Most dogs who have been trained properly from a puppy will grow into loving, trusting, and obedient pets that create strong bonds with their human masters. It’s in their nature to be extremely loyal and they will follow their owners to the end of the earth and back.
I see this with my own dog Claude, who seems to respect me and respects the fair decisions I make. He shows signs that he sees me as the alpha and because of this, he’s a gentle and well-behaved dog who can adapt to almost any social situation.
However, not all dogs understand their position in the pecking order and will test the boundaries of who the alpha pack leader is. This can cause a range of problems for you, your family, and other dog owners.
The bottom line is, if your dog does not respect you and follow the rules, issues will soon mount up. This can include aggression, destructive behaviors, and problems in public places.
So, how do you know if your dog respects you as the alpha pack leader, so you don’t have any potential problems further down the line?
How do you know if your dog respects you?
Do you think you’ve got what it takes to command the respect of your dog as the pack leader? Take a look at these signs to see whether your dog sees you as the alpha leader of your pack or as one of his lesser minions.
1. Your dog doesn’t pull on the leash when you walk
Is your dog walking you, or are you walking your dog?
If your dog is taking the lead when you’re out, it means he thinks of himself as the leader. After all, a pack leader always goes first as the brave protector and head of the group.
You can tell when your dog respects you by how he walks on a leash. If he’s by your side, awaiting your command and not pulling, then you command his respect completely.
2. Your dog brings you toys and prey to gain approval
In days gone by, your dog’s ancestors would have belonged in a wild pack with a clear hierarchy. There is a theory that they bring you things like toys, and sometimes dead animals, to mimic bringing prey home to the leader of the pack and the rest of the clan.
What better way to show their respect and submission to you than a valuable gift of “food”, even if it is a rubber toy they want to play with!
Handy Hint: I’ve written an extensive guide to why dogs bring dead animals home and what the deeper meaning of this behavior is.
3. Your dog doesn’t walk away when you talk to him
A dog couldn’t really show you much more disrespect than walking away when you’re talking to him. It’s the height of rudeness and is a massive sign that your dog has zero respect for you and any authority you think you have.
4. Your dog listens to you when you give him a command
Pack leaders should command the respect of a room, with their charges paying close attention to what they are saying. You can tell your dog respects you if he listens to you and hangs on to every last word… this can also be combined with a quick lick of your arm.
Dogs that don’t listen to their owners are showing a lack of respect and a sign that the don’t quite think of you being in the same level of power that you might do.
5. Your dog doesn’t sit in your seat when you get up
You know your dog respects you when he doesn’t jump up in your seat when you get up. If you are seeing the opposite behavior, it can mean many things, but one is how your dog perceives his position in the hierarchy.
The alpha dog is the one in charge of the pack. As you would expect gets the very best of everything. That means the best food, the best drinks, the best company and yes, you guessed it, the best seat in the house… a throne if you wish.
If he’s in your seat when you come back in the room, you might have a power struggle on your hands!
Handy Hint: I’ve listed 7 potential reasons why your dog is jumping into your seat. It’s not always about hierarchy and pack behavior.
6. Your dog lets you choose your seat
The psychology behind seating arrangements can be further explored by what your dog does when you’re both presented with a seat. Does your dog go for the prime spot before your do, or show you the respect of taking the best seat in the house?
Dogs that respect their owners will move out of the way to let you sit down. There’s nothing wrong with a snuggle, but the moment you aim for a seat, your dog should be moving out of the way to let the pack leader claim his preferred position.
7. Your gets close to you to seek protection
And when you then sit down, your dog will show you respect by wanting to sit next to you for the protection that you offer as the pack leader.
8. Your dog doesn’t come and sit on top of you
But, there’s a fine line between your dog respecting you by sitting next to you, versus a complete lack of respect when sitting on top of you. Cuddles are fine, but dogs will try to exert their authority in the hierarchy by dominating your space.
The sign of an alpha dog is one that would never let another pack member sit on them, so don’t let yours think he’s top dog.
9. Your dog follows you everywhere
Dogs follow their owners because they want to be attached to your side. As a pack animal, your dog wants to be close to the leader of the pack; you.
You know your dog respects you as the pack leader if he wants you to take the lead and for him to follow along blindly.
10. Your dog lets you go through doors first
A further sign your dog sees you as the alpha is how they react around doors. You can tell your dog respects you if they let you go first, but why is this?
