What is the alpha dog? It’s the leader of the pack. It’s the dog the other dogs defer to; the one they respect the most; the one that makes the decisions; the one that lays down the rules; the one that is capable of enforcing the rules and keeping the pack in line. What most people don’t realize is that since dogs are pack animals, they expect one dog to be the leader of the pack, the alpha dog. If you are the dog’s owner, you need to be the alpha dog.
If you let your dog know that you are NOT the alpha dog, then your dog will assume the leadership position and it will not be obedient to you. We have all been in people’s houses where the dog dictates the rules. These are the people who have no control over their dog and say, “I wish this dog would listen to me!” The dog doesn’t listen because the human is not the alpha dog. The dog is the alpha dog and the alpha dog rules the roost.
For a week, I was pleased to foster a lost dog until its owner could be located. This dog was one of the sweetest, most well trained dogs I have ever encountered. It gave me no trouble whatsoever. It walked on the leash; let me know when it had to go outside to do its business; never barked, whined or fussed; ate when I put its dog food out, never begged for my food; stayed off the furniture ( Although I did have to remove it from the couch 4 times with a firm “no” command, after which, it accepted the rule.); was happy to meet new people, didn’t jump up, didn’t bark; went into the crate like it had been living there its whole life; got along fine with my dog.
When the owner was found, I was dumbfounded to hear her describe the dog’s behavior. She said that it continuously gives her problems. She said the biggest problem is that it barks constantly. If you don’t do what it wants, she said, it barks and acts up. She said it is extremely aggressive to people and especially other dogs. She said it absolutely will not walk on a leash, chases the cat, terrorizes the dog next door, fusses, whines and barks if she puts it in a crate. She called it a holy terror. When I told her how well behaved her dog was in my house, her answer was, “Well, that must have been just because he was scared without me.”
To the dog, she added in baby talk, “Huh, Baby? You was scared without mommy, wasn’t you? Yes you was.” Scared? Her dog didn’t act even a little bit scared to me. It acted just like my dog does. It understood, with very little prompting from me, that I am the alpha dog and it was more than willing to follow the rules and get along. I have no doubt that I could have kept that dog for the rest of its life and never had a problem with it. I also have no doubt that as soon as she got the dog home, it started acting out again because, obviously, at her house, the dog is the alpha dog. But the position of alpha dog will not just be awarded to you. It must be earned. And sometimes earning it can be quite frustrating.
The amount of patience you have to have, the amount of time you must put into it, the sadness you’ll experience when you see those sad puppy-dog eyes when your dog doesn’t get its way will sometimes be almost too much for you. But, persevere. Don’t give up. Don’t let your dog’s persistent attempts to break the rules make you relent on any of them. I highly recommend taking your puppy to obedience school. 13 years ago, when I took my puppy to obedience school, I was under the impression that they were going to train my dog to obey me. Wrong. What they did was show ME how to train my puppy. In essence, they showed me how to be the alpha dog.
I took my puppy to school in the first place because it was obvious to me that I didn’t have a puppy, I had a hell-spawn. Never had I seen a dog that was so BAD. Even though I loved the puppy (when she was being good, you understand) I was on the point of giving her away when a friend told me about taking her dog to obedience school. Since her dog was a nice, fairly obedient dog, I decided to give it a try. I am so glad I did. Had I not, I would have missed 13 years of unconditional love and the unbreakable bond that my dog and I developed.
I won’t say it was easy, turning a hell-spawn into an obedient friend and companion. I spent many nights worrying that my dog was going to hate me for making it learn to obey me. And you will worry about that too. But don’t. Understand that dogs are pack animals and they EXPECT one dog to be the alpha dog. You will be surprised to find that training it will actually make your dog respect you and love you all the more.
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