By Karen A. Soukiasian
A dog’s breed, personality, the way he or she is raised, and if they are intact or altered, usually will determine exactly where they see themselves on their pack totem pole. That image outlines their behavior.
Submissive dogs perceive themselves at the bottom of the pack. They accept their position and to please you, behave in a respectful, submissive manner.
The opposite is true for dogs that see themselves at the top of the totem pole. They will forcefully defend their Alpha status against any control; even that shown by their owner. They do this in the only way they know how…by growling, snapping, and sooner or later biting the hand that feeds them!
The objective is to prevent this behavior from starting, or escalating to a red danger zone immediately.
The easiest way is to prevent it from ever starting. From the day you get your new puppy or dog, you must clearly define your position as Alpha. Alpha is fair, firm and consistent. Alpha is NEVER questioned!
Rule #1, never challenge your puppy or dog by playing aggressive type of games such as tug-of-war or wrestling. You are opening a door you may regret ever opening!
If you have allowed your puppy or dog to step over that fine line, then you have some serious work ahead of you. Learn to read your dog. You may be able to avoid an unfortunate confrontation before it happens, by changing their crotchety mood with a simple distraction. Throw a ball, act silly, re-direct their attention to a toy, or going outside for a fun game. What is happening is, YOU are taking control in a positive way.
If you do not feel comfortable working with your dog after it has challenged you, get professional help. Dog trainers and behaviorists have the skills and experience of reading a dog’s behavior and body language, to evaluate how severe your situation may be, and the safest way to work with it.
Understand, dogs learn by association. Be as positive as possible and praise your dog, whenever their behavior is appropriate. It is amazing how such a simple thing as praise, works so well.
Establish your alpha position
1. Enroll in obedience classes. To form a strong foundation, start at the bottom. Begin with a Puppy Kindergarten that uses positive reinforcement, punishment-free methods of training; no matter the age of your dog. The truth is, Puppy Kindergarten is more for you, than for your dog. There, you will learn the LEADERSHIP SKILLS you will need to establish your Alpha status.
2. Work on your LEADERSHIP SKILLS. Make your dog earn EVERYTHING! Keep them on a leash, attach the leash to you, and make them follow you everywhere. As Alpha, you make all the decisions as to where you go, how long you stay, when you stop, and when you move on. Your dog must follow your lead.
3. Feed your dog at a regular time. Do not leave food out for him or her to eat at will. They must earn their meal. Make them sit, stay down or leave it, until you give a release cue, giving them permission to approach their food. If they do not obey. Pick the food up. Walk away for a few minutes. Repeat the exercise…until your dog obeys your command.
4. Do not allow your dog on the furniture! Getting on furniture elevates your dog in status. They now consider you their equal, or even worse, their subordinate. Keep an assertive dog in his place, on the floor. Provide a comfortable bed for them…ON THE FLOOR!
5. Be less generous with affection. There is a difference between praise and affection. Pour on the praise when your dog deserves it for appropriate behavior; however you must make them work and earn your affection. To do this, have them follow a number of simple commands until you release them. Only when done without protest, should you praise them and show affection.
6. Change your routines for a while. Keep your dog off balance. If you feed them in the morning, feed them at night. If you walk a certain route…change it. Make it longer or make it shorter. You are showing your dog YOU as Alpha decide the “important” things…not them.
BOTTOM LINE: Your dog’s behavior will not change overnight. However, you are showing them in a positive, consistent way by praising appropriate behavior and not tolerating inappropriate behavior, you have reclaimed your crown…YOU are the Alpha member of your pack!
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