Dogs are pack animals, which explains many
behavioral characteristics. When you are having problems think "pack
leader" and act accordingly.
One of the pack-behavior features that all dogs bring to their
relationships with human beings is hierarchy and, consequently, dominance.
Puppies spend a great deal of their time trying instinctively to establish
where their position is in the hierarchy, and they can only do this by
attempting to establish their own dominance.
Some breeds are more dominant than others. The terriers, for instance,
tend to be so; generally the gundogs do not try so hard. Being in the
dominant role is not necessarily comfortable for a dog, particularly when
the signals from their human companions are mixed and confusing. Most dogs
settle happily in the submissive role once they are clearly placed there
and learn that they do not have to attempt to keep everyone under control.
The dog's place must be established as soon as he arrives in his permanent
home. He must learn that all the humans in his home are above him in the
pecking order. This is not a matter of punishment for the dog. There are
simple keys to make it plain.
The leader eats first. It is often convenient to feed the dog before you
eat, but if the dog observes this, you are sending one of those confusing
signals. If the family and the dog are going to eat at more or less the
same time and in the same place, let the puppy wait. Puppy-feeding times
are best arranged well away from your own meal times, which will avoid
sending this signal.
From the start, it is useful to make the puppy come to you for his food
and wait until you are ready, perhaps by teaching him to sit before you
put the bowl down.
Touching and handling are potent signals to a dog. Daily grooming under
proper control will indicate who is in charge. Some puppies will resent
the handling involved - dominance again they may react as though they are
being hurt. Ignore it and insist. All
puppies are capable of learning very quickly whether you really mean it.
NIPPING AND BITING
Most puppies will "mouth" things, including your fingers, when they are
very young. This will progress to a nip. Mouthing is normal behavior in
the young as they learn with their mouth and nose. Nipping is the first
step in learning dominance. It is not amusing; stop it immediately, by a
sharp reaction - the "No" it has already learned - and a tap if necessary.
Remember your pack leader role!
GAMES AND FIGHTING
All puppies like to play games; they are part of the puppy's education,
and in the light of that you should think carefully about them.
Avoid contest games with your puppy. Tug-of-war is fun, but can easily
develop into a contest of dominance, with the puppy either winning the
tug, or growling or snarling while hanging on. If you must play tug-of-war
keep it on the very lowest key and stop immediately if the puppy starts to
become too excited. Simply to stop and go away after retrieving the tug is
probably as good a lesson as any.
Running after a suitably large ball (not a stick, please, or a ball small
enough for the puppy to choke on) can be fun for the dog. But teach Your
puppy to bring the toy back to you by not running after the dog to get the
ball. Show indifference if the puppy runs away with the ball, and reward
him with praise and pats if he brings it back to you. You have started
obedience training, congratulations!
More on Dogs