How do I know if I am spending enough time with my dog? Is she lonely? Am I a bad owner if I do not have much time to spend with her?
Those are very good questions. I know that a lot of people have the same concerns.
Dogs are social animals. In the wild, wolves and other canines live in packs. There is an Alpha pair (one), and their offspring, and then a few other lower animals. These lower animals are ranked by the Greek numerical system as Beta (two), Gamma (three), Delta (four), Epsilon (five), and so on to Omega (the last).
When we domesticated wolves and other canines into our common dog, we tend to forget about that pack structure. When dogs are left alone, they begin to believe that they are the Alpha animal. A pack of one. A lot of people have difficulties training dogs who are considered strong-willed or aggressive breeds. Comparing a Doberman Pinscher to a Chihuahua and saying that the Doberman is an alpha animal is false. A Chihuahua can be just as aggressive, sometimes even more so, if they think that they are the alpha animal in the pack. So what does that mean for your dog?
Wolf pups learn how to be good pack members from spending time with their leaders. The leaders have the responsibility to teach them manners, when it is okay to have fun, and when it is a time to be serious and listen. If a young wolf is left to themselves, they get into trouble and possibly get themselves lost from the group or hurt. This is the same thing that your dog will do if it is left alone. Some older dogs, once they have learned their place in your family dynamic, are fine to be left alone while you are at work or school. When you get home, however, it is always best to re-establish that you are the boss of the pack. You are Alpha. This does not mean you need to re-establish your superiority by being mean or physical. Just spending time with your dog, is good enough. I like to sit on the floor and have my dog lay down next to me. She knows that I am Alpha because I put her in a lay-down position next to me. My head is higher than hers. I am Alpha. I also try not to let her bark when I am around and it is time to be quiet. When it is play time, she gets away with a little bit of barking, but when it gets out of hand, I quiet her down.
Dogs don’t need constant supervision, nor do they require being around you all the time. They are an individual and sometimes need their own space. It is required, however, that you spend some time establishing your leadership in your pack at home and still being your dog’s friend. The more time you spend with your dog, whether it be watching television, next to you at work, hiking a local trail, or training sessions at the park, the more behaved your dog will be and the healthier the relationship between you and your dog will become.
I hope this helps.
**If you are having major behavior problems with your dog, please contact a professional local dog trainer. Some behavior issues, such as aggression or fear can be dangerous to both your dog and yourself. **