Help for When Your Puppy Thinks He Is the Leader

Learning he isn't the leader of the household is an important lesson for your puppy.
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A puppy who grabs your pant leg or growls when you take his toy may seem cute, but this behavior can escalate into an aggressive, potentially dangerous situation. Teach your pup from the start that you and your family are in charge; it's easier than breaking bad habits later.

Act with Authority

The key to having your puppy recognize you as the leader of the household is to act like you're the leader. Whether you're correcting him or praising him, keep your touch and voice firm. Tentative pats and excessive cooing make you appear weak and may make a naturally assertive puppy feel in control. Don't mistake firm for abusive, however -- there is no need to yell, smack or kick your puppy. Loud, aggressive behavior will only confuse him.

Control Meal and Play Time

In a dog's world, the head dog makes all the decisions. To stay at the top of the pecking order, you need to control meals and play. Don't leave a dish of food out for your puppy to come to whenever he wants. Have an established meal time, preferably after you eat, where you put his dish down for him. After he's finished eating, or in 30 minutes, pick up the food dish and put it away.

Along the same lines, don't start to play with your puppy when he brings you a toy. Instead, initiate the game yourself, and, when you are done, set the toy away. While he should have access to chew toys to keep him busy when he's alone, keep the toys that you play with together out of his reach unless you're playing with him.

Insist on the Right of Way

While a puppy's natural exuberance is entertaining, don't let him rush ahead of you when leaving the house or heading down the stairs. The dominant one in the relationship goes first, so be sure to enforce this. Make it easier on yourself by keeping him on a leash when you know he's most likely to dart past you, such as when you're heading outside to play.

Provide Plenty of Exercise

You can't expect your puppy to behave if he has a surplus of energy. Daily walks as well as romps chasing a ball will help burn off excess pep that can make it difficult for your puppy to behave. Multiple exercise sessions help break the day up for your puppy, and spending time exercising and playing with your puppy teaches him to depend on you, which helps him see you as the leader of the pack.

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