Alpha-betizing your dog

If your dog is rather pushy and out of control, lacks respect for your point of view and doesn't mind letting you know about it he or she could be showing signs of the ALPHA SYNDROME!

The Alpha Syndrome is at the root of many behavior problems. IN MOST CASES, WE ARE NOT REALLY DEALING WITH A PROBLEM DOG, BUT A PROBLEM ENVIRONMENT OR PROBLEM RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN DOG AND OWNER. Dogs, just like their ancestor the wolf, need a leader. If the dog is not provided with appropriate guidance, if in your dog's opinion you are not a worthy leader, your dog may try to take over and call the shots. In other words, your dog may be running for higher office.

The ALPHAbetizing plan will make an improvement on how your dog views the social hierarchy in your pack. This plan involves changing daily interactions with your dog. It does not resort to punishment and very few actual TRAINING exercises are used.

Implement as many of the concepts as you possibly can. Stay with it for several weeks. Your dog did not climb to the top of the totem pole overnight, therefore it may take a little time to change your pal's mind about things. As your dog becomes rehabilitated, you may gradually phase out these corrective measures.

Good luck and remember - dog ownership is not a democracy. Be firm, be patient, be consistent, but be ALPHA!

A LEADER MUST FIRST GET THE FOLLOWER'S ATTENTION!

Encourage eye contact several times a day: Call your dog's name, help the dog make eye contact with you by tracing a line with your hand between your dog's face and yours. You can make your hand more interesting by holding a toy or other inducement. Even a one second glance should be reinforced with praise or a reward. You are setting up communication channels and a bond between you and your dog.

A LEADER IS DEPENDABLE

Scheduled (rather than free choice) meals aid in housetraining problems and puts your dog in a position of dependence on you for food. (More than one meal a day will relieve “hunger stress”). Food is a primary reinforcer. Use it to your best advantage.

LEADERS EAT FIRST

If your meals coincide with the dog's scheduled meals, make it a point to feed the dog AFTER you have eaten. Dogs are nonverbal communicators. This is a statement. Remember the National Geographic specials! Which wolf eats first?

EARNING PRAISE AND TREATS

Stop all food treats and petting for your dog during this rehabilitation period EXCEPT what is “earned” by obeying a command. Examples: If your dog comes to you for attention, tell the dog to “sit” before petting. A brief heeling session can precede a treat. Don't worry, this is only a temporary measure until your dog's behavior improves!

LEADERS GO FIRST

Don't allow your dog to charge in and out of “territory” before you. At the door of your home, vehicle, or at a fence gate, put your dog on a stay, go through first, then call the dog in or out.

THE LEADER CONTROLS THE TERRITORY

A follower yields to the leader. For instance: If your dog is lying down in a hallway and you wish to pass, MAKE YOUR DOG MOVE, don't step over or around.

LEADERS MEAN WHAT THEY SAY

When giving your dog a command, don't beg or scream, speak in low firm tones. And remember, no matter how simple the command, give it only once and make sure to help your dog comply.

LEADERS ARE WINNERS

“Control the games, control the dog.”

Ordinarily tug-of-war games are inappropriate for a pushy dog. It may escalate assertiveness and when you let go, your dog considers it a “win”. An important message can be conveyed, however, if you play by these rules.

Keep the game brief so your dog won't become overly excited. Be sure to WIN (have your dog release the toy to you) and while your dog is watching, put the toy away for the day, out of the dog's reach.

LIFE WITH YOUR DOG IS NOT A DEMOCRACY

. . . but please be a kind and gentle dictator! I'd like to think of it as a partnership, with you making the important decisions! To help explain this to your dog, for now, you get the bed! Your dog may sleep in your bedroom at night, but until the behavior problem's resolved, not on your bed. Sleeping together in the bed makes you seem like a littermate, an equal. Besides, there have been MANY alpha confrontations regarding possession of resting areas!

ALPHA OWNERS ARE FUN

Do some things you know your dog will enjoy, but you should remain “in charge” of these activities. For example: If your dog likes to retrieve, tell your pal to COME, help with compliance if necessary, and as a reward, play fetch. Help your dog release the object immediately on command. When play is over, praise and as the dog watches, put the object away.

TALK TO YOUR VETERINARIAN

- about neutering or spaying your dog. Frequently this procedure has a positive impact on behavior problems and your veterinarian will explain numerous other benefits as well.

A thorough exam is important to determine if your dog's misbehavior is caused by a physical problem.

MUZZLE CONTROL IS A NATURALLY DOMINANT GESTURE

Put your hand over the top of your dog's muzzle and gently hold it there for a few seconds. This can be a regular part of your petting and attention.

BELLY UP IS A NATURAL ACCEPTANCE POSTURE

Once a day invite your dog over for a free belly rub. show your pet how enjoyable this gesture of subordinance can be.

A FOLLOWER ALLOWS GENTLE HANDLING

Have regular grooming sessions with your dog. With positive reinforcement, gradually include “sensitive” spots, if any. Your goal is to have your dog relax and allow you to brush (or at least pet) the belly area.

DOWN IS A SUBORDINATE POSITION

Have your dog hold one 30-minute down-stay per day. Enforce it!! This can be done while you eat a meal or read the paper, but be sure you are in a position to help your dog stay down.

TRAIN, DON'T COMPLAIN

Give your dog about twenty minutes of obedience training a day. Break it up into two or three sessions. You do not have to be a member of an organized obedience class for this, but the guidance of a qualified instructor and the group experience for the dog are valuable. Give a command, help your dog comply, praise for a job well done.

LEADERS ARE FAIR, KIND, CONSISTENT

Be firm, not harsh. Don't work with your dog if you lose your patience, but stay with it! The concept of an alpha owner will become clear to your dog with consistent repetition.

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