Dogs are pack animals, which means that there is always a leader — or “Alpha Dog” — in the pack to whom all of the other animals defer. When it comes to dog training, you as the owner must become the alpha dog to ensure obedience and respect. If you allow your dog to believe that he or she is the Alpha dog, you run the risk of losing his or her respect forever. Not only that, but a dog who things that he or she is the master is inherently dangerous, especially if you’ve purchased a breed that is naturally aggressive.
There are many schools of thought that pertain to becoming the Alpha dog in your dog training efforts. Some experts say that the best way to become an Alpha dog is to continually offer discipline and rejection. There are easier ways, however, that can start from day one. Two methods in particular have always worked with me, and they are easy enough that you don’t have to be an expert dog trainer to send the right message.
The first method of becoming the Alpha dog is to spend five minutes each day standing over your dog. When an animal turns his or her belly upwards to the owner, this shows absolute submission. Most dogs won’t do this right away because they are reluctant to give up control. In the wild, keeping their bellies tucked underneath themselves is a matter of survival — if a predator can’t get to the belly and throat, there is far less chance of becoming injured or killed.
So ask your dog to sit and stand over him. Put one leg on either side of the dog and pet his head and back. This doesn’t have to be an intimidating exercise; you can talk lovingly to your pet while you are demonstrating that you are the Alpha dog. Stand over your dog for about five minutes and when you are done, simply back away. After that, you can continue your training regimen or go back to everyday activities. The goal with this exercise is for your dog to eventually lay down while you are standing over him and turn his or her belly upward so you can rub it. This is the ultimate in submission.
The other method of becoming the Alpha dog in your household is more preventative than anything else. You should know what actions you can commit that will give your dog the idea that he or she is the Alpha dog. One is looking away first when you and your dog make eye contact. You’ve probably heard that you should never stare down an aggressive dog because this is perceived as a challenge, but the exact opposite is true when it comes to your dog. If you happen to make eye contact, never look away first. Continue to stare until your dog looks away — usually within ten or fifteen seconds.
The same type of concept holds true during play. Some expert dog trainers advise owners to never play “Tug-of-War” with their dogs because if the dog wrestles the Frisbee or rope or toy away from the owner, this is considered a sign of dominance. It’s important that you never get down on your dog’s level to wrestle or play games because, if you allow he or she to win, this might give your dog the impression that he or she is the “Alpha Dog”.
While most dogs are docile creatures who won’t try to “get over on” their owners, it’s important for you to establish that you are the Alpha dog from the very beginning. You’re establishing that subconsciously by dispensing food to your dog (a task of the Alpha dog) and by reprimanding him or her for bad behavior. However, if you are conscious about how your actions are interpreted by the dog, you’ll have far more success in your training efforts.