By: Joel Allen
Hello, folks! Years ago, when Zues walked the Earth with me, he would always be in charge at home with my pack when he was not working as my service dog. He always tried to bully other dogs in our home with getting his way. Alphas do that when they think they are in charge. With dogs, they have a pack mentality that needs and craves structured leadership. If a dog senses a lack of leadership in their “hooman” then it becomes a serious problem, or they think they can take charge from their hooman they will. Zues would try but I always managed to get control of the situation. Hey, I provide the food and shelter so, “Yeah! I’m in charge!”
Recently, I spoke with a friend that was having a problem much like I did. She told me when her Alpha passed that her pack went into turmoil and seemed to be acting out on each other. I listened and wished I had thought of what I am about to share with everyone. Now, my disclaimer is that these methods and ideas I am about to share have worked, but they do not work with all dogs. Sometimes, troubleshooting and brainstorming has better results.
Okay, let us say that we have a death in our pack, and it is the leader. Well, naturally the whole pack loses direction and the natural process of selecting a new leader falls to the pack hierarchy. There is almost always a “power vacuum” and in most cases, not all, there will be infighting amongst the pack until there is an undisputed winner. To avoid all this trouble, we have to interject ourselves in the pack leader role.
So, what does a person do to make sure the hooman is in charge like it is supposed to be? I watch for the one instigating the situation. I then look at my feeding times and watch the behaviors of the rest of the pack. If they seem to defer to the canine in charge or the one that has taken charge, then I work on the pack leader to take back my command or leadership and let the others see it. How I do this is I take the “leader” and move him/her to the back of the feeding line. I make them wait to eat. Like I have shared before, if the hierarchy is disrupted and the food is controlled, that puts the hooman back in charge. So, we make the leader eat last and take his position back for ourselves. The whole pack sees that the leader is the provider of their needs and now that has become me. So, we are now making everyone sit and wait for their meals. We are in control of who eats, when, and where.
A common mistake many folks make with their canines is “free feeding.” It is important to not allow free feeding — leaving food out all the time. This will make the dog(s) think that you are their servant. Do not do this! It also encourages food aggression and resource guarding. To quell the infighting, we as pack leaders have to watch for triggering moments and redirect the attention of the dog instigating the fight. I have found that when there are two or more dogs that are fighting and jockeying for control of the pack, a good walk with them all helps redirect their attention and places leadership back on your shoulders. Dogs need to have structured leadership, and if they can’t get it, they will make it happen for themselves.
So, let’s recap a moment. We stop the fighting by placing ourselves back in leadership and by removing triggers or temptations and holding our pack accountable. The tools and methods I have spoken of have worked for me. Control the food and when it is given. Control the order the food is given, and do not allow the canine who is trying to lead bully any of the other canines. No free feeding, even though it might be convenient to do so. I should also add that while walking the dogs together, with help from other folks if needed, ensure the pack leader wannabe walks with you, and ensure they do not get to
walk in front of the other dogs or yourself. They should not pull but walk with your body, side by side, as a teammate.
Folks, I hope this is helpful. I hope everyone has a great Valentine’s Day. Any “Prayer Warriors” out there please lift me and my family up in prayer. Lord knows we need it. Thans, Y’all.
By: Joel Allen