Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Human: "I'm the boss around here!"
Dog: "No, I am!"

In the dog world, challenges constantly test and prove who is the fittest, strongest, smartest and most determined individual.

"Yippeeeee! I'm the boss around here!"

Again and again, dogs prove amongst themselves who has earned the right to be more dominant. Ultimately, they can challenge their way up the pack ladder and earn the right to be pack leader.

Dog: "Yep! I'm sure winning today!"

Your dog takes these challenges very seriously and keeps score of how many wins it has against each pack member.

Dog: "I'm stepping through the door first. I'm telling you...I'm gonna do it..."

You may be surprised by some of these challenges...and how petty they seem...but don't be fooled.If you don't win these challenges every day for the rest of your dog's life, your dog will start to climb up the pack ladder again and make a fresh grab for the leadership title.

So what are these leadership challenges?

I'll be going through some real favourites used again and again in the dog world, starting next post. You can always tell if your dog is challenging you - if you sense that it is trying to control whatever the situation is, any which way it can.

"Let me see now...this is my favourite challenge...oh no, this one is....oh, no, THIS one is a little beauty of a challenge...let me see, THIS one is fantastic...."

And believe me - you have to admire the ingenuity of some dogs in the way that they do manage to grab control of situations! Every dog has its own personal repertoire of favourite challenges. No doubt some will sound very familiar to you....

Human: "Hey! You stupid idiot of a dog!!!"

Dog: "Hee-hee. I win that challenge without fail every single morning."


Warning!While we are sliding our dog to the bottom of the pack ladder, you may notice your dog acting in a new way. It may start looking quiet and "glum", going off to lie down by itself, lying with its back to everyone, and seeming somehow "sad". Some dogs even give a loud, drawn-out sigh!

"Oh no! What have we done to you, dear, sweet little Buffy? We've destroyed your merry little spirit! Whaaaaaaaaagh!!!!!"

Now don't go and un-do all your hard work! IN THE DOG WORLD THIS IS NOT SULKING!

"Oh my goodness! What have I done? Speak to me, Spotty! Speak to me, pleeeeeeease!"

Although it does resemble human sulking, this is not the dog version. Rather, it is simple, clear dog language that all dogs use and understand. It means: "OK, I'm being polite now. I'm exaggerating how submissive I can be so you can really understand."

This behaviour is actually a great sign that you are on the right track and your dog is successfully sliding down the ladder. Your dog will look happier and more relaxed once it's sure it doesn't need to exaggerate its body language quite so much.
This should take a few weeks, though it's sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on the individual dog.

Because dogs are very social and naturally form packs - even with humans - ignoring our dog is a very powerful tool we have at our disposal.

Ignoring our dog is a much more effective method than physically punishing our dog down to the bottom rung of the pack ladder.

So make up your mind to be firm about this very essential "ignoring period". Don't give your dog attention until it's giving you the polite, calm, well-behaved, undemanding behaviour that we're after.


You don't have to be mean and nasty about sliding our dog down to the bottom of the pack ladder. It's simply a matter of adopting a temporary attitude that is impersonal, distant and firm.

Giving your dog a whole lot LESS attention during this transition period will help lessen its confusion.

For many people, just ignoring their dog for a period of time will be the hardest part of winning back the leadership. Some people find it gut-wrenchingly difficult.

We'll still be walking, grooming and feeding our dog, but we won't be playing with it during this transition period. We won't be giving it nearly as many pats, treats and attention. We'll also be interacting and talking to our dog much less.
While we're winning back all those lost challenges, it'll make the transition period much less confusing if our dog isn't getting any mixed messages from the human members of the pack.

By ignoring our dog during this slide to the bottom of the pack ladder, we're not saying: "We hate you."
Instead, we're saying in clear, simple dog language: "You are no longer the leader of our pack."

As the pushy, challenging behaviour lessens dramatically, we can resume interacting with our dog again - but from now on - only on our terms! Never again is our dog going to rule the household! Its days as leader are over!

"Hey, this life at the bottom of the pack ladder ain't so bad after all..."

If you would like to buy my book, you can buy it on-line at:
It's called "The Dog Man"by Martin McKenna.
(It was written in my pre-dreadlock days and has become an Australian bestseller.)

Sunday, April 29, 2007


"Yes, oh yes. I am the leader of all I survey."

In the dog world there are no free rides to the top. If your dog is the pack leader then it has worked long and hard to earn the right to lead.

Dogs throw out lots (and sometimes LOTS!!!) of challenges every day to each member of your household pack.

"Yeah, she looks distracted right now. A great time to win a challenge, huh?"

