Having only one member of a family responsible for training while their dog is brought through a class is a policy adopted by many dog training groups. The rationale being that reducing the number of variables to a minimum reduces possible confusion thus making training easier. In view of the dog’s nature to seek his level of dominance within the pack, it may be that we are actually encouraging one man control of the dog. Except for the highest and lowest ranking members of the pack, all others are dominant over some and subordinate to others. When the dog is placed with humans, his pack instincts are still present, only the makeup has been changed from canines to people.
Upon entering the new pack situation, the dog begins to learn quickly who will lead him and whom he will lead. For his life in his human pack to be a comfortable one for all concerned, he must learn to be a follower. Dominance, and therefore a leader figure, can be established easily by having the dog obey commands from each member of the family and be praised for his obedience. This is most easily accomplished with a puppy while he is learning what the world has to offer and how he fits into it. It may be somewhat harder to deal with an older dog that already has his own ideas about his position within the human pack, especially if he has decided he is the leader.
After reading over text on this subject by William E. Campbell, we dropped this policy in our classes striving instead toward the goal of having the dog responsive to all members of the family. To accomplish this we suggest each member of the family help with the training by conducting part of the review each day. We still prefer that only one person be in charge of introducing new material. An alternative would be to have each member introduce and teach a separate exercise. Although timing might vary from one family member to another, the dog would still be seeing uniform timing for a particular exercise.
Fortunately, few dogs fall into the category of being strong leader types and most dogs are responsive to all family members. However, to develop a better understanding of the dog and to realize the full benefit of a well trained dog, family participation in training should be encouraged.