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Good topic! I think any discussion of dog psychology can be helpful with those that are new dog owners or wonder why their dogs do the things they do.

The Canine Mind: Dog Psychology
The most common mistake people make in training a dog is to assume that the dog is like a child. Your pet may be small and dependent on you for its needs, but a dog's mind is built differently from a human's. Most pet behavior problems can be prevented by treating your dog like a dog.
Couldn't agree with you more! Although I tend to spoil my girl I still realize she's not my daughter. ;)

The Alpha of a Dog Pack
In the wild, dogs live in packs with a well-understood hierarchy. The pack leader or "alpha dog" eats first, gets his choice of mate, leads when the pack is on the move, and sits or stands higher than the subordinate members of the pack.

It would be completely unacceptable for a member of the pack to refuse to give way for the alpha or to growl when the alpha takes her food.

Because they're built the same way as wolves or other wild dogs, and because dogs can't act any way other than how they feel, these behaviors are equally unacceptable in a family pet.
I have found a lot of research that suggests the idea of the "alpha dog" is more of a myth and that dominating a dog is not necessary to get good behavior.

Pack Leader Myths
What Ever Happened to the Term Alpha Wolf?
Debunking The Dominance Myth
Letting Go of the Dominance Paradigm in Dogs
Moving Beyond the Dominance Myth Towards Training as a Partnership

Teaching the Way Your Dog Learns
If you want your dog to obey you, he or she must first understand that you are the pack leader. Only when your dog believes that you are alpha will you see consistent good behavior.
I think the dog needs to respect you. I think you need to form a good bond with your dog and be the provider of all things good in life (ie. food, treats, affection, walks, belly rubs, etc). Who doesn't love to give belly rubs!? :p

Cesar Millan, known as "the dog whisperer," says that dogs have three fundamental needs to keep them healthy and well-behaved. From most important to least important, these are:

* Exercise
* Discipline and
* Affection
I am not a fan of Cesar Milan to say the least, but I do agree that dogs need exercise and affection. I would substitute consistency for discipline because I think a lot of the problems that people experience with their dogs can be traced back to inconsistent enforcement of rules. I notice a big difference in Snickers if she doesn't get her daily walks so I make every effort to get her out. A tired dog is a happy dog. :D

Many dog owners, especially of small dogs, shower their dogs with affection while ignoring the more important need for exercise – in the wild a dog would be running for most of the day
Agree 100%! :D

* Always pass through doors and walk up/down stairs before your dog does.
* Teach your dog to walk beside you and follow your lead. Only the alpha leads.
* The dog should be seated lower than you. The alpha takes higher ground.
* The dog should never be allowed on furniture unless invited.
* Feed the dog after human family members have finished eating. (If you feed your dog at a different time than your dinner, get in the habit of munching on a cracker or something small but visible before you feed the dog.)
* Ignore puppy "complaints" such as whining or barking for attention. You decide when to go for a walk, not the dog.
* Your bed and other furniture is off-limits to the dog, but the dog's bed/crate/kennel, toys, and food dish are not off-limits to you. The alpha can take something from any pack member without being challenged.

A well-behaved dog respects not only its own alpha or master, but the entire human household. Children should be taught how to handle the dog so they, too, are respected as being dominant over the dog.
I let my dog up on my sofa and bed and I've talked a lot of other dog owners that do the same. I don't believe, this in and of itself, leads to behavior issues.

I agree to ignore puppy complaints, but I find that if I don't exercise Snickers she has much more energy and craves more attention. This is more my fault than hers.

Agree with resource guarding...a very big no no.

I'm not sure about eating first. I feed Snickers first so she has something to occupy her when I'm fixing and eating dinner. I am the provider of food so I'm not sure how me eating first would make me more of a leader when providing food makes me the leader. I guess it depends on the situation.
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