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The Importance of Establishing Yourself as the Pack Leader

Dogs are pack animals. Humans are pack animals (we call it family.) Your dog considers you his pack just as you might consider him a member of your family (the hairy son you never had.) In a dog pack a hierarchy is established. The hierarchy is the chain of command that begins with the pack leader (Alpha.)

Black Lab in the Snow

With the position of Alpha comes enormous responsibilities. The Alpha is responsible for the welfare and safety of the pack. His job is to keep constant vigilance and to see danger before it sees the pack.


In a complicated human run world you cannot put the stress on your dog that he doesn’t have your guidance. Remember, your dog lives out of his element in a human world amongst human things.



Some behavioral problems arise from dogs that actively seek the “Alpha” role, but more common are behavioral problems that occur when a dog is seeking leadership and not finding it. The growl of a car engine or a mailman sticking his hand in the mail slot could mean danger. Not to you though. You know better.


You know all about these human things.


The mounting stress and fear of living without leadership and guidance can build to the point where it needs a release. Chewing, destruction and house soiling can be that outlet. A stress reliever. A physical outlet of a frustration.


Your leadership to your dog is his security. The only way he can have contentment is by knowing you are in charge and can make good decisions.


Obedience automatically comes when your dog respects your ability to lead. Dogs live well with humans because they naturally follow leadership. A dog will work very hard to meet the expectations of a leader they respect and believe in.


Now, a great leader of men would not necessarily be considered a great leader by his dog. Dogs have a different way of showing leadership.


The hierarchy isn't established thru violence. Very rarely do the pack members "duke it out" to see who is going to be alpha. When food is scarce you wouldn't want to waste valuable energy fighting or of course healing. Even if you were the hands down best fighter how many fights could you have in a week before it would take it's toll? And besides, do you really want to injure the very individuals you need to help you hunt down difficult prey?


One of the main ways dogs establish leadership, alpha, or the hierarchy of their pack (in your case, the household), is by controlling the movements of the others. This could be bumping into each other, blocking another individual’s path or by making others move in some way.


Every time you adjust your movements for your dog, you are telling him in his language that you are submissive to him. This includes walking around your dog, opening doors on demand, getting treats on demand, petting him on demand, allowing him to take your seats as soon as you get up and so on.