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Follow the Leader – Part Five

A guide to force free leadership with your dog


In any healthy human-dog relationship, the human needs to be the one in charge – just like a human parent and child. The human is the one who makes all the important decisions in the dog’s life and pays the vet bills! Lack of clear leadership in the household can lead to obedience problems, aggression, or anxiety and fear issues.

The following positive home management system will guide you how to teach your dog through non-confrontational methods that you are the leader. This can be done without frightening, hurting or threatening your dog. This program will establish a good trusting, respectful balanced relationship between human and dog without you having to prove your dominance over him. Most dogs are less stressed when the decision making responsibility is left to their human.

There are 10 principles in total; I will be introducing one or two each week. Add them into your daily life and see if your dog’s behaviour improves for the better! Here is part five of Follow the Leader.

View Part 1Part 2Part 3 & Part 4.


  1. Limit Access to ToysKeep your dog’s toys (or some of them) in a special place he cannot access on his own. When you want him to have some play time, take a toy or two out for him. Have him earn his playtime with his “new” toy by doing something desirable for you. At the end of the playtime or day, pick up his toys and put them away. You can rotate his toys every day to keep him interested in them. Keep interactive toys like balls, Frisbees, and tug toys away for when you want to play with your dog.


  1. Train Your Dog To EatThe cue for your dog to eat should be his food bowl being put down. I do not recommend you allow your dog to eat whenever he wants. This lets the dog think he is in control of his food when you, the leader, should most definitely be showing him you make the food come! Free-feeding also creates picky eaters, and doesn’t let you know quickly if your dog isn’t feeling well. It’s inconvenient if you need to travel, or if your dog ever has to stay with a friend, or a boarding kennel. If you have multiple dogs, free-feeding is not safe and there is no way to ensure each dog is getting a proper portion. Feed your dog twice a day, or three times for puppies. Before he eats, ask him to sit and give him his meal as his reward. Pick up the bowl after he is done eating, regardless of if it is empty or not. Do not coax him to finish his meal, just say nothing and pick it up. He will learn that if he is hungry, he has to eat his meal when his bowl is given to him, not when it suits him.


    Leadership with a dog that is based more on a parent-like relationship than a militant obedience/submission relationship is extremely fulfilling. Your dog can be well behaved and a loving, personality-filled companion and you can be a good leader without being mean or domineering. The 10 tips presented through this blog series are a great way to communicate leadership to your dog without being cruel or harsh.

    I also love Dr. Sophia Yin’s description of living with your dog is like leading a dance – your job is to decide ahead of time which steps to perform and guide your partner along a clear path so that they can follow. For more information about Leading the Dance, visit her website and watch the video below. If you have any other questions feel free to email us! Until next time, happy training!