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Damon's Den Doberman Rescue of Western Pennsylvania

Positive Training Tips

Benevolent Leadership

One of the dictionary definitions of benevolence is as follows:

"1. The disposition to do good; good will; charitableness; love of mankind, accompanied with a desire to promote their happiness." (Webster’s Dictionary, 1913)

This is the basis of good leadership. Leadership isn’t about dominance or showing that you are the top dog. It is about leading with the happiness of everyone as a whole in mind. It’s about guidance. It’s about being able to think about the big picture. To do that, rules for behavior are very important. Politeness and manners are important.

Politeness and manners can be emphasized throughout your daily life with your dog. Teaching impulse control is something every dog needs to learn. There is a program called Nothing In Life Is Free or NILIF. This program is based on earning privileges. It is also about respect. Respect for the leader and that is you. Being a benevolent leader is the key to building the best relationship with your dog that you possibly can. Having a successful relationship with your dog is the ultimate base to a well trained dog.

Key points to remember:

  • Have your dog work for every resource. IE: sit to be served dinner; sit to be let out; no rushing out the door, go out only on command; sit to be petted; ask politely (sit) to be allowed access to couches and human beds, etc. The sit can also be added onto such as a “Sit” & a “Down”.

  • Raised surfaces such as human beds and couches are resources that need to be earned. They should be off limits to any dog that you are having compliance problems with.

  • You control all good things. You control access to all desirable resources. Not in a dominant way. But they are shared for compliance with basic rules and polite manners and only then.

  • Be in charge of play. If the excitement level is getting too high, stop the play and issue a “Settle” cue, even if you have to leash your dog to you and sit quietly to obtain this. Reward for calm behavior.

  • Reward your dog every time they look to you for direction. In the same vein, reward your dog every time they offer polite behavior without being asked. Rewards don’t mean just food. In fact, they should mean praise and loving more so than food. Good leaders lead without bribery, but they always reward lavishly! Make it the most wonderful thing in the world to please you and you will set the stage for success.

  • You and your dog are in this together. You are not adversaries. Your job is to look out for your dog and to teach him that you will handle every situation successfully, so he need never worry. Of course, training your dog involves teaching him to problem solve and think on his own to determine what behavior *you* want, but you are the ultimate final say. That is what true leadership is all about. Good leaders guide without dictating or smothering. Good leaders don’t punish mistakes, they reward successes. Good leaders make following fun. Good leaders inspire their followers. It is up to you to be the most interesting game in town!

Here are two sites to help you choose a good trainer/behaviorist:

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