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Dog Training and Behavior Modification


by Dick Russell

Your dog is a social, pack dwelling animal. Your household is his pack. All pack or herd dwelling animals thrive best within a relatively stable hierarchy of status with some members being more dominant and others assuming a submissive role. Your dog wants to gain as much status within the pack as he possibly can for the very simple reason that status bestows perquisites. Status is not achieved within the pack by aggression, but by submission, with the lower ranking animal yielding to the higher ranking animal’s ritualistic display of authority.

Your dog will be a much better pet, as well as a safer pet, if you will do a number of things to keep him from assuming increasingly higher rungs on the dominance ladder. Pack and herd dwelling animals maintain status in a number of ways. One is to control the use of space by other animals. Start controlling space by teaching your dog to yield to you on command and by your body position. Teaching this also has the added value of allowing you to walk into your home with both arms loaded with packages.

We will not use food treats in the teaching of this exercise. Outdoors, have your dog standing in front of you on a loose leash. This is for control only. You will not use the leash to move your dog’s body. Lean into your dog. Leaning your torso toward the dog seems to be recognized by them as a status related gesture, Say the word, “Move,” and move toward him with tiny shuffling steps. Keep moving in your intended direction. Do not step around him as this will bestow status on him. Keep moving until he moves out of your way. As soon as he moves, tell him, “Good.” Do this several times every day.

In your house, you can practice this with the leash off. Whenever your dog gets in your way, tell him to move and shuffle through him. Plan your routes around your house through your dog. If he is lying in your path, do not walk around him. Instead, make him move out of your way. The key to having your dog yield to you is your tiny, shuffling, straight ahead steps. Do not kick your dog or bump him with your knees.