Establishing the Pecking Order
Fans of “The Dog Whisper” will be saddened to learn that Daddy the pit-bull has passed away at the ripe old age of 16 years. Daddy was a constant companion of Cesar Millan and helped him to rehabilitate hundreds of dogs over the years with his calm demeanor.
That’s the wonderful thing about calm, older dogs; they are great teachers to younger dogs. I know that my older dogs have taught each of my younger dogs I’ve brought home, or that are clients proper behavior.
Some people may think that an older dog that growls at a younger one is bad, but really it isn’t. Older dogs have established the pecking order and younger ones tend to test that line that we humans may not understand.
It is “human” of us, to bring home a new dog and shower it with attention and unknowingly ignore the other members of the pack. That can backfire and cause a real problem. We may perceive the other dogs behavior as jealousy, but really what we did by accident is mess up the pecking order. Your dog, who may growl or press you for more attention when the newbie arrives is just telling the newbie “This is my place, I was here first, and I outrank you, so listen to me and don’t get pushy with me or we are going to tangle”. You shouldn’t interfere unless it gets ugly.
When you bring a new dog home, remember to keep the pecking order as it was, feed the older pack members first. Give them attention first, (only if they are behaving, don’t reward bad behavior by giving attention) and let the dogs work it out in dog speak.
For instance, when I had Katy and brought Jasmine home, a client came in and Jasmine being young and exuberant jumped up on the lady. Katy leapt into action, growled at her, pinned her to the ground and had one paw on her neck looking her into the eyes and growled. She was telling her, “Jumping on people is a dominant behavior, I am the top dog and I don’t do that, neither will you.” Jasmine gave a little “yip!” and that was it. She never jumped on people again. I didn’t interfere. I knew what Katy was doing, and all my animals know that “I” am the top dog period. Now, how they figure out pecking order below me is up to them to work out normally. I don’t interfere unless I have to change a bad behavior.
Pecking order in EVERY household should always be humans first, then animals. Not because we don’t love them like our children because we do, but because when you put an animal in a pack leader position, ahead of the humans, you will create an animal with behavior problems, anxieties, and possibly aggression. You must set boundaries and rules with your pets just like your kids. If you let your kids do whatever they want and give them whatever they want, you will create a “brat”. Nobody likes bratty kids anymore than they like bratty dogs.
You don’t have to be a control freak, but you do have to do things in language that your dog understands. Body language is what dogs read. Quit talking, and show your dog in your body language that you are serious. Stand firmly, feet apart, hands on hips to show your position. Look your dog in the eyes and stand firm when you are trying to stop a bad behavior. You’ll be surprised how fast your dog catches on.
If you are trying to stop a dog from darting out the door every time you open it, first you have to claim the space around the door. Have someone come to the door and knock on it or ring the bell, your dog will go to the door. Before you open it, first get in between the dog and the door, turn and look at your dog and take a step towards him, your dog will take a step backwards. Do this until your dog is several feet away from the door, then open it. If your dog starts towards the door, close the door and repeat the process until your dog is several feet away and has calmed down and stays put. Do this consistently and you will no longer have a door darter.
Remember, you pay the mortgage or rent at your house, your dog does not own your house. He’s just a guest and should act like a guest. Never let your dog go out the door before you do, not even just to let him out to potty! Put your dog on a leash, or do the door darter exercise, and make your dog sit several feet away from the door. Open the door, and YOU take the first step out, turn around, look at your dog and say “Okay” and then allow your dog out. Do the same thing going back inside. You go in the door first, make your dog wait a few seconds then tell him “Okay” and let him in.
Little actions like these will make you the pack leader in your dog’s eyes and will greatly improve his behavior.