It again harks back to ancestral instincts whereby a junior pack member looks to the leader as the protector; therefore, the pack leader always enters into doors (or caves) first.
11. Your dog doesn’t urinate in the house
Dogs that pee in the house will often do it to assert their dominance, making all threats to his authority know who is in charge.
Admittedly, it can also be a sign of anxiety and illness, so you should get your dog check by a vet if you aren’t sure it’s a lack of disrespect.
Handy Hint: Here are some tips you can use to help you assert dominance over your dog as the pack leader.
12. Your dog lets you greet newcomers first
Another sign that your dog sees you as the alpha is by letting you get to and answer the door first. If your dog is running ahead you to greet newcomers first, it means he believes he’s higher in the pecking order than you are.
Pack leaders are the ones to greets newcomers first. If your dog truly respects you, then he will be the last one in the pack to get any attention from a visitor.
This makes sense when you think about how pack mentality should work; the leader is the one to greet others, making sure it’s safe for the rest of the pack to then get an introduction.
13. You dog doesn’t wake you up
Pack leaders get to stay in bed and wake up when they want. They do not get woken up by their inferiors.
If your dog continually wakes you up, and it’s not because they need a pee, you need to start setting boundaries. Just because your dog is bored, he should not be waking you up and should instead wait until you are ready to start the day.
14. Your dog is fed on a scheduled time
Another way you can gain your dog’s respect and make sure you’re seen as the pack leader is for you to determine feeding time. When he eats is your decision and preferably at a scheduled time.
Dogs that have food dispensers decide when and how much they can eat. This level of control takes away your position as the pack leader in the house.
Your dog will respect you more when you’re in charge of when he gets fed.
15. Your dog is happy to wait until you have eaten before having their meal
On a similar tip, if your dog is jumping up at you and begging to be fed while you eat, it’s a complete lack of respect. As the pack leader, your charges should be patient and wait until you have eaten before they get their food.
This is basic level chain of command behavior.
If your dog waits and sits to be fed until you have finished, it’s a sure-fire way of knowing they respect you.
16. Your dog doesn’t steal your food
Taking things to a whole new level of disrespect are those dogs that are brazen enough to steal the food from your hand or plate, even when you’re back isn’t turned.
The pack leader’s food is sacrosanct, so for a dog to steal yours tell you all you need to know about your position in the pecking order.
17. Your dog doesn’t get treats for doing nothing
Continuing the food theme, your dog will never respect you if you shower him with treats for absolutely no reason. All this does it make your dog think you are there to serve him, with no respect coming into the equation at all.
Your dog will respect you a lot more if you make him work for his treats on an action versus reward basis. As the pack leader, you should control the food source.
18. Your dog is relaxed and happy around you
A dog that respects you will be submissive around you; in terms of their body language that means a relaxed body, no raised hackles, and a wagging tail.
19. Your dog lets you groom them
In fact, they will be so relaxed that they will let you groom them. I believe that if a dog trusts you enough to let you groom them in those hard to reach places, it’s a sign that your dog respects you.
It could also mean that they are submissive to you, which is the ultimate sign of trust and respect.
20. Your dog breaks eye contact with you first
If you have a dog that looks you in the eye and refuses to blink first or look away, you could have a problem. It’s a sign that your dog believes he is the dominant one, as prolonged eye contact is deemed to be threatening in the canine world.
You know if your dog sees you as alpha if he breaks eye contact first and looks away before you can. By doing so, he shows he respects you as the alpha pack leader.
21. Your dog doesn’t nip your ankle when you leave the room
There are a few reasons why dogs nip at heels and ankles, including a herd instinct that’s hard-wired into their DNA.
However, some will also do it as an aggressive motion because they don’t want you to leave them room. In fact, your dog is so dominant he might think you need to get his permission to get up and leave, which certainly can’t be a sign of respect.
Handy Hint: I’ve written a more extensive guide about why dogs like to bite at your ankles when you walk past them which provides more detailed insight.
Letting your dog know whose boss doesn’t mean harsh and unfair discipline. To get a dog to respect you requires patience and understanding. Over time, they might even grow to think you are their parents – it can happen!
You will need to look after them. That means giving them food, shelter, love, and play… whilst setting the rules in a firm but not scary manner.
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