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...
LITTLE BROTHER JOEY
BABY SISTER BETHY
ANY VISITORS WHO VISIT
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.)