How To Be a Great Leader For Your Puppy

11 minute read By Lucy Hughes
Reviewed by: Pawrade Team
May 14, 2024

a girl kneels down training a siberian husky puppy with a treat

You’re enjoying a lovely breakfast you cooked when you hear a crash and a rustling noise. You don’t have to ask yourself what it could be because you haven’t seen your puppy around, and things have been suspiciously quiet until now. 

“NO! Bad dog! Drop it! Drop it! DROP IT!” You holler across the room while repeating yourself, your voice raising to a crescendo while your puppy continues to ignore you, gleefully chomping on the used coffee filter like it was filet mignon. You can already see little paw prints in the scattered coffee grounds on your freshly mopped floor. 

If you’ve ever been guilty of losing your cool when your puppy goes dumpster diving or leaves you a “present” in the middle of the rug you just cleaned, you may need some ideas for how to be a great leader for your puppy

Some people expect to train a dog like they would raise a child. Even though they are our furbabies, dogs require a different approach than raising humans. One of the first things you need to do to turn your puppy into a Man’s Best Friend is to establish a bond with your puppy. From a strong bond comes trust, and your puppy will view you as the leader. 

The overall goal of leadership is not about being in charge of your puppy in a controlling way. Rather, it’s about being consistent in your efforts, clear on your expectations, and fair with your follow-through. We want to redirect them with our voice the first time when they make poor choices while giving them a reason to listen instead of ignoring us. 

The science behind pack mentality notes that puppies look for a leader in their household. They are observant of pack order, and if they don’t see you as above them, they will rule the household. For example, it’s not cute when a tiny Chihuahua rules the home and has dominion over their family because no one has stepped up to lead them to the right behavior. With firm, kind, confident leadership, Chihuahuas can still be sassy without running the show as well-adjusted family pets. It all depends on establishing yourself as your dog’s leader.

It’s best to start all your efforts the day you bring home your puppy. However, if things have been a bit rocky or you haven’t picked a dog training method yet, it’s never too late to begin!

Learn how to be an effective leader for your puppy to build a relationship and confidence in your puppy to show that amazing things happen when they respect and listen to you. 

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Know Your Puppy’s Training Personality 

When you are choosing the right dog breed for you and your household, you’ll need to research the breeds you’re considering to get an overall feel for the type of training method for the breed’s personality. While no dog likes to be barked at by humans, some breeds require different training methods with tone of voice and approach. Even though the basic puppy training commands are the same, what works for a sensitive Italian Greyhound or eager-to-please breeds like Golden Retrievers or Bichon Frises is not the same method to use with breeds requiring more of a firm hand, like an American Pit Bull Terrier or Belgian Malinois. Other dogs may be more stubborn, like a Beagle or Basset Hound, or independent like a Siberian Husky or Shiba Inu

It’s important to understand each dog will have a different personality, even within the same breed known for particular traits. Assess your dog’s training personality by looking at their current temperament. Observe a list of traits to help you pick the best training method for your dog. Figure out what resources your dog finds valuable to help you select high-value treats and experiences, like liver treats, a special toy, praise, or playtime. The key is to find the training method and reward system that works for your dog. 

Being an Effective Leader For Your Puppy

Becoming a leader is not a stand-alone effort, nor does it happen overnight. Here are some things to consider and action items you can do to establish yourself as your puppy’s leader. 

Implement structure and rules 

Implementing structure and rules will provide a framework for each part of the day. Put your canine companion on a daily puppy schedule with a predictable routine. This helps encourage your puppy to understand expected behavior during mealtimes, potty breaks, playtime, and regular naptimes. Things can get fairly chaotic and escalate quickly with no set routine for your puppy!

Routines benefit humans as well. You won’t have to worry about whether or not you already fed your puppy, if he went out recently, or if he skipped a nap. You’ll be able to block out your time to ensure your puppy’s needs are met.  

Say what you mean

Your puppy will ignore you until you teach him how to pay attention. Begin with a neutral yet firm voice. Work through training commands until he performs his duty after you tell him once.

A common mistake puppy owners make is assuming your puppy will do the desired behavior if you repeat the command louder each time without leaving time for them to perform it. Another mistake is to forget to follow through with a reward so they associate the desired behavior with a reason to listen to you. 

One training goal is to get your puppy to demonstrate proper behavior the first time you ask. Always follow through in the same calm, collected tone and wait until action is performed. Your puppy will learn your voice has merit and will be more willing to please you with great behavior. 

And remember, don’t reward your puppy with a treat if they did not perform the desired behavior. They need to learn they have to work for a treat so they know your words have power. Likewise, give some sort of reward for following through with the command. 

“Train” your own behavior

It can be difficult to be reflective of our own behavior. Examine your habits by asking yourself, “Am I truly doing all I can to help my puppy make good choices?” Before you point the finger to blame the puppy, take a look at your own behavior.