Every time they win a challenge, they keep a mental scoreboard to record a win against each pack member.

"Yep, doing well today."

Lots of wins against all the pack members, means you rise up the pack ladder. The pack leader's job is to lead and control the whole pack.

"Finally, I've reached the top!I'm the leader!"

In your dog's mind, being a pack leader is a very serious job. You cannot change this instinctive way of thinking. Your dog will not give up the leadership easily.

Now it's time to re-arrange your pack ladder so your dog slides down to the bottom rung.

How do we do this?

We have to win back all those challenges your dog has worked so hard to win again and again. We will also have to help every other member of the household, including any children and visitors, win back all the challenges they've been losing to the dog.

The more consistently you all win, the faster your dog will slide down that ladder to the bottom rung.

The idea is to keep your dog permanently at the bottom. The longer your dog stays at the bottom, losing all the challenges, the less it will try to challenge its way back up again. After all, what's the point in trying if you always lose?

How long will all this take?

All dogs are different, but if your whole family is very consistent and determined, then for most easy-going dogs, I would suggest you prepare for a three-week period of time to slide your dog to the bottom of your pack ladder.

For really pushy, dominant dogs, I'd aim for a much longer 3 month period of time. Just remember how long it took to lose all those challenges to your dog!

"OK, OK, I give up. I guess I'll just sit back and relax down here at the bottom of the pack ladder."

If you would like to buy my book, you can buy it on-line at
It's called "The Dog Man"
by Martin McKenna
(It was written in pre-dreadlock days and has become an Australian bestseller)


Let's take a look at the Johnson Family...and their dog, Timmy....

We can tell where Timmy is on this pack ladder by his general behaviour. Timmy pretty much does as he wants. He ignores any commands he is given by the humans. He rules the household...in the nicest possible way.

In Timmy's eyes, his pack ladder is currently arranged like this...


Is this a problem?

The trouble with allowing a dog to believe it occupies that top rung of your family's pack ladder is that it makes for a difficult dog to control.

You see, that top rung is the place where the pack leader sits. And in the dog world, if you're the pack leader - then no-one below you has the right to tell you what to do.
Another, more serious problem, is that the leader can discipline any members below it - and this can make young children and visitors a target.

What can we do, then, if our dog is the leader of our pack?
The great news is that we can use our clever human brain to slide our dog to the bottom of our pack ladder.

Will my dog be miserable if we do this?

No, once your dog realises that you are serious - and that it's new place is permanently going to be at the bottom of your pack ladder - it will be much happier and calmer. This is because all dogs are naturally drawn to strong leaders. They relax when they are firmly placed on the pack ladder in the correct place. After all, why wouldn't they be? You're removing the burden of leading your whole household from your dog's shoulders.

Actually, being the leader of the pack is stressful for the majority of dogs. And owning a dog that considers itself the leader of the pack is definitely stressful for the humans! In my next post we'll learn how to start sliding your dog to the bottom of your pack ladder....

If you would like to buy my book, you can buy it on-line at
It's called "The Dog Man"
by Martin McKenna.
(It was written in my pre-dreadlock days and has become an Australian bestseller.)

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Otherwise dogs would have starved to death while they decided as a group what to do next...

"I say, comrades, shall we have another sub-committee vote about whether we should hunt now or perhaps later...perhaps tonight? What do you chaps all think...?"

In the dog world, no-one is equal.
It's the most important thing you have to know about dogs if you're ever going to understand how they think or communicate. This is because our domesticated pet dog has still retained its ancestors wild instincts.

No matter how much luxury we surround our dogs with, no matter how much we treat them like cute little humans in funny, furry suits - all dogs are at heart a pack-forming predator.

"My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great granny was a cousin to a wolf, you know."

For a hunting pack to work efficiently, Mother Nature designed dogs with an in-built ladder of domination inside their mind. I call this their pack ladder.

What does it do? Your dog immediately arranges everyone in your household pack onto a separate rung of this mental pack ladder. Whoever your dog sees as the most dominant goes on the top rung. The most submissive pack member goes on the bottom rung.

You can never change this way of thinking in your dog. They are unable to understand democracy. It's just the way their brain is permanently wired.

The good news is that we can use that instinctive pack ladder inside our dog's brain to our human advantage. This is the smart way to train your dog - it's not rocket science - just start thinking like a dog!Keep visiting this blog to learn how.

If you would like to buy my book, you can buy it on-line at:
It's called "The Dog Man"
by Martin McKenna
(It was written in pre-dreadlock days and has become an Australian best-seller.)