Become Your Puppy's Pack Leader

For your puppy to grow into a healthy, balanced dog, you must demonstrate leadership from day one.


New puppy owners often make the mistake of endlessly worrying about finding the right puppy treats or bed. They spend little or no time worrying about how or what they will teach their new puppy.

Yes, a puppy needs nutritious food and a safe, warm place to live. But another equally powerful and important biological necessity is the need for a strong pack leader to serve as the dominant source of alpha energy in their lives.

Puppies are naturally hard-wired to follow a pack leader. A pack leader is, by definition, strong, stable and consistent — traits many new puppy owners forget around their dogs. I have had clients who are strong leaders in their jobs, but when they come home, they turn to mush with their dogs. Then they come to me, puzzled as to why their dogs won't behave.

Puppies sense our confidence levels and will take control if they perceive us as weak. When dogs or puppies take control, bad behaviors, such as excessive barking, leash-pulling, or anxiety, will develop.

The most important thing you can do is to become your puppy's pack leader. This role doesn't begin when your dog is six months old or when he's bad. For your puppy to grow into a healthy, balanced dog, you must demonstrate leadership from day one.

Here are some important points to remember in your role as pack leader:

 When getting a new pet, make sure to set aside time every day to provide mental exercise by maintaining rules, boundaries and limitations. When these needs are met the affection you give to your dog will be channeled as a reward.

 Create a schedule that includes a daily 45-minute power-walk in the morning. This is critical for your dog's health, both physical and mental.

 Enlist your whole family in the process of bringing a new dog home. Discuss what their responsibilities will be before the puppy arrives.

 Make sure you find a breed that fits your lifestyle. For example, more active breeds, like hunting and herding dogs, require more physical exercise to stay physically and mentally content.

 Always walk out the door ahead of your dog when leaving the house. This will show your dog who is in the leadership role.

 On walks, make sure that your dog is not in front of you, pulling you down the street. Instead, keep your dog to your side or behind you. This will also demonstrate to your dog that you are the alpha figure.

 Give the puppy something to do before you share food, water, toys or affection. This way the dog earns his treat. For example, have your puppy perform the Sit or Down command.

 Set aside a budget for unexpected circumstances, like medical bills and training classes. A healthy, well-trained dog makes a wonderful pet.

A puppy will be set up to fail if his new family doesn't learn these lessons before he arrives. Remember, puppies don't crave a fancy treat or bed; they need you to become their stable pack leader to demonstrate love in a way they understand.  

Cesar and his pack
Get more tips from Cesar.

Note: Cesar Millan is a professional. Please consult a qualified trainer before attempting these techniques with your dog.

For more information, visit Cesar Millan's Dog Psychology Center where the expressed purpose is to rehabilitate and maintain a dog's natural state of being.


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Stacy   Clyde, Texas

1/21/2013 3:46:45 PM

I have a two year old Rhodesian Ridgeback that I've had since he was 6 weeks old. He's the 3rd dog of this breed I've had the pleasure of spending my life with.They have spent their entire life span with me the last one (Jake) living to the ripe old age of 13 yrs. The one I have now is 2 yrs old and he has developed a fear of people especially men. I've socialized him since he was a pup. He goes to the park and the vet etc... in the last 6 months he has developed a fear of men and won't get in the car unless he is coxed for awhile and even then sometimes he won't. I feel I'm calm assertive with him and he trusts me and responds to me.We have 5 other dogs ranging from a chihuahua to 2 pitbulls who live together with me my husband and my daughter they are all calm and get along great. Please if you can give me some info as to how I need to help my dog Danny I would be so grateful. I'm stumped with this one. Any info would be so helpful. I want him to be able to enjoy travel and outings with the rest of our pack. I'm a 52 yr old woman from Texas. Thanks for reading my post.

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Bailey   Falkville, International

1/18/2013 8:45:13 AM

I have a new puppy and she likes to bite a lot. Her bites are dangerous though. I have children living in my home. She is about 13 weeks old. What really disturbs me is that I believe she may be a pitbull puppy. Can someone help me please.

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Trish   Chino Hills, California

11/23/2012 7:24:31 AM

How about some tips on integrating a new puppy to a household with an adult dog. My Aussie mix isn't taking to the puppy at all like I thought she would.

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Leslie - 233329   Lakeside, AZ

11/14/2012 12:53:48 PM

Good information. thanks

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