Do You Use the Alpha Male Principle With Your Dog

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Do You Use the Alpha Male Principle With Your Dog

by Michael Eardley

Do you have behaviour problems with your dog? Barking unnecessarily, aggression, destructive habits? This may be down to him not knowing his place - literally! All dogs, from the biggest wolfhound to the tiniest chihuahua, think they are wolves. This is genetic and hard-wired into their brains.

Wolves are pack animals and packs have a leader - the alpha male. Dogs are programmed to think that in the absence of other information, they are automatically the leader of the pack and responsible for everybody else in it and in a home, that means you, the dog-owner! They take this responsibility very seriously to the point where they can be neurotic and badly-behaved. What you have to do is give the dog the correct information through signals he will understand instinctively. There are three main areas where strong signals can be sent to establish that your pet is NOT the boss!

The first is feeding. In a pack situation, after a kill, the alpha male eats first and woe betide any pack member who dares to step out of the pecking order at feeding time. So when feeding, make sure you eat first, even if it's just a cracker or piece of fruit. As long as the dog sees you eat it, that's fine. Some trainers advocate taking a small morsel from the dog's dish before he gets it and pretending to eat it - this reinforces the message that he's below you in the pecking order.

Second is greeting - when the alpha male is away on the hunt and returns, he maintains a state of aloofness. This re-establishes the pack heirarchy. So follow the five minute rule - if you've been out and the dog's been in, ignore him for at least five minutes. This may seem cruel and our natural emotional instinct is to make a fuss of the dog and show how much you missed him. This is a mistake!

After five minutes call the dog to you - this is important as it establishes your authority, then make as much fuss as you like. When leaving the dog alone, do the same thing, just go without words of farewell or warnings 'to be a good boy'!

The third area is the walk. Dogs in the wild don't go walking, they go on the hunt, and the alpha male leads the hunt. So when you sea dog straining at the leash and pulling his owner down the street, he's leading the hunt. Make sure the dog walks to heel, in other words, at your side and slightly behind. That's his place - literally. Now does all this make the dog unhappy?

No! Quite the reverse. The dog is anxious because it thinks it is responsible for you. If you show him, through these natural signals, that he is not, the burden of leadership will be taken from him and he will relax. Do I know what I am talking about? Yes, I have had several dogs where this technique works well, even if the bad behaviour pattern is well-established. The dogs can't wait for someone else to shoulder the responsibility!

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