Hello, my name is Pablo, and I immigrated to Israel from Uruguay five years ago.
Although dogs have been my passion since I was a boy, I became a professional trainer only 12 years ago. The main catalyst to this was losing my own beloved dog, who met a violent and premature death by being killed by an automobile, an accident that left me stunned and sorrowful.
My Rottweiler, Dako, had a splendid personality, dominance and strength which motivated me to study canine ethology (animal behavior) in order to comprehend how dogs' minds work, and what is their perspective of the world.
I spent nearly three years working with Dako as a trainer, a period which I enjoyed immensely.
Dako went to Heaven (and is surely waiting for me there, forever my loyal companion), and the pain of losing him made me decide not to bring another dog home. Instead I devoted myself to training other people's dogs, to impart to them all the things he had taught me. Also thanks to him, I wanted to reciprocate the gifts of understanding he had given me in his short life, by educating other dogs and their loving owners with the lessons I had learned.
I moved to Israel in December 2002, and since then have been working with dogs of every shape and size, from purebreds to mongrels, puppies to seniors, with pedigrees and without, and each and every one of them has greatly enriched my insights of canine behavior. I am eager to share some of my experience with the readers of Michael Bloom's blog, to answer your questions about how to deal with the behavioral issues of your pet, and hopefully contribute some of my knowledge to you. I appreciate your responses and would be honored if I can help you in any way with the relationship you share with your dog.
Translated from Spanish by Hadas Marcus
Establishing the role of leadership over your dog
Just as "Idleness is the mother of all vices" in humans, a lack of clearly established boundaries is the root of all behavior problems in dogs. Distinct roles of leader and follower must be defined in order to create a healthy relationship between dog and master. The position of the owner as the boss, the leader, must be consistently maintained to make a pet more secure and a much more pleasurable companion. Many dog lovers fail to recognize the importance of a dominance hierarchy, or pack mentality, in the psyche of their canine. It is what is instinctual to them, what is most natural, to develop relationships based on leadership and calm submission which allows them to live happily. They yearn to know and understand their position and role, or rank, in the larger scheme of things, particularly concerning the members of the family which owns them.
To beat a dog is wrong, not only because it is inhumane, but also because if it is not done at an "appropriate" moment, then it will most likely leave indelible scars which will harm his character development. What many people do not understand is that to treat a dog as if it were an infant is also a terrible mistake, and can be just as serious as hitting him.
A dog's respect and affection cannot be won by buying it the most expensive food or designer toys which the manufacturers promise will keep him entertained for hours. A dog does not appreciate how much money you spend on it or how luxurious your home is, but rather who is in control of who.
What a dog really desires and expects from you is that you give him his defined position within your family and home, and that you do not deviate from this. If you do not prove to him that you are the true boss, then he will gradually begin to take over your domain until he has completed reversed these roles.
He will plant himself stubbornly on your sofa in front of the television and sleep in your bed. Don't be surprised if he even growls at you when you tell him to move, because he thinks of himself as the one who makes the rules. Your dog will try to test you and push the limits, in his effort to become the boss, the one who occupies the most important space. The boss is the one who gets fed first and the best portion. It is he who is the leader, the one who transmits superior genes to his offspring, and later to his descendants over generations.
Tips to educate your dog to be submissive:
Teach him the five basic obedience commands---sit, down, stay, come, and heel--- and practice them often.
Do not allow him on your bed. He can sleep beside you, in his own place, such as on a rug or cushion.
Do not put on his collar and leash for a walk until he has remained seated calmly for a few moments.
Make him follow you behind you when entering doors and gates--- you should be the first one through.
Praise him on the spot for correct behavior with an affectionate Good Dog!. Reprimand him with an immediate loud No! when he you catch him in the act of doing something naughty or forbidden.
If your dog is not too heavy for you to lift him, do so often and carry him a few steps before putting him back down. This will remind him of the days when he was a puppy and his mother carried him around from here to there, and also got angry with him for wandering off. While he is in your arms, he will have a feeling of total dependence on you.
Nothing for free. If he enjoys getting special treats, make him earn this reward by doing something. Ask him to sit or to give you his paw.
Always feed him after his walk, not before. Give him approximately 40 minutes to eat and then take away his dish.
Play with his dish while he is eating, moving it from one place to another.
Always keep in mind:
If you wouldn't want to be treated like a dog, be certain that your dog doesn't want to be treated like a human being.
Translated from Spanish by Hadas Marcus