The Importance of Establishing Leadership in Dog Training

Good Leadership – The Alpha Dog
Establish yourself as the leader to achieve a fruitful and harmonious working relationship with your Husky
There are few things as pleasing as an obedient and willing dog; it makes for a harmonious relationship.

This type of relationship arises as a result of our behavior and should be rooted in trust and respect.

Many husky owners suffer as a result of simple misunderstandings.
Nothing is more rewarding than a well trained cooperative Husky that responds to cues. Sadly many owners fail to achieve this. In fact, I quite often see owners faced with multiple obedience challenges – pulling the hair out of their heads and wondering why their Husky just won’t comply.
These nasty problems can be easily prevented by establishing a clear leadership role and relationship based on mutual respect and trust from the start.
Yes, we would all like to jump straight into the rewarding stuff with our four legged friends, but taking the time to develop a relationship based on mutual understanding and trust is the first step to success. Your Husky will not be a willing well-trained partner overnight, but getting there will be faster if you build a good working relationship first.
Many people struggle to create a firm foundation with their Husky that instills the leadership role.
Without determining the role of each partner in the relationship, using obedience cues is a futile exercise. Developing your leadership skills is essential for a harmonious relationship.

To be a good leader to your Husky, it helps to have a good understanding of his essential nature.
Huskies are very closely related to the wolf – a wolf is a pack animal and predator. Animals are driven by their need for survival and in the case of pack animals living in a group is a means to ensure survival. By observing wolves, you will gain a better understanding of how a pack works and what qualities and behavior the Alpha or leader displays. The Alpha in a pack is chosen for his clear, consistent qualities that ensure the pack’s safety and survival. Your position as the leader will emerge instinctively if you behave like an Alpha dog.

Common Mistakes
Our human emotions that often cloud our judgement. We anthropomorphize animals and fail to observe from the animals’ perspective. There are a few prototypes of owners. What type of trainer do you think you would like to be?

The Lazy One
Lazy owners have the best intentions, but they never seem to get around to it. Their animals’ out of control behaviour is usually accompanied with some excuse. I don’t have time to train. I’m too tired. I don’t have the money to pay for training. Do you recognise any of these excuses? People use these excuses as if they would lead to a solution where society will accommodate their pet’s bad behaviour. When there is no leadership, dogs are left to their own devices and behaviour can get out of control. When it reaches a point where they can not be walked safely, boisterous out of
control behaviour becomes dangerous and they howl endlessly disturbing neighbours these animals often end up chained. Or going to the pound and in most cases euthanasia.
So don’t be a lazy owner. Remember, your Husky does not differentiate between when you are training him and when you are just hanging out. Think of being part of a pack. Eat sleep and breath like a pack. Be the consistent, clear, fair leader that ensures the safety of the pack. Your Husky will respect you as a leader if you act like one.

The Rebel
A rebel does not like being told what to do and that applies this to his dog too. No borders are created, so anarchy ensues. Most probably accompanied by a trashed home and chewed furniture. Remember, you are not an authoritarian dictator just because you lay down some ground rules. Rules are there to ensure you can survive together. Respecting the rules of the living space is just sensible. Reinforcing simple behaviours consistently will set you up for success.

The Well-intentioned owner
This type of person always has the best intentions; they want to be best friends with their dog and do the best of the best always. Wishing the best for our animals a great attitude but beware of overindulging particular behaviour. There is a fine line between giving loving attention and smothering. Remember that smothering your husky with goodies and affection to make you “Best buddies” won’t win you respect as a leader. Pack animals don’t share the same social rules as humans do. Overindulging your dog can lead to undesired behaviour like nipping or biting. If a
Husky is going to respond to your cues, you need to be the kind of leader who is firm and fair. Being consistently firm and fair will establish respect.
The Authoritarian
This type of dog owner likes an obedient dog who will respond to his every beck and call. The authoritarian likes to be in control, he will do whatever it takes to get compliance. Even resorting to severe punishment and inflicting pain. This kind of aversive treatment of a dog will not make him respect you as a leader. It will only result in misery and break the dog’s spirit. Fear and intimidation will never lead to trust. Do you think if someone hits you, or screams at you that you will view them as a good leader? I think not. Don’t limit your leadership by using intimidating tactics. Obedience and cooperation are born from the willingness to submit to the Alpha’s request.                                         This type of desire is born from trust and respect.

The Alpha
An Alpha leader knows the minds of his pack. As an owner this person understand that what he wants and what his dog needs are not always the same thing. It is so valuable to develop a balanced approach where every action strives to meet the animal’s mental, emotional and physical needs. Pack animals value this type of behaviour as they understand that consistent strong leadership will ensure the long-term safety and survival of the pack.
Developing your leadership skills by consistently behaving like a real Alpha should result in well balanced,
calm and well-behaved dogs. Eventually, these dogs develop a clear understanding of where the boundaries lie and what to expect from their environment. They will also understand what is expected of them. With this certainty, there is no need for anxious or fearful behaviour.

Good Leadership
Your position as leader is earned through your behaviour. Your dog will willingly comply with your requests if you emerge as a worthy leader. Build your leadership on a foundation of mutual trust and respect. If you find yourself faced with a Husky that responds to a cue with “Why should I?”
Then perhaps it is time to examine your leadership skills. Strive for constant and never ending improvement.
Keep your end goal in mind. Snow dogs like Huskies can be willful, so pick your battles and be patient. Your actions today will determine the results you get tomorrow.
Whether you are retraining your dog, teaching a young puppy or establishing a relationship with a new dog, remember that developing the leadership role is the first step. Once you have established yourself as a good leader, you can start asking for more complex behaviours and introduce new exercises.