Dogs are smart; sometimes too smart. Keeping one step ahead of them can be a challenge for some k9 guardians and before they know it they are no longer in charge. Having a dog who is indeed in charge or thinks that they are in charge is not good. It can lead to many problem behaviors and is often the cause of dogs leaving a home and ending up at a shelter or rescue. There the problem only gets worse until someonne takes charge.
Sometimes it is the tiniest of things that can cause a dog to think they have risen to the top. Simply petting your dog each time they demand it; can lead to trouble. Or when your dog drops that disgusting ball in your lap and you obediently toss it for them. Does your dog somehow get out the door ahead of you everyday? Or dive on the couch before you are even sitting down? You may want to take a long hard look at your relationship.
Although these behaviors can lead to problems; it doesn't always mean problems. One of these behaviors alone on a very well mannered, polite dog can mean nothing at all. A simple ooops in dog etiquette; like my girl Tilley, they don't come anymore polite. Tilley is a dog that would never assume and always asks before doing pretty much anything. But, put a ball or frisbee in front of her and she comes undone. I've been nailed several times by her as her excitement level takes over and she can't wait for the item she will retrieve to leave me.
Many times when problems start to show; it is on a dog that was never a status seeking dog. The problem lay with the human and the lack of leadership and guidance. A dog seeing this will step up and fill the position. Being a leader does not mean that you have to be in "bossy" mode all the time or be constantly saying NO. What it means is that there is rule in your home, your rule.
My dogs are very happy go lucky dogs but they know when I speak that they need to listen. When I ask something of them; I follow through. When you don't follow through and get results, things slowly start to unravel. Dogs learn very quickly when you mean what you say; or not.
Yesterday Luke tried to push me; not a good idea. I had been keeping a toy from him; it is one of Tilley's toys that had not been destroyed so I was saving it for her. She had it for about 1/2 hour and Luke had been waiting. As soon as she walked away he grabbed it; the squeaking gave it away. I immediately went downstairs and asked him to drop it; which he did immediately. But as soon as I went to grab it he grabbed first and turned away to run.
Hmmmmm, this was a first. So I pumped myself up and made a display using my body language to let him know that this was not cool. He immediately dropped the toy and moved away. Luke is not a toy guarder at all, he has never shown any guarding towards items so my reaction was perfect for the situation. He was just seeing what would happen if he didn't give it up; and he found out.
There is a huge spectrum of dog personalities, temperaments and behaviors. What you need for one probably isn't needed for the next. Your behavior needs to be as individually delivered as your dogs are individuals. But remaining the boss is important no matter what dog you are dealing with. The action/reaction being specifically designed for each individual.
So to summarize; when your dog asks why they have to do something, you should always reply "because I said so."