Alpha Dog, Pack Leader, and YOU!

Lady Di, the Alpha Female

Lady Di, the Alpha Female

I get phone calls, sometimes 5 a week, from owners who want to surrender their dog. Usually, it’s because the dog is showing serious signs of aggression, sometimes toward children or other dogs. As I interview the owner, I am then informed that the owner not only allows the dog on their furniture, but actually sleeps with the dog. While I have slept with some of my dogs, it’s not a given, it’s a honor to be invited in my bed. I have never allowed a dog to own my bed or dictate to me.

If people would only realize that a dog is a dog, it is not your child. Even the smallest of breeds are famous for biting people and other dogs, why? Because the dog was babied, and is confused. The babied and pampered dog thinks it’s in charge, and to be honest, I don’t blame the dog at all! Most of these dogs, big or small, end up in shelters and pounds.

Here lies the difference between being a dog owner, and pack leader. I talk about Lady Di quite often. While she is very much a strong Alpha, she does not get away with any aggressive behaviors toward us or other dogs. Lady Di is the corrector. She is given respect by all of the dogs who come here, because she leads by example. Lady Di expects all of the dogs to play nice, and if they don’t… watch out! She will never harm another dog, but she will teach other dogs and puppies the rules.

I posted this on Facebook this morning: I’m sure you know, but many do not, what an Alpha Leader is. An Alpha is a dog that the pack respects. She or He is not a bully, but keeps law and order within the pack with just one look. Occassional the Alpha does have to use its teeth, but never to harm, only to communicate. The Alpha is also very nurturing, and… works hard to make sure the pack is well. Here’s a quick look at just one of her full time jobs working in rescue. So while I can spend valuable time correcting the new dogs that come here, Lady Di can communicate with them, teach them, show them, and redirect them in a second. She is very valuable here at The Border Collie Boot Camp, but never does she doubt that I am truly in charge. She has a full-time job, and she does her job very well!

Many times we have described one of our dogs that is available for adoption as an Alpha. It sometimes sends adopters running the opposite direction. Having a dog that is an Alpha does not mean it’s a bully! A bully is a bully! An Alpha can be described as the school’s principal.

Here is an awesome article that explains it all from Dog Breed Info, Why you need to be the Top Dog.

It reads:

Dogs descended from wolves, and deep within the psyche of your dog lies instincts they have retained from their wild ancestors. In order to live with and communicate with your dog you need to understand why you must maintain Alpha position in the “pack.”

Here’s a quick video I took of my Lady Di correcting Megan’s Huck. Huck was very young, and he was exciting to meet all of our dogs, but he got a little bit out of hand, trying to hump everyone. Lady Di, without hurting Huck in any way, let him know the rules of engagement at her home, and Huck has been a gentleman ever since!

Your dog depends on you for its survival. It has learned that it must cooperate with you through thousands of years of evolution and adaptation in human society. The first domestication by man was the wolf. About twelve thousand years ago we discovered that having a wolf as a “pet” was a great asset. They could hunt alongside us and they could guard us as we slept.

As the years went by, the wolf began to mutate into different breeds. Scientists are unsure exactly how the first breeds developed. There are several different theories that include natural mutations, climate, and environment. The breeds became more numerous and more specialized. That is how we ended up with groups such as herding, hunting, shepherding, guarding, and of course, companion and lap dogs.

Of all the animals that we have domesticated, only the dog has willingly allowed itself to accept the authority of man without constraint. But as I said, it still retains the instinct to test its position. Yes, even sweet little Lady, the Maltese lying at your feet, has the genes and instincts of the wolf.

Wolves live by rules and have a social structure. The entire pack cooperates under a single leader. Lines are clearly defined. The leader of the pack eats first, and then the rest of the pack can eat. When your dog growls at you when he is eating, he is saying “I am the leader, and you must wait.”

If your dog has a growling problem, here are some “rules to live by” that may be of help to you.

1. Never tolerate growling. This is a threat and it means your dog sees you as a subordinate meant to be dominated by him. Tell him No! Let him know it is not acceptable to EVER growl at you or your children. Make it clear that your children are the offspring of his Alpha leader (you) and that they are to be treated as Alpha “pups.”

2. Do not let your dog walk through the door first. If your dog always goes ahead of you, you need to get your leash and open the door. When he rushes ahead you pull him back and tell him “No. Wait. ” You walk in and then give him permission to come in. This will be easier and faster if you have someone help you.

3. Do not let a dog who is having alpha issues sleep in the same bed as the humans. This is a definite alpha position. A doggie bed on the floor beside you is your best bet for maintaining alpha position. This rule is for aggressive dogs or dogs showing signs they are forgetting their place. A pet that is well behaved and obedient can sleep next to you or your child, so long as it was the humans that invited the dog up. The dog should not be the one deciding to jump up on the bed. If you just can’t be without your dog in the bed, at the very least you need to make sure he sleeps at the foot of the bed and not on your pillow.

