6 Principles to Improve Your Leadership

These 6 principles are important to follow when it comes to establishing leadership with your dog. Leadership is the first step in developing a bond and trust that lead to a lifelong companion!
  • Trust – For any relationship to grow, there must be trust. A dog needs to know that I’m going to be fair with them. This doesn’t mean I don’t ever discipline them.  It means that when I do, it is fair and they understand why.
  • Consistency – This plays a big part of trust. I need to be consistent all the time. A dog needs to identify they are going to get the same me every day. They can have up and down days, but I can’t. I need to be consistent and try to be the same person for that dog every day.  If for some reason I’m not having a good day, or know I’m not in the right frame of mind, I won’t train dogs that day. It’s not fair to them. How I handle situations, discipline, reward and communicate all have to be consistent. A dog needs to know what I expect from them, and I need to be consistent in my training to make sure they clearly know that. If a dog gets away with a certain behavior one day and not the next day, I’m confusing him. The more consistent and clear I can be in my training, the better they will be.
  • Confidence – As a leader, I need to be confident.  As I mentioned earlier, a dog wants to be led and they want to follow an assured leader. They need to know that I’m in control of any situation that may come up. Let’s say my dog and I are walking down the street and we pass by another dog walking and he starts barking and lunging at my dog.  If my anxiety and stress elevates, my dog feels that.  I must have calmness as their leader so they can distinguish I’ve got everything under control.
  • Communication – We are always communicating with our dogs whether we know it or not.  They are way more in tune with our moods, attitudes and gestures than we are with theirs. So it’s important that we understand our dogs are watching us. They are paying attention to everything we do. We need to remember this when we are working with our dogs. The energy we give off (positive or negative), our body posture or how we vocalize to them is all communicating something to our dog. We also need to really learn and understand what our dogs are saying to us. They communicate when they understand or when they don’t understand what we are asking. They communicate when they are bored, relaxed, or upset. It’s important that we understand this. Communication is so important in any relationship, and we need to be very sensitive to what we are telling our dogs and what they are telling us.
  • Grudges – Let go of them! It is important not to hold grudges. As a leader of any dog, my passion is to help them be the best dog they can be. Do dogs test us? Yes. Do they try to get away with things? Yes. Do they disobey? Yes. At the same time, a dog is looking for leadership and companionship. Even if you think they aren’t, they are. So how does holding a grudge and keeping negative energy toward a dog help them? It doesn’t. When I discipline a dog, I discipline and then move on like it never happened.  Patience is key.  Some dogs take time to learn what you’re asking them to do, so be patient.
  • Vision – Lead with one. Unlike a human, I can’t literally tell a dog that this is what I want you to become in the future and expect him to know what I said. BUT every day I work with him, I lead with a vision. I lead him where I want him to go. I stay focused on what I know is best for this dog and lead him there. It’s a daily commitment to making him better and helping maximize his potential. It’s spending time with him and doing life with him. Exposing him to those things you want him to do. Giving him a job and a purpose he can work towards.
Written by Chris Miller, Terrain D.O.G.®