I got a lot of my dog training techniques from Caesar Millan, “The Dog Whisperer.” He has been made famous by retraining dogs and their owners. He says that he often has to work more with the owners more than he does the dogs!! His techniques are all about restoring the natural pack structure for the dog.
Caesar Millan stresses that dogs are pack animals and thus they need a strong pack leader to set rules, boundaries, and limitations. If the pack leader is weak or inconsistent, then it is natural for the dog to set its own rules, as it vies to be pack leader. There always has to be a pack leader. So, if the owner is not a strong pack leader, the dog will seek to take over. It will behave as it wants and do what it wants. The pack leader sets the rules. Dogs are very black and white about this. Someone is not only the pack leader but someone is a strong pack leader.
Dogs only feel safe and calm when there is order in the pack which is provided by the pack leader. If the pack leader fails to keep order, there is a challenge for it leadership spot. Chaos erupts in the dogs mind if the owner is not a strong leader but tries to set the rules anyway. By the way, all the humans in the household are the pack leader. If the dog senses that he (the dog) is the pack leader then he is confused by the commands of the owner. Again, it’s the pack leader who makes the rules. Caesar Millan says that this confusion of roles displays itself in dogs in all kinds of mal behaviors and psychosis. So, although Caesar spends time reorienting dogs to be pack followers, he often spends more time teaching the owner to be a leader.
This is not that much different than raising children. If the parents are not strong leaders and thus setting the rules, boundaries, and limitations, then the child will seek to do its own thing. In an attempt to constantly please the child, we often essentially give the child the role he’s not equipped to handle: Pack leader. Remember, the pack leader gets his way. If you want to see chaos in a household look at a household in which the child usually gets his way.
It’s amazing that you can often tell how dysfunctional pets are in a household by looking at the kids, and vice versa. It’s also interesting that many family coaches focus on the leadership traits and techniques of the parents, not just the behavior of the kids. I suppose there is ample leadership in the house or there is not.
It’s hard to be a leader in the household but the price for failing is steep. If we have unruly pets or children, we should look in the mirror as the first place to start to remedy the situation.