Let’s say you are a collector of expensive, rare shoes. You’ve opened the box but left it on the floor with the laces peeking out. We don’t know of a single puppy whose first instinct would not be to chew on those laces! 

We can already predict what kind of reaction you’ll have when your puppy has shoe leather as a snack. You most likely won’t be able to control your anger and disappointment, and our first instinct is to blame the puppy. You’re at risk of using a harsh tone or even yelling at your puppy when scolding them. 

We hate to break it to you, but this whole situation could have been avoided if you kept your shoes away from within your puppy’s reach and provided a supervised, safe place for open playtime. You’ll need to “train” yourself to be proactive, taking a look at your environment to see if it’s conducive for a puppy to experience wins.

Never hit, harm, or scream at your puppy, including rubbing their nose in their mess or bopping them with a rolled-up magazine. It will 100% backfire and leave you with a terrified dog where your presence equals impending unpleasant and scary interactions. This is a surefire way to break any progress on bonding with your dog and establishing trust. For example, if you’re trying to teach your puppy to stop barking excessively, yelling at him won’t help the situation and will only contribute to the loud chaos.   

Set up your puppy for success

Put your puppy in situations where they are set up to succeed in making good choices. Instead of beginning with reactive commands, begin by telling your dog what you’d like them to do rather than what not to do. Then set them up to experience success. 

A reactive command is where you find yourself responding more to negative behavior. If you find yourself saying “Leave it,” “Don’t,” “Drop it,” or “No,” try shifting to more proactive commands to tell them a positive action to do before they get into naughty behavior. 

One example of setting up your puppy for success is to work on a recall command where your puppy immediately comes when called – a tall order when they are young! Rather than just letting your puppy wander around and hope the command sticks, put them on a long lead. You can start with just a little slack and gradually increase the length between you and your puppy while providing structure to be successful. 

If your puppy is distracted, you can still choose a few actions to help them succeed. You could move them to a more quiet spot, swap out the reward through a different treat or a new toy, or simply end the session before everyone gets too frustrated and try again later. 

Have good timing 

It can be difficult to pay attention to your puppy constantly, but we all know it’s imperative to ensure they do not have a chance to get into unpleasant situations. It only takes a second for them to slip out of sight. 

If you find your puppy across the room rooting around in the garbage like in our previous example, you need to physically move to where the puppy is getting into shenanigans. That way, you can swiftly intervene and work on some positive commands to redirect their attention. 

Even if you are near, your puppy can still make undesirable choices and test their boundaries. Instead of yelling across the room in an angry tone, you can get your puppy back on the right track and guide them toward an opportunity to be successful. 

The sooner you catch undesirable behavior, the quicker you will be able to disrupt said behavior and turn it into a learning experience. 


Control their resources

Have you ever heard of “decision fatigue” where you are overwhelmed by too many choices, even if it’s at your favorite ice cream store with 50 flavors available? Even though we love ice cream, we might be more comfortable with only five flavors to choose from sometimes. 

Puppies can also get decision fatigue if they are allowed full access to things like your home, all of their toys, and more. If a puppy has free rein over the home, of course they will chew your remote and furniture legs on that expensive dining room table. However, if you provide a safe space to explore, you cut down on their choices for naughty behavior. 

You should also rotate age-appropriate toys. When our puppies grow older and are at different stages of teething, they may require an upgrade. Be sure to allow them to select among a few high-value toys. Your puppy may become bored with all of their toys if they have access to all of them at once, leaving you without a favorite to help use as a training aid. 

Good choices = more freedom

Give your puppy more freedom gradually rather than all at once. Once they demonstrate a set of key commands, move the bar a bit higher by introducing “luxuries.” Some exciting rewards could be allowing your puppy onto the furniture, introducing new toys, having the freedom to come and go through a doggy door, or earning more free play in a larger area without a long lead. 

Showing obedience gives more opportunities for your puppy to make better choices. Don’t be afraid to scale back those freedoms if there is a regression in demonstrating an understanding of skills. You wouldn’t want your puppy to continue to make poor choices if you gave too much freedom too soon. 

Lead a Pawrade Puppy 

At Pawrade, we partner with trustworthy breeders who work with their puppies to set them up for success before they make their home with you. They go above and beyond their puppies’ basic needs to raise well-rounded puppies ready to start learning from Day One. 

Ready to lead a Pawrade puppy? We know you’ll be a great leader! Check out our puppies for sale to pick your favorite puppy to start a wonderful relationship. 


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Lucy Hughes

Lucy Hughes has been teaching and writing professionally for half her life. She has a passion for helping people choose a puppy and lead an exciting life with their new furry companion. She enjoys spending quality time with her family and her beloved Golden Retriever, Bowie.

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