NILIF - Establishing Pack Order in your Household Apr 7, 2008 18:45:03 GMT -5
Post by DogGoneGood on Apr 7, 2008 18:45:03 GMT -5
Nothing In Life Is Free
To a dog their human family is their pack. Like in the wild, there needs to be an established ranking system in order for the family to work efficiently like a pack. In a pack there is generally three ranks. Omega is the lowest ranking and can consist of two or more dogs in the same ranking, Beta is the second up which can also consist of two or more in the same ranking, and Alpha is the top ranking which can consist of only one or two (usually a male and female). Unless told otherwise, almost all dogs will fight for the Alpha position.
Some dogs are born with a natural dominance to their character while others are born as naturally submissive. There are different degrees of submission and dominance but all ultimately result the same. Dominant dogs will fight a lot harder to be Alpha and if not taught otherwise at a young age they can often become confused and act out. Submissive dogs are willing to please and willing to be at the bottom of the pack. These dogs are generally a lot easier to train and live with than a dominant dog. However, just because your dog is dominant does not mean they will be an awful burden to live with. Dominance can be controlled with quite simple rules and boundaries applied to every day situations.
When a dog is anywhere between 9 months of age to 2 years they may start showing dominance. This isn’t always the case with all dogs but should be considered as a general rule. This is because at this age the dog is becoming an adult and seeking adult responsibilities. The more dominance a dog shows the stricter and more persistent you must be.
Dogs don’t mind being at the bottom of the pack, even a dominant dog will comply and be comfortable with his new position in the pack. The problem with pack order comes from if the dog is unsure of his position in the pack. An unsure dog is an unstable dog, so it’s best to teach him where his place is to keep him stable and secure.
Nothing In Life Is Free (or NILIF) is a simple program that you can apply to living with your dog each day that will teach and show them that you are in fact the Alpha of the “pack” and will help keep a balance and keep your dog from challenging you. A big, strong dog that decides to challenge you can quite often be dangerous so it is important to keep to this program and teach them their boundaries and place in the pack.
NILIF is basically as it sounds; no rewards can be given to your dog without him first working for them. He must earn attention, play, treats, food etc. before he can get them.
Now that you understand why pack order plays an important role in your dogs life; you can begin applying NILIF to your daily routine. Below is a list of simple things you can do that are part of this program.
1. Teach your dog how to Heel – The heel exercise is one of the easiest way to show your dog dominance (and it helps you gain control over your dog when walking!). In a pack setting the Alpha dogs always walk/run in front of the rest of the pack and leads the way. Teaching your dog to walk beside you (or slightly behind you) while they follow your lead shows the dog that you are in control and that you are the leader.
2. Never allow your dog to rush ahead of you – You should never allow your dog to bolt ahead of you through doorways, stairs etc. Not allowing this applies the same rules as above (you, as pack leader, always leading the way) and also avoids the inevitable disaster of the dog knocking someone over through doors and on stairs. It also makes things easier when letting the dog inside and you wish for him to stay on the mat so his paws can dry or you can wipe them off; it simply helps you gain control over your dog!
3. Your dog must always work for meals and treats – Working for meals and treats could be something as simple as a Sit, or Down. This teaches your dog that he can’t act like a fool and still get his food or treats, he must first behave and work for them. This also teaches your dog that you control the food and have a say in whether or not he gets his food and/or treats. You’re the boss and if you tell him he must sit first then that’s what he has to do!
4. Your dog must work for attention and play – This is mostly important when first starting the NILIF program. The same rules apply as the ones above as to why your dog should be working for attention and play. Once again, a simple Sit or Down is considered as working for it. The longer you do the program the less this becomes a necessity, but it’s still nice to keep in mind. This also helps with teaching your dog not to demand for your attention but rather Sit nicely for it!
5. Keep your dog OFF the furniture! – Places like you couch and bed are not places for your dog to sleep and visit. As the leader you have the right to, and own every piece of furniture in your house – your dog does NOT! He should have his own bed on the floor to sleep on. Not only does this establish your dominance but it also keeps your furniture clean and free from becoming wrecked from claws etc.
