Show ‘em who’s boss!,

A dog team consists of two. The word team suggests some level of cooperation and in a good team each member works to their strengths and compliments the others weaknesses. In a police dog team this is not an equal partnership however. The law is too complex to allow your dog to make decisions about who to chase or bite.

Being a pack animal, a dog is bred to be a team player. They understand the rules of dominance and submission, and will respond appropriately depending on their perceived position. Someone has to lead, and if it isn’t you, then it will be your dog, in his eyes at least.

Unfortunately, no matter how much keener your dog may be to come to work than you are, it is you who has to have the casting vote in your team, and be the leader. Traditionally, the interpretation of dominance theory has led to the handler literally imposing his will over the dog and often leads to battles of will. It harbours the misnomer that simply demanding the dog do something should result in it being done. Clearly this isn’t the case as the dog needs to learn to understand a command and be motivated to carry out the task before you can stand any chance of getting him to perform consistently on command.

Dominance isn’t gained by being aggressive, harsh or over using punitive methods. This will just make life confusing and stressful for your dog. Dominance is gained by being a strong, confident leader. Consistency and fairness are the keys to being a good leader. If you lead your dog will follow.

You have all the things your dog needs to survive and be content. Use these things to reward the behaviour you want and try to ensure that unwanted behaviours go unrewarded. This is the essence of positive reinforcement training. By learning to use these things in a way the dog understands you will find there is little requirement for punitive training methods and confrontations with your dog.

Show your dog you are boss and he will afford you the respect you deserve. Try to take the position by force and you may find you a battle on your hands.


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