How do you become pack leader of your dog?


Dog nicely trained to walk by his handler's sideThe answer is in 2 world-renowned words: Cesar Millan!  And you either love him or hate him.  Personally I love the man, and I am in awe of how easily and naturally is respected by any dog around him.  Indy, well I am not sure he’d be in awe, but rather he would know who the pack leader is in the room.

I’m not the best person to talk about Cesar’s successful training methods, just because I’m not the most assertive of handlers with my Indy.  But with me it’s a case of ‘Don’t do as I do, do as I say’.

The reality is that Cesar would be horrified to hear how spoilt my Indy is.  But in one of Cesar’s first books, “Cesar’s Way”, I remember reading you can set up whichever rules and limitations you want with your dog, whatever they may be, so long as then you carry them through and remain pack leader enough to enable your dog to respect them.

I have always liked Cesar’s approach, and remember watching his first few TV series of “Dog Whisperer” on NatGeo channel, wondering how he managed to bring angry and frustrated dogs into submission in the most natural of ways.  Well, it turns out that Cesar can convert to pack leadership even the most desperate cases of discipline-lacking dog handlers such as myself – with his full Mastering Leadership Series, where he tackles leadership training during all types of difficult situations, or situations that your dog may struggle with.

Cesar’s WayCesar Millan - Cesar's Way is a philosophy, it is not at all about bullying your dog.  In fact it is all about teaching him/her to be a good dog, in order for your dog to be a happier and better socialised hound.  You would do, and probably have done the same with your children, by teaching them good manners so they could be better adults later in life. With your dog it is the same – you love them, hence you want them to be happy, hence you want them to be better behaved.

For instance, yes admittedly I may be ever so slightly bias, but I do believe my Indy is practically a perfect dog. If it weren’t of course for that small matter of being sometimes naughty to other dogs, particularly non-neutered males, on 0ne-to-one walk encounters. Well, Cesar advises – and I believe it wholly – that if a principle of fight takes place, you should break it up by conveying firmly your energy to the feistiest of the dogs by pulling them up, not back, or by de-focusing the same dog with a firm nudge.  You should also never shout at the situation, or else you risk fuelling up the negative energy of the situation.

In fairness, I have not seen many episodes that Cesar has dedicated to Border Terriers, or the terrier category for all that matters.  My husband reckons the reason is that Borders are independent hence require extra effort; on the other hand, I say the reason is because Borders are just perfect!  Then again, I might be ever so slightly bias.

That is exactly where we went wrong when we tried to adopt Olive and introduced her to Indy a few months ago.  They were alright together, and Indy welcomed her in his territory until she tried to play with his toys.  He didn’t like to share and tried to take the toys from her, she being stronger and younger (albeit neutered and a bitch) did not like his not allowing her to play and went for his neck which she grabbed in a firm bite.  I believe we failed by punishing her, by shouting in fear she may have injured our Indy, and by not forgiving her.  As responsible dog owners what in fact we should have done is taking more time with them, and being more patient into not allowing them to misbehave with each other.
Indy came out totally fine out of this experience, unscathed both physically and emotionally. But had we sought after Cesar’s help, by now Indy would probably have a nice companion by his side and us a nice addition to the family.


  1. // Reply

    Hey Giulia!

    It’s a really well written blog. I never got a dog in my life but almost all of my best friends have/had a dog. I can totally agree with you when you said that our dogs are like our children, we want them to behave so we can live happily together haha. My family has a cat for 6 years now, some people say that training cats is really impossible or hard but we trained our cat to always behave and when to know right from wrong. I’ll recommend your site to one of my friends!


    1. // Reply

      Wow, thank you ever so much Bruce. Ido not make claims to hold the key to how best to teach your hound, but I just base my blogs from experience with my lovely Indy – in fact, they are his blogs and all I do is convey his thoughts ?? And why not, I’m pretty sure cats can be trained as well, if you can train them for toilet purposes, surely you can train them for everything else! Lots of love. Giulia ?

  2. // Reply

    Never heard of Cesar Millan, but based on what I’ve just read – This guy knows the work. It’s mystically cool how he train the dogs, and how he really knows what to do in order to make them a good one. I have a dog, for a long time already…and I can’t teach him how to be loyal, and to follow simple commands. This book will sure help me with it.

    1. // Reply

      oh Alexey, you must read it! I must admit, for softies like me with my Indy it is hard going as you really need to be assertive, but you can do it, you can train your dog without being brutal or horrible to him/her. In passing, what dog have you got, and is he/she young or adopted? I think sometimes it also depends on the breed, where training might take a little longer. Giulia

  3. // Reply

    Hi Giulia! Love your website! We have had two dogs that we rescued from shelters. They have passed on now and I would love to get another one. Perhaps when we move to a new house next year I will be able to.
    I wish I had known about Cesar Millan when we had our second dog. She was part terrier and a very dominant female. She was fine with us, but taking her for a walk was a nightmare. She would attack all other dogs, no matter how big. I didn’t know how to discipline her properly for her personality, so it was always an ordeal.
    I will keep this info on file for when I get another dog. Thanks for this! Stella 🙂

    1. // Reply

      Well yes, I think, Stella, it is the one quirk of terriers. As I say in my blog, I have to admit I haven’t seen Cesar work with terriers much. I never leave my border Indy off the lead, as he is very good with most dogs but we can’t know when there are dogs that he won’t like, even at his older age – though we think they are non-neutered boys. And that’s part of their being territorial, the ground, it’s smells, it all belongs to your terrier. One think that we find helps our Indy is in not getting stuck in usual walk routes, but change them, take him out on trips outskirts. Our Indy loves them! Thank you. Giulia ??

  4. // Reply

    Hello Giulia 🙂
    I recently discovered Cecar Millan and I have to say that I LOVE HIM! He has an amazing way with the dogs. He knows exactly how to treat them whatever the problem is, always being calm.
    We got a puppy two weeks ago, and we apply everything Cecar is recommending. Our puppy is very happy and respects the rules and the limitations.
    I recommend Cecars DVD’s to anyone that owns a dog!

    1. // Reply

      as I say in my post Athanasia, do as I say, not as I do, as I am a softy and am not the best example to look up to to implement Cesar’s ways. But, like you, I just adore the man!!! I suppose we have been lucky as our Indy has always been so layback – which means in his previous life before meeting us, he must have been well trained after all. I expect, however, that if we ever had a puppy, I would want to try out Cesar’s training on the pup, as a happy and well behaved childhood in a dog translate in a happy adult life – exactly like with humans.

      Let us know how you get on with your training of your puppy Athanasia, and send us pictures of your ‘baby’.

      Love. Giulia

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