6. Posture is a dead give away of who’s in charge – The majority of dog language is shown through body language. This is where a lot of people have trouble communicated effectively with their dog. Once you take the time to understand your dog and the canine language communicating with your dog isn’t as hard as it may seem. One sure way dogs show others dominance is through posturing. A dog with his head held high, tail up, body straight (tall like he owns the world) is posturing dominance. A dog who shrinks down, tail between legs, and may even roll over and expose his belly is posturing submission. Even though you don’t actually have a tail and ears to communicate like a dog you can still adjust your posture to show dominance. Stand straight and tall and convince yourself that you are the dominant one. Dogs can sense emotions a lot better than we can and if you believe you’re dominant he’ll be more like to believe it too.
7. Make rules during play – If you have a really dominant dog you can add NILIF into play time. When playing fetch, each time the dog brings the toy back have him drop it/let go of it in your hand and then have him sit before you throw it for him again (or perform some sort of trick). There’s a game I play with my dogs that consists of NILIF rules and helps gain control and teach them patience. It’s called “Ready, Steady, GO!” The rules to this game are that the dog must Sit and Wait under my command while the toy is thrown or placed a distance away. Once I feel ready I then tell him “Ready? … Steady? … GO!” and the dog must not break the Wait until I give the command “GO!” This game really teaches the dog self control and that I am the boss and control his toys and freedom. It’s also a lot of fun and the dogs really enjoy it a lot more than one might think. Others find it entertaining because I can stand and tell the dog “Ready? … Steady? … Go-Go Carts? Green grass? Golden opportunities?” and with each “G” word the dog is watching me intently waiting for that magic command… “GO!” and then he leaps after the toy as if his legs have been spring loaded!
8. Gain control before going for a walk – Like most of the fundamentals of NILIF this is a typical “work for your reward”. The dog must sit before and during the time you put the leash on his collar. If he moves his butt off the floor while you’re clipping the lead onto his collar you must correct him and put him back into a sit before continuing to put the leash on or leaving for your walk. This not only establishes your dominance but it is also nice to have your dog under some control before going for a walk.
9. Keep the dog out from under your feet while cooking or eating – It is beneficial to teach your dog a stay or wait command for this technique. We’ve all been eating or cooking with a dog begging right under our feet. It’s rude, annoying, and hazardous during cooking. Teaching your dog to get out of a room and stay out on command can help avoid this nasty little annoyance. It can also help establish that what you say goes and that’s that, thus making you Alpha of the pack. Teaching this may be difficult at first and you may end up with a cold meal or burnt food for the first week or two but it is well worth it in the end once your dog has learned this command. The key is to be very persistent. Once you tell your dog “out” and “stay” or “wait” you must put him back in the same sport (or further back, but never closer) every time he moves. Keep at it, and he’ll eventually give up and stay where you tell him to. It may even become habit for him to stay out of the dinning room or kitchen while you are eating or preparing meals!
Some people may see these techniques as cruel or unkind to their dog. Most people view their canine companion as a member of their family and would never dream of treating a family member with such dominance, but you must keep in mind that dogs are not people, they are animals. They are much more comfortable being at the bottom of the pack than the top and the only way to put them in their place is through these boundaries and rules. Dogs are much happier with stability in their life and in order to achieve stability you most often must have rules and boundaries first.
Establishing dominance and pack order is very important to your dogs mental well being, I can’t stress this enough. It is also important to your own mental and physical well being. A dominant, unruly dog is a dangerous dog. A dog that rules the house can be very stressful for the people involved, and if your dog doesn’t understand his place he is more likely to growl, bite, or lash out at you or a family member when they attempt to show dominance. This could be something as simple as taking away food or a bone and the dog may growl or snap at you! You should always be able to take toys, food, treats etc. away from your dog with absolutely no problems or fighting. The longer your dog feels dominant the more problems you will have and the harder it will be to fix them.
Remember: the only way to show you’re Alpha and gain control over your dog is to be extremely persistent and keep enforcing NILIF! If you start to let things slide it will only be 3 times as harder the next time you try to enforce it. You can’t let your dog win any battles or he will never learn to respect you!