Tony Knight Dog Listener

5 Bad Habits #2 - Leaders or Bosses?

· 351 words · about 2 minutes

Just as there are those who believe that dogs think like human beings, there are others who, while understanding that a dog has its own nature, mistakenly think that in order to show the dog who is boss, strict discipline should be used, including force or dominance.

I have met individuals in the past who have claimed they know how to show the dog who is in charge, and that involves “sticking the boot in”. Funnily enough, when I ask them if they have ever been bitten, they have all said yes…

It is perfectly true that structure and leadership are important to dogs (in nature this is necessary in order for pups to learn valuable survival skills for example), but using force can only encourage some dogs to retaliate, usually in self-defence. Also, many people have told me that they are not “leadership material”, and so feel unable to take on such a dominant role. The good news is that this is not the kind of example that you need to set.

There is leadership, and there is good leadership. You do not have to use force to be a good leader, you inspire others to follow. History is littered with leaders who have used force and history has judged them (sometimes their own people have judged them finally too). We understand perfectly well the difference between a good leader and a not-so-good one.


If you can show your dog that it can trust you, rather than fear you, then you are much more likely to succeed. Besides, it may be relatively easy to pin down a Chihuahua, but try doing that to a St. Bernard… In short, respect has to be earned. It is understandable if your dog asks questions of you to make sure that you are trustworthy; the important thing is to have the answer that inspire trust, not fear. Using force or pain to exert "authority" is ultimately for those who do not know any better.

Bad habit #3 is almost singularly responsible for more heartache and stress than any other, and is so easily avoided...