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Who Is In Control? The Dog Or The Owner?

Dec 20, 2007
It is common sense to think that people are in control of their dogs. We feed our dogs, walk them on a leash, tell them to sit and stay, and give them the love and affection they crave. But some dogs display dominant behavioral traits, insist on doing things their way and try to take power away from their masters. These are called Alpha dogs.

An Alpha dog is predisposed to be the leader of the pack and expect to be in charge. If your dog routinely tries to intimidate you or other dogs, is aggressive around food or generally disobedient, you probably have an Alpha dog.

Ultimately, well-trained dogs should believe their owner is the Alpha, not them. Some people think they can regain Alpha status over their dogs by being mean and aggressive. This can put even more strain on the dog/owner relationship and lead to more problems.

Here are some good ways for you to gain control over your Alpha dog once again.

Play games with your dog that encourage cooperative behavior. Fetch is a great example. When you throw a ball or stick for your dog to retrieve, the game can only continue if the dog brings the object back to you. This shows the dog that you are not an adversarial figure.

Do not play tug-of-war with your dominant dog. This game encourages adversarial behavior, pitting you and your dog against each other. And if your dog routinely wins tug-of-war matches, he is learning that he is stronger than you and that his teeth are powerful, which will encourage more disobedience and aggression.

In a pack situation, one of the ways Alpha dogs express their dominance is by eating before all other dogs. If you can, try to feed your Alpha dog a few minutes after you begin eating your own meal. This will teach the dog that you come first in the pack and encourage patience and obedience.

Do not be overly affectionate to your dog. One very common mistake people make with Alpha dogs is constantly petting, rewarding and using baby talk with the dog. Doing so gives the dog a very powerful message -that he doesn't need to earn your respect and love. This will lead an Alpha dog to yet more dominant, disobedient acts.

Use your affection and attention as a training tool. As you teach your dog to come, sit, stay and heel, reward him with a moment of your affection for each success. Treats can be a powerful incentive too, but the best way to teach your dog is by using yourself as an incentive, rather than a treat that you can run out of. Dogs absolutely love our attention, and when you use it as a reward you will see definite results.

Use your dog's sense of territory to show your dominance. Keep certain areas of the house off limits to the dog, and keep the dog off certain pieces of furniture. If the dog breaks these boundaries, show him that he has encroached on your territory. When you go through doors and thresholds, walk ahead of your dog. The pack leader always walks in front. By placing yourself in front of your dog, you will show your Alpha status.

Hopefully this article will help you sort out your dog dominance issues. Remember, the best way to teach your dog to respect you is to start young.
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