Book Review: How To Be the Leader of the Pack


How To Be the Leader of the Pack, and Have Your Dog Love You For It

By Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D.

Another book originally published at least fifteen years ago, and now available as an ebook.

Author Patricia McConnell’s doctorate is in Zoology; her field of expertise is human/animal relationships. She is an expert on dog behavior and communication between humans and dogs.

This little 16-page booklet is the most useful dog training book I have read in a long time. It is full of common sense and useful tips. Dr. McConnell does not lay down hard and fast rules. (I’m sure you’ve heard “NEVER let your dog go through a door before you / sleep on the bed / play Tug.”) Instead, she advocates evaluating your dog’s behavior and dominance level and making appropriate adjustments. Her main point is that your dog will be happier and more comfortable if you do not spoil it and it understands that you are in charge and you set the rules and boundaries. Gee, it sounds a lot like the sensible advice for raising a human child.

Dr. McConnell explains what your dog understands in his language when you speak to him with human body posture and actions—your dog interprets your actions based on its instincts for dog/dog and pack interaction. Then she lays out how to convey the message you are trying to get across, rather than the wrong one you are inadvertently giving. For example, she explains that pushing a dog away with your hands could be interpreted by the dog as playing, since dogs initiate play by using their forepaws. Instead, pull your hands to your chest, lean into the dog, and block or push with your shoulder or elbow—taking up its space and using your torso are interpreted by a dog as status-related gestures, putting you in charge.

She also warns against staring directly in your dog’s eyes or doing the “alpha roll over” if your dog has shown any aggressiveness, as these are challenge actions in “dog language” and can elicit fear aggression or make your dog afraid, rather than obedient.

I highly recommend this little book for ALL dog owners. It will be the best $3 you’ve spent.


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