Thursday, March 6, 2014

It’s Always Best to Start at the Beginning!

Contributed by a Col. Potter Volunteer

Toto, Dorothy, and the Scarecrow about to learn a lesson!

Are you thinking about adding a new Rescued Cairn to your family?  There are many things to consider, and lots of planning to do.  You can expect to get many great tips to help you integrate your New Cairn into your home, so it is good to know that some of this advice will also will apply to your current resident dogs.  Learning to be the Alpha pack leader is a great example.

Before You Bring Your New Cairn Into Your Home…

Before your new dog arrives, it's important that you understand that your new dog must accept YOU as the leader of the pack in order for there to be peace and harmony in the home.  First and foremost, you must be the Alpha, hence the messages you put out the first few days are vital to ultimate success.

Recognizing the inherent differences in canine and human thought processes is critical to this process.  Dogs think entirely in terms of "pack rank" hierarchy.  Humans think in terms of "equality" and "fairness."  The two concepts are, of course, mutually exclusive.

Pack ranking means there is one entity, be it human or Canine, at the top of the pack ("Alpha") and each additional member of the pack (human and canine) is lower than the Alpha in a sort of descending "step ladder" arrangement.  There's a top dog ("Alpha"), a next-in-line ("Beta") then everyone else in a stair-step array on down the line to "Omega" (the bottom of the pack).  When you understand this concept, and embrace the leadership position of Alpha of the pack, your dog will feel comforted and secure.  This results in an easier integration into your family's pack.

Our job, as humans, is to be that Alpha.  Then, and only then, can we help assure a calm and uneventful integration of a new dog into our family "pack."  When the dog is convinced that we, as humans, are above them in the pack rank, they are reassured that they are safe and that someone is in control of their pack (hence is guarding the safety of the pack).  Conversely, if they do not sense a strong Alpha presence in their humans, dogs feel they must "fight" to assume control of the pack and become the pack leader.  This is not a situation that you want, nor is it what THEY want.  Being "Alpha" really means being the “LEADER”, and that's your job:  to lead the family's pack.

How do you assume Alpha status is their eyes?

Like Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road, it is always best to Start at the Beginning!  For the first two weeks minimum, you should have a drag lead attached to your New Cairn’s harness, inside your home and outside, in a securely fenced area.  A drag lead gives you power (Alpha) and helps you avoid situations where you ask for a behavior but have no way to ensure that you can make it happen without asking a 2nd time (which you should never do!).  “Come!” is a great example.  In the beginning it is really best to calmly step on the lead, pick it up, and then say, “Come!” where you can easily reel the dog in, ready to give a nice treat as soon as the action has been achieved.

How much you need to use the drag lead will vary from dog to dog, depending on their level of fear or sense of entitlement (i.e., they think they should be Alpha!), but you will be well served, no matter what, if you attach a drag lead for at least two weeks – and maybe longer.

Remember, in everything, the humans are always FIRST.  Eating or being fed, going up or down stairs, in and out doors, deciding where to sit, where to walk, etc., humans FIRST always.  This includes walking your new dog.  We strongly recommend that you have your new Cairn at your left heel, with his or her nose parallel with your left leg (while on leash, of course!) rather than allowing him or her to "lead" you by being out in front of you with the leash fully extended.

Given that we humans tend to try to be polite, this may go against our nature, but, to a dog, whoever is in front of the pack physically, or first in line for anything, is viewed as "Alpha" by the dogs.  Therefore, humans FIRST always.  If at any time in the future, you notice that your new little one begins to try to assert him or herself and assume "control" of your family's pack, go back to the HUMANS FIRST rule.  It's powerful in its simplicity and its message.

Also, keep in mind that to dogs, furniture - and especially human beds - are very powerful symbols of Alpha ranking.  Sounds odd to us, perhaps, but to a dog, whoever is on or in the human bed or the furniture has a powerful and envied position.  Therefore, being permitted to sit on furniture, or being invited on your bed is a privilege that the new dog must EARN.  It should not be granted to him or her immediately. 

It is STRONGLY recommended that you do not allow your new dog to sleep on or even BE on your bed for at least a couple of months.  The bed should be an earned pleasure.  Perhaps this will take longer than two months, and, perhaps, it will never be a good idea, depending on the dog’s Alpha tendencies. 

Rescuing one Cairn will not change the world,
but it will surely change the world for that one Rescued Cairn


Read More About It:

I’m Not Sure we’ve been Properly Introduced!

Toto: The Other Side of the Story!

And the Oscar goes to…


Col. Potter Needs a Few More Beginnings! 
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