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Be the Alpha "Dog" In Your Pet Relationship

Feb 25, 2008
To know how to relate to your wolf dog, think about the social structures of wolf packs. The ALPHA, or first, is the dominant social position in the pack. There are only two alphas, a male and a female, that are the only members allowed to mate.

The BETA, or second-level position in the pack, is less exclusive. Some medium-sized packs have as many as 5 beta males. These positions have their own hierarchy, ranking in closeness to the ALPHA male.

The OMEGA is the lowest-ranking member of the pack. These wolves, which are limited to only one in a pack, are often bullied by dominant members, and usually serve as the caretaker, watching the pups while the other members are off hunting.

Wolf dogs are a unique breed that are not right for everyone. Depending on their lineage, these wolf/dogs can act very similarly to actual wolves living in the wild. They have evolved to need a pack structure, and their behavior will be based on that structure. To have a healthy, happy relationship with your pet, you must establish dominance to avoid negative behavior - like being ignored, growled at, snapped at, or even attacked. Try the following ways to maintain your alpha position.

1. Eat before you feed your dog.
2. If you pass your dog in a hallway, make him get out of the way for you.
3. Conduct regular obedience sessions, emphasizing the "down" and "heel" commands. Don't use treats, but give plenty of verbal praise.
4. Store toys in a place that clearly indicates they belong to you, not your dog.
5. When you make eye contact - whether it's a passing glance or a stare - be the last one to look away.
6. Before you go to bed, put your dogs in a kennel or designated sleeping place.
7. Enforce rules during walks: keep your dog on a leash or at your heel, and only let him "play" when you verbally allow it.

These behaviors mimic the behavior of actual alpha wolves and will be effective at keeping your dominant position over your dog. Breeds that are more removed from their wild ancestry may need fewer examples, but if you have a large breed, you need to be VERY clear about your alpha status to make sure that your dog will not defeat you in a test of will or strength. So before you get a wolf/dog, you need to do your research to make sure the breed is appropriate for you. Think about the following issues.

1. Once you give up control, you may not be able to get it back. Your dog may challenge you for your alpha position - a fight that can sometimes end in physical harm.
2. The struggle to be the alpha goes on perpetually, and every time you make a tiny submission, your dog will remember. This is particularly true of large-breed wolves.
3. These struggles start much earlier than you might think - even for puppies. If you don't establish your alpha status immediately, you will find it much more difficult to do when your dog grows older and starts challenging you more directly and forcefully.

Remember that getting a wolf/dog is not for everyone, and that establishing dominance is key. As long as you establish and maintain your alpha status in the relationship, however, you will make both of your lives enjoyable.
About the Author
Ian Spellfield, an occasionally frustrated pet owner, tests and reviews cat urine removal products at his blog Urine Off Reviews.
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