4. Socialize, socialize, socialize. I cannot stress enough the importance of introducing your dog to different places and people. Find something to do with your dog. Join and agility or obedience class. Take your dog to the park. If you have a laid back dog or puppy share your time with the local nursing home. Volunteer with disability groups so children and adults with special needs can enjoy the non-judgmental love a dog or puppy can provide.

5. Do not let your dog ride in your lap in the car. Make him sit in his own seat or on the floor. It is unsafe for you and your dog. Buy him his own seat belt or safety booster or use a kennel. Some states will give you a ticket for being a distracted driver.

6. Do not baby your dog too much. He needs to learn to be a dog. Do not over-protect him. He needs to explore and learn to be independent. You do not want to raise a flighty, paranoid dog. When he acts afraid of something that he should not be afraid of, do not pick him up and ooh and ahh over him. Simply tell him it is okay, and show him the object, person, etc. Your confidence will make him a confident and dependable dog. If you feed his imaginary fears, he will become a snappy and untrustworthy dog. He may develop fear aggression. An example of fear aggression could be a dog that sits in its owner’s lap and growls at people or other animals. If you pet him, and tell him “It’s okay.” You are really telling him this is the type of behavior you expect of him, and he will continue to do it because there is a reward attached to it. Tell him no and put him down off your lap. While some owners think it is sweet that their little lap dog is “protecting them,” it is not. When a child reaches to pet the dog or hug Grandma it could bite them if it is allowed to get away with this antisocial behavior. This is a dog that has taken on Alpha position and you are a subordinate. I have seen so many children chastised when they get bitten, when it’s the owner that is responsible. You will often hear people say “Now, you know Granny’s dog doesn’t like you to go near her. She is jealous, and protective. We have told you over and over not to do that.” What a shame. And it could all be avoided if we would just take the time to learn canine behavior. As much as we would like to believe that they think like us, they do not.

If you have a problem with your dog growling at you or another family member, you may want to try having the person your dog growls at the most be the only one to feed him. You want to make him sit to reinforce your position as the leader. He is learning that he depends on you and he must obey in order to eat. And if he growls after you set down the food, tell him no and take the food away. Tell him to sit again. This is how you will reinforce the “no growling rule.”

You must never tolerate growling because this will usually lead to biting. Not always, but it usually does. So you need to nip it in the bud as soon as possible. I want to make it clear we are not talking about puppy play growling. Only growling that is geared towards aggression growling. Puppies need to be able to be puppies.

Do not play tug of war with a puppy. Play fetch and tell them to release the ball. Never be overly harsh with your dog. Use common sense.

When a dog is constantly leaning on you, putting his paw on you, or touching you in some way, this is not your dog loving you, it is your dog displaying dominant behaviors. In the dog world, space is respect. A dog who is constantly nudging you and leaning on you, is not only disrespecting you, they are being the alpha dog. You are the one who must start and end touching and affection. Affection should only be given when the dog is being calm and submissive. Never when the dog is excited, anxious, scared, nervous etc… or you will be reinforcing that state in the dog.

One last thing… spend time with your dog. Train him. Walk him daily. Be calm, assertive and provide rules and boundaries your dog must follow. When you provide all of those things, play with him and love him up. Just as a child looks to his parents for guidance and boundaries, so does your dog. Sometimes we have to use tough love, but in the long run, you and your dog will be happier if you maintain the Alpha role.

If you would like a free training video by Cesar Milan, please email me at thedogliberator@gmail.com

If you have any input or suggestions, or if you disagree with anything written in this post, please feel free to leave a comment, and share your thoughts with us!

Email us for more information: TheDogLiberator@gmail.com







Related Posts

Valentine-adopted

TDL Hats

Protective or Scared

Lady Di Revisted

The Wilson Pack

Border Collie Boot Camp

2 Comments

  1. scargosun

    09.30.2010

    I am forwarding this to my husband. I am the Alpha in the house and he babies the dogs WAY too much and then wonders why there are problems. Looks like I have more human training to do.

  2. Jack Pressley

    11.12.2012

    Please send the video by Cesar Milan. In March of this year we started looking for a dog following the February death of our 11 yr old Australian Shepherd. We were interested in adopting a DogLiberator Aussie named Scout but someone else adopted him that very week.
    When we looked on Pet Finder there was a handsome Blue Merle Heeler/Lab mix. He was a stray in a Gaffney, SC county animal control facility and the clock was ticking on his death row/adoption period. We have no idea how he spent his first 12-18 months but the pads on his paws were extremely rough & we could only guess he had not had an easy go of it.
    He was not leash or house broken. But within a week or so of love & training Merlin was doing great on both! His training in other areas is ongoing. I like the article you wrote & see several helpful tips I can use as his Alpha.
    Thank you for the work your organization does & I wish you well.
    Jack Pressley
    Hendersonville, NC

Leave a Reply

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: