The Big Dog, YOU!!!

I wanted to discuss "issues" today.  Many people I talk to have issues with two of their dogs, disagreements, spats and all out fights.  Others have a "tough" dog at home but would love to add a second and really don't know how to go about doing it right.  The most important thing about living with dogs is guidance and leadership.  Now; when I say leadership in no way do I mean physical leadership.  I am a very strong leader and never slap, hit or alpha roll my dogs.  I have strict rules, the dogs must abide by them, simple really.

So what exactly does being a leader entail?   If you are dealing with soft type dogs, meaning that they don't challenge you or anyone else.  They are easy and never do anything that would be considered rude even in the world of dogs then leadership is very easy.  Tilley is much like this, I call her my Lassie in Poodle clothing.  She would never step out of line or push.  Now, if your dog is more typical or dominant in personality then you need to have more structured rules and enforce them. 

Enforcing is another one of those very important things.  If you have rules but never enforce them, then you may as well forget about the rules.  The common heard phrase "rules are made to be broken," does not pertain to dogs.  Besides I'm pretty sure that phrase is strictly a teenager thing, I know I heard it many times when my kids were in their teens.  So; the rule is:  if you do not intend to enforce, don't ask.  It is much better to not ask then ask and let slide. 

If you have a couple of dominant type dogs then you have a lot of work to do.  You have to keep on top of them at all times.  You need to make up rules simply so that there is a great degree of structure within your home.   This doesn't mean that you have to be on guard at all times, just on your toes.  You will be enforcing the no nonsense rule, this is an important one.  With dominant dogs nonsense can lead to trouble.  Once dogs start fighting things can snowball quickly, sometimes out of control. 

There are times when it is not going to work, two very head strong dogs who are both struggling for top dog status with a history of physical violence may not be able to turn it around.   It is sad but there are times when placing one of the dogs is the safest and best thing for all concerned.  I know many people who live a life of rotation, dogs in different rooms of the house, but it's not a great option.  Of course many of the situations can be turned around with structure, rules, enforcing and training. 

We just had a great example of a pushy dominant dog just a few minutes ago.  My husband and I were play fighting when Luke decided to tell us to stop.   He dove onto the couch growling his toughest growl, not directed at anyone in particular, he was pushing his weight around.  This is when timing is everything, he was kicked off almost before he even landed on the couch.  Statement made.  He is now lying on the floor with his head down very moopy, he got the message.   He doesn't try it often but every once in a while he gives it a go.  This whole situation could have been directed to another dog or dogs and the same feedback would have been appropriate. 

Many folks are not the leader type, that's fine in our human world.  But when you have a dog you must be the leader:  a guiding or directing head.  If you allow your dog to be the leader, your life will be drastically different, and not in a good way.  So if you are looking to add to the family and have a pushy type, look for a mellow dog that won't push back.  If you have two hard headed canines at home; pull on your "top dog" outift and play the part.


  1. I love your blog! We do not hit our dogs either and I do consider myself a good leader, but we have a dog problem I'd like your opinion on. We have a 2 year old lab who was kept outside in a kennel for a year before we adopted her. She jumps up on us all the time. She jumps up on children too. Nothing I've tried has ever changed it. Any suggestions? I assume she does it because she learned that jumping up on the kennel was the only way to get her first family to notice her. Thank you for any suggestions!
    -Gretchen Newey Utah

  2. Gretchen; I will blog about this Friday morning for you. There are many things you can do to stop it. But don't feel like you are the only one, Labradors are probably the worst for this.

  3. Thank you so much! I will look forward to that.


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