Ground Work To Establish
With Adult Dogs
By Ed Frawley
There are a couple of sayings that I use a lot:
1 - “You can feed, water and love your dog and he will like you, but he very well may not respect you.”
2- “Dogs know what you know and they know what you don’t know.”
This article details how I establish pack structure with an adult dog. This is especially important with
dogs that are predisposed to becoming dominant or aggressive.
The information you are about to read is the way we introduce new dogs into our home here at Leerburg.
It shows how I gained control over some very tough and dangerous, dominant dogs over the past 45 plus years of breeding, owning and training police service dogs.
Becoming a pack leader involves adopting the attitude of a pack leader. It does not involve being
aggressive towards a dog, it doesn’t involve rolling him on his back or giving hard leash corrections
or even raising your voice to the dog. It involves adopting a leader’s attitude. This is something that
even new dog owners must learn how to do.
Every dog knows a leader when he is in the presence of one. They can sense a leader. They don’t need
leash corrections to consider their owner a pack leader. In fact inappropriate corrections often result
in a dog looking at the offender with contempt rather than respect.
There is an old saying, “Dogs know what you know and they know what you don’t know.” This article is going to explain how I show my dog “what I know.” It is also going to explain how I establish responsibility and limits to the relationship I build with my dogs.
The content of this article will mean more to you if you take a minute and read the article I wrote titled
Love is Not Enough
The vast majority of behavioral problems are caused by mistakes that were made in the basic foundation of how relationships were set up between owners and their dogs.
I call these “mistakes in ground work (GW)” and I define ground work as “that work which involves
establishing pack structure with a new dog.”
Many people think that loving a dog is enough to form a good relationship. These people are dead wrong.
Unconditional love is never enough. Love has conditions and boundaries along with mutual trust and respect. Unless humans deal with the respect issue in love, they will never have a relationship with a dog in which the dog looks at them as a pack leader.
What is “Ground Work”?
When I talk about GW I am not talking about training a dog to come, or heel, or sit. I am talking about
teaching the dog how I plan on living with it. I am talking about how I establish pack structure with a
The way we handle a dog in our day-to-day life will teach that dog a great deal about yourself, your pack, and your pack rules.
How and when I do anything with the dog-whether it is grooming, feeding, or exercising-along with my general attitude when I am around him will tell the dog volumes about our future relationship.
I call these the first steps to establishing a family pack structure.
When we bring a new dog into our home the decisions we make on how we live with that dog
and the methods used to train that dog have long term implications on what kind of relationship we
develop with the dog.
I tell people “they may not think of themselves as a dog trainer, but the fact is every time we are around our dog we are teaching the dog something. The question is “are we teaching it something good or something bad?” Some people don’t know the difference. Hopefully this article and my DVDs along with my web site will help people get off on the right foot.
The solutions to most Behavioral Problems
The solution to almost all behavioral problems lies within changes owners need to make in the way they live with their dogs.
Unlike humans, dogs live in the present. Human psychologists almost all focus on the past to find answers to current problems. This is fine for a human but it’s a mistake to think that this is how to fix a pack animal.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that modifications to training don’t need to be made for a dog that was truly abused. The fact is the term “abuse’ is used far too often when trying to explain behavioral problems.
I always tell pet owners that I never change my philosophy of how to live with or train a dog just
because it had bad experience in the past.
it is Never too Late to change
I want to make a point here and that is if you currently have a problem with your dog it’s never too late to consider making changes on how you live with your dog.
In fact if you have a problem it’s imperative that YOU DO MAKE CHANGES because the way you have been living with your dog has allowed these problems to develop.
Never forget what I said: Dogs live in the moment and they miss nothing. The old adage about “not
being able to teach an old dog a new trick” is just that – bad old information.
So it’s never too late to turn things around. It’s never too late to start to do things correctly. You just need the patience and confidence in what you are doing to fix your problems.
Everyone has an Opinion
You will quickly learn that everyone has an opinion on how to raise and train your dog. You only need to ask your mailman, your barber or your relatives how to solve your training problems.
If you go to your local Pet Smart warehouse and talk to their trainers or look in their book section you will see stacks of conflicting advice.
The problem is that most people (including a vast majority of instructors) don’t have enough experience to offer sound advice on training, much less advice on establishing pack structure.
This results in a lot of bad information being passed out.
You can go to my web site and read my biography on the experience I bring to the table when I talk about dog training.
What Breeds Need Ground Work?
This information in this article applies to dogs of all breeds and ages.
Every breed of dog needs good ground work. Dog training is not breed specific. It’s temperament and
Every new dog needs to go through a solid ground work program no matter how old the new dog is, no matter what breed the new dog is, no matter how big or small the new dog is, no matter where the dog came from or what it’s background is, and final y, no matter what his current level of training is.
Ground work exercises help get dogs under control. They provide new owners experience in learning to handle and control character traits (both learned and genetic) the new dog has.
These GW exercises also result in owners having more confidence in handling their dogs. In fact there
is a saying I use “the more ground work, the more experience, the more confidence every new dog
owner will have.”
Many Rescue Dogs Genetically have Faulty Temperaments
Many people who rescue dogs are told their new rescue dog has been abused, when in fact this is not
the case. Many, many, many, dogs are turned into humane societies because they have genetically
faulty temperaments or because the dogs lived in homes that did not promote a healthy pack structure.
It’s important to remember that dogs with faulty temperaments are also dogs with pack drives. They just react to the “rank” portion of their pack drive differently than well adjusted house dogs do.
In fact, dogs with faulty temperaments often need sound pack structure training more than normal dogs.
I also need to point out that many dogs with temper- ament issues have these issues as a result of people who own animals and prefer to treat them anthro- pomorphically (like a human child) rather than as a pack animal and a member of their family pack. This causes HUGE problems.
Some of these people come to their senses when their dogs develop serious dominance problems.
Others simply turn the dog into animal shelters or worse yet, they have the dogs put to sleep.
ThE FiRsT WEEKs
When I bring a new adult into our home, I socially isolate the dog for a period of time. With some dogs
this may only be for 3 or 4 days. With dominant dogs it can be weeks.
Social isolation means that I take care of the dog’s basic needs: feeding, water, walking and a clean place to sleep, but nothing else. I don’t pet the dog, I don’t play with the dog, I don’t talk sweet to the dog. I act like it is not there.
During this social isolation period the only time the dog is out of the crate while in the house is when it is on its way outside.