Are you? Are you your dog's leader? How about your pack, are you the leader of the pack? No matter what your pack exists of; whether it consists of one dog, three or more, you should be leader of the pack.
Leader - a person who manages or controls other people, esp. because of his or her ability or position.
So what does this mean? A canine pack leader guides, educates, creates rules and enforces them. A leader is understanding, patient and firm. Being a great K9 leader is about giving your dog the tools to maneuver seamlessly through their life in a human world.
From the moment your dog becomes a member of your family; it is time for you to be a leader. Feedback is a huge part of living with dogs. Feedback is a great thing for humans as well. If no one ever offers us feedback we are at a disadvantage, so too are our dogs.
Just yesterday I called Elsa into the house. She is typically very obedient and comes in quickly. But there is a rabbit that has taken up residence in our backyard (wonderful). This means that Elsa is very preoccupied much of the time that she is out there, even if the rabbit is not present. There are many footprints to smell and trails to follow. I needed her to come in, so when I called and she ignored me, out I went, immediately. If I didn't need her in and saw that she was otherwise preoccupied I would not have called her. She was having fun being a dog and I like her to have fun. But I needed her to come in.
I kept my very serious body posture and said "in now." She looked at me like "crap, really?" With one last look over her shoulder she did as she was told. Much of our day to day is very casual; as I offer suggestions of things to do rather than strict rules. "Wanna come in?" I ask her and leave the decision up to her. But when I give a rule that must be followed it is essential to enforce.
Life rules are all about what is okay and not okay to do. Many puppies will leap all over their new guardian at feeding time that might seem cute and funny at the time. If you do not change this at that point in time then you will have a large adult dog trying to get the bowl of food away from you at feeding time. Not okay.
If you don't teach your new family member not to dig in the backyard or give them an alternative activity to replace that; you may come home one day to your yard totally destroyed or a missing dog who dug underneath a fence.
Being a leader is not about being bossy. A leader offers guidance to their dog so that they don't make mistakes down the road. It is our job to do this. Often we fail to educate and then become furious when our dog acts like a dog. That is our failure, not theirs.