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Alpha Dog Mentality

posted in: Dog Training 101 | 0
A heavy hand is not needed.

Working with your dog can be a lot easier if you approach the training with a different mindset than the typical alpha dog mentality. Training younger dogs with this mindset can be a precursor to the types of behavioral problems found in older more aggressive dogs. Why is that?

Too much emphasis is placed on terms like “Pack Leader” – “Alpha Dog” – “Top Dog”. These terms are typically understood as being the Dominate Leader – I’m in Charge – Do as I say. Inexperienced trainers and handlers often misunderstand these terms and are overly assertive toward dogs.

This is not a positive approach and depending on breed and personality of the dog, some dogs will be put on the defensive and others overly submissive – both traits you don’t want. Just relax.

Instead, if you approach a dog with the mindset of wanting to understand what’s unique about that particular dog as well as his breed and appeal to those qualities and personality issues if any, you are more likely to be successful in creating a bond of trust rather than of fear. A dog that trusts is easier to train and a lot more fun. A heavy hand is not needed. This doesn’t mean being a push over.

Determination and conviction in what you are doing is needed. Training your dog can make the difference at sit and stay or running out in to the street.

What is likely to be your strongest training tool is the ability to train or re-train your own mindset that allows you to think and perceive a dog’s world from his eyes. Patience, Consistency, Knowing when to stop, Having Fun and more Patience are some of your most valuable training tools.

Problem dogs get little exercise. Walk your dog.

Let’s say you’re dogs typical day is living in an average (small) suburban backyard or maybe inside your home all day. Assuming we don’t have any behavioral problems the dog has likely spent most of the day sleeping, only to wake and bark at the postman who is likely delivering bills & junk mail- good dog! Anyway… You on the other hand may have been hard at work all day. Maybe your that postman that’s been barked at all day? A nap sounds good to you but the dogs are ready to get out and being dragged around the neighborhood by an overly excited dog that thinks he’s trying out for the Iditarod is not something you’re up to.

As the responsible person you are, you know the dog needs the walk and needs to learn how to walk with a leash.

Here begins the problem, if you expect to place a leash on your dog and immediately switch in to training mode, well… I don’t think so. You don’t have you’re dogs full attention. Forcing a training session before the dog has had his moment of play will be difficult. Take time to wind down first – both you and the dog.

Sometimes switching from a collar to a harness is all it takes to get puppy to walk on lead.

Remember, your dog is happy to be with you and training takes patience.

Patience is key in training your dog. It doesn’t take force. It doesn’t take an aggressive alpha dog mentality. It takes the ability to understand the situation and look for alternative means to appeal to your dog. It takes instilling confidence and reassurance in the dogs mind that he’s understanding what you want.

If you follow some basic dog training fundamentals you will be surprised to see how quickly you and your dog will learn. Once you have taught your dog the basics. Consider reaching higher for a Canine Good Citizen award.

Here are some fundamental training tips that are sometimes overlooked.

1. Play time:

Take time to burn off some of the high-octane fuel your dog has built up during the day. Keep it fun. Burning off excess energy before training helps to focus your dog.

2. Training:

After your dog has had a chance to play he’s more likely to be attentive during his training session. Keep it fun. Be consistent and patient. Avoid distractions. Know your breed of dog. This is important in determining best methods to use for training. If you train with treats, a hungry dog responds well. If training isn’t going so good, stop and comeback to it later. Don’t force it.

3. Meal Time

A well feed dog on a healthy diet is more likely to be a happy dog and this translates into an easier dog to train with fewer heath concerns and vet bills. Research the food and diet that’s best for your dog. Don’t cut corners on a dog’s diet. Buy the best you can afford.

Seek out basic obedience training classes at your local pet stores, dog parks or someone in the neighborhood. Look around. Hands on training with feedback from others doing the same helps reassure that your doing right by the dog. The expense is minimal and sometimes free. Bottom line, make sure this is fun for both the dog and yourself.


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