinate in certain places to "mark" its spot. By keeping him in his crate, you prevent him from chewing at furniture. And since his crate has become his den, your dog will keep it free of any "marking". If the dog doesn't keep his crate clean, you may need to take a look at our housebreaking article.

3. Always have a leash on your dog.

When you go outside, always have a leash. When he is inside, make sure he has a leash too and tethered to something. Keep him close by. If any bad behavior starts (such as chewing or marking), then put him in his crate.

4. Be fair.

During this establishment as leader of the pack, you need to show the dog you are fair. Don't give any unwarranted corrections. Although you might not be petting or praising the dog, you are starting a bond with your dog. Your dog will start to see you as a fair leader to follow.

5. Stay consistent.

It is crucial to stay consistent. Lack of consistency will result in mixed signals. Your dog won't understand what you're trying to teach him. He won't know why he's going back to the crate or that he needs to do his business outside. Be consistent and continue to act aloof. Pack leaders are aloof so act aloof!


After the first few weeks of this, your dog will start to understand that you are the leader. But just because you have been established as leader doesn't mean your dog won't take over. You will need to continue showing your pack leader status with the following essential ideas:

6. Teach the dog that all toys are your toys.

Once you start letting your dog play with toys, be sure to let him play with it under supervision. Toys can result in aggressive behavior and they can start growing posessive over their toys. When the play session is over, be sure to take all of the toys and put them away. This is to reinforce the ideas that this is yours.

7. Don't let family members pet the dog...yet.

Don't let family members or strangers pet the dog yet. Your dog still needs to create a bond with you first before it does your family members. This is important as he'll be able to simply calculate that you are the leader. By putting him apart from your family members, he will start to understand that they rank higher than him, especially when you spend time with your family while your dog is still in the crate. Once this bond is created, you can start letting family members help train the dog and play with it.

8. Let your dog eat last.

In dog packs, the lowest of the rank eats last. When it is dinner time, eat with your family and then once you are done, you can feed your dog. When I do this, I keep my dog crated in the kitchen while we're eating dinner. Afterward, you can feed your dog food. Give him a time limit to eat. Don't let your dog eat freely. Usually, after 15 minutes, I will take the dog bowl away from my dog. Remember, you are the pack leader and the provider. By establishing a time limit, you let the dog know that you can always take away his food.

9. Groom your dog.

Spend 2-3 minutes grooming your dog. You may need to spend a little more depending on your dog's breed. Dog pack leaders will groom their dogs. After brushing him, I will say "OK" to make the end of the grooming session. This is important.

10. Have an exercise program.

Go on long walks with your dog. Keeping your dog in its crate will only give it time to worry about displeasing you which isn't healthy. Give him exercise either with a swim or a long walk. Note that puppies shouldn't be out jogging. Also, over-exercising can cause hip dysplasia for your adult dog. Dogs will vary in the amount of exercise they need so you may need to experiment to know the right amount of time your dog needs for exercise.