Be a Myth Buster; Forget the alpha

Monica Fink’s pit bull Dowjer, a former bait dog, is not the alpha of her pack. He just wants to be the center of the picture.

Twice this week, the shadow of this outdated and flawed “dominance theory” surfaced in conversations with potential clients, with the idea that humans need to be “alpha” to their dogs. Now, before you start training your dog, let’s correct this misinformation.

The dominance theory was published many years ago by two Swiss scientists between 1930 and 1940 from a study of captive wolves. The theory is that in a pack of wolves, one pair will be the “alpha” while there is constant competition between individuals to become the pack leaders.

In 1970, Dr. David Mech, a scientist and expert on wolves, published a book called The Wolf that supported this theory of behavior. However, as he delved further into wolves, he realized that this theory was wrong. He published a paper in 2000 saying he was wrong. The first studies were conducted with unrelated wolves in captivity. His more recent study found that wolf packs are made up of family units, with a pair acting as “mother and father” and the other younger family members not traveling alone. There is no struggle for the dominant position. The younger family members offer submissive behaviors without the leading adults needing a fight.

Behaviors that are often perceived as alpha behavior are usually just bad manners.  This is where Sonja Diimmler's English bulldog Ollie learns to be polite with a stay.

Behaviors that are often perceived as alpha behavior are usually just bad manners. This is where Sonja Diimmler’s English bulldog Ollie learns to be polite with a stay.

The idea that we need to be the alpha animal to our pets and our dogs is fueled by the need to rule our home. The perception dogs exhibit certain behaviors because they are trying to be alpha to us, and have done so for many years despite updated science. This notion of canine behavior being driven by alpha desire is ingrained in the public consciousness and in the training methods of many trainers. Unfortunately, a popular television coach with shows on National Geographic has perpetuated this debunked theory. This theory is often referenced by some trainers when working with large breeds such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Pitbulls and Pitbull crossbreeds, and others.

Understanding the idea of ​​dominance in the canine world can be confusing. Dominance is not a personality trait. Dominant behavior occurs in a relationship between members of the same species when one wants a choice of available resources such as food, toys, bedding, etc. Dogs in a household use body language to communicate their desire for a resource, and in a stable relationship, the other dog will procrastinate. There isn’t always a clear structure to who “owns” the resources. If the desire for a resource is causing fights between your dogs, it’s time to ask a positive trainer for help.

Jane Miller's pit bull mix Daisy Mae would rather be snuggly with Jane and the kitten than be

Jane Miller’s pit bull mix Daisy Mae would rather be snuggly with Jane and the kitten than be “Alpha”.

Some of the myths about dog behavior that have been attributed to dominance include:

• The dog is dominant because it will push past you to run out the door first.

• Dogs shouldn’t eat in front of you or they’ll think they’re the alpha animal.

• The dog jumps on you to grow bigger and maintain its rank.

• Don’t let the dog win a tug or it will think it is dominant.

If not dominance, then what is driving your dog’s annoying and difficult behaviors?

Susan Gilreath's German shepherd Talon is no alpha by getting on the bed.  He just feels good there.

Susan Gilreath’s German shepherd Talon is no alpha by getting on the bed. He just feels good there.

When your dog pushes past you to be the first to get out the door, he’s really looking forward to getting out. Ensure a safe, non-chaotic exit by practicing a sit-down position before releasing to walk out the door. Be consistent so your dog learns the rules.

When your dog jumps at you, he’s happy to see you. He loves you and wants to interact with you. If you’ve pushed or yelled at him in the past, he’s been rewarded with attention; he doesn’t care that it’s negative attention. Solutions: distract your attention by turning around; Practice an alternative polite behavior, such as B. Sitting down to greet, stepping on a mat or getting a toy when you come in the door to keep it on a leash or in a box when guests arrive.

It doesn’t matter if your dog eats in front of you, but if you want a quiet meal, exercise, sit on a mat and stay. Wrap your dog up while you eat, give them a stuffed Kong™ or Lickimat™ to enjoy while you eat, or let them play outside while you eat.

It's okay to play Zerr with your dog.  It's a good exercise and game for building relationships.  Teach him to give, periodically pausing the game and asking him to sit before you start pulling so your dog doesn't get overly agitated.

It’s okay to play Zerr with your dog. It’s a good exercise and game for building relationships. Teach him to give, periodically pausing the game and asking him to sit before you start pulling so your dog doesn’t get overly agitated.

Does your dog love tugs? That’s great! A robust tug is great exercise for your dog. It’s a good bonding experience for you and your dog and can be a valuable non-food reward when training. In order for you and your dog to enjoy the tug play, first teach your dog to pull on you when prompted, pausing occasionally to keep your dog’s arousal low, and ask for space before doing so start tugging again.

In short, use basic obedience skills to teach alternative polite behaviors. You don’t have to be “alpha” but be a loving leader, providing useful cues through positive training, setting rules and expectations, and providing your four-legged companion with the exercise and mental enrichment they need.

If you don’t know how to train the behaviors you want without punishing your dog, contact one of the Alliance of Force Free Animal Professionals trainers, www.Alliance-of-Force-Free-Animal-Professionals.com. The trainers at this local organization keep up to date with the latest scientific research on dog behavior, take part in continuing education courses and have the skills to deliver cues without the use of force or punishment that will damage your relationship with your dog or even damage him can cause them to respond with aggression.

Trainer September Morn's Shetland Sheepdog is non-dominant by resting his paw over her Rottweiler friend's shoulder.  She tries to persuade her friend to play.

Trainer September Morn’s Shetland Sheepdog is non-dominant by resting his paw over her Rottweiler friend’s shoulder. She tries to persuade her friend to play.

Dogs don't jump on humans to assert dominance.  They jump because they are excited.

Dogs don’t jump on humans to assert dominance. They jump because they are excited.

Who is Alpha here?  Anna Ogburn's German Shepherd Griffin and her niece Anna Maria.

Who is Alpha here? Anna Ogburn’s German Shepherd Griffin and her niece Anna Maria.

Two races that are considered dominant can live peacefully together in a structured household with basic training.  This is Ryan Dawkins' Great Pyrenees, Louie, and Pitbull mix, Quincy.

Two races that are considered dominant can live peacefully together in a structured household with basic training. This is Ryan Dawkins’ Great Pyrenees, Louie, and Pitbull mix, Quincy.

About Clayton Arredondo

Check Also

Four-legged officer in the university police | Nebraska today

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department is adding a new four-legged officer to its ranks. …