Scootertje, his Royal Highness
Having a dog control the family is the result of a faulty upbringing. Unfortunately it is almost always the dog who will be suffering in the end, as they are being rid off, sent to the pond or neglected and abused. A dog is your best friend, always and without exception, as long as you raise him or her correctly or, if the dog enters your life at a more grown up phase, you may have to enroll your friend into an Alpha Attitude Adjustment Boot Camp.
Here is the continuation of yesterday Part I of “Who is in Charge Here”. It’s called:
Canine Boot Camp for Alpha Attitude Adjustment
From this day forward, you are going to teach your dog that he is a dog, not a miniature human being in a furry suit. His mother taught him how to be a dog once and how to take orders. Along the way, through lack of training or misunderstood intentions, he has forgotten. With your help, he is going to remember what he/she is and how he/she fits into the world. Before long, he is even going to like it!
Dogs were bred to look to humans for food, companionship and guidance. An alpha dog does not ask for what he wants, he demands it. He lets you know clearly that he wants his dinner, that he wants to go out, that he wants to play and be petted and that he wants these things right now.
You are going to teach him that from now on, he has to earn what he gets. No more free rides. This is going to be a shock to his system at first, but you will be surprised how quickly he will catch on and that he will actually become eager to please you.
If your dog does not already know the simple command SIT, teach it to him. Reward him with praise and a tidbit. Do not go overboard with the praise. A simple “Good boy!” in a happy voice is enough.
Now, every time your dog wants something – his dinner, a trip outside, a walk, some attention, anything – tell him (remember don’t ask him, tell him) to SIT first. When he does, praise him with a “Good Boy!” then tell him OKAY and give him whatever it is he wants as a reward. If he refuses to SIT, walk away and ignore him.
No SIT, no reward.
If you do not think he understands the command, work on his training some more. If he just does not want to obey, ignore him – do not give him what he wants or reward him in any fashion.
Make him sit before giving him his dinner, make him sit at the door before going outside, make him sit in front of you to be petted, make him sit before giving him his toy. If you normally leave food out for him all the time, stop. Go to a twice daily feeding and you decide what time of day he will be fed. Make him sit for his dinner. If he will not obey the command — no dinner. Walk away and ignore him. Bring the food out later and tell him again to SIT. If he understands the command, do not tell him more than once. He heard you the first time. Give commands from a standing position and use a deep, firm tone of voice.
If the dog respects certain members of the family but not others, let the others be the ones to feed him and bring the good things to his life for now. Show them how to make him obey the SIT command and how to walk away and ignore him if he will not do as he is told. It is important that your whole family follows this program. Dogs are like kids – if they cannot have their way with Mom, they will go ask Dad.
In your dog’s case, if he finds a member of the family that he can dominate, he will continue to do so. You want your dog to learn
that he has to respect and obey everyone. Remember – his place is at the bottom of the totem pole. Bouncing him from the top spot helps but if he thinks he is anywhere in the middle, you are still going to have problems.
Think – you know your dog and know what he is likely to do under most circumstances. Stay a step ahead of him and anticipate his behavior so you can avoid or correct it. If he gets into the trash and growls when scolded, make the trash can inaccessible. If he
likes to bolt out the door ahead of you, put a leash on him. Make him sit and wait while you open the door and give him permission. OKAY! – to go out. If your alpha dog does not like to come when he is called (and he probably doesn’t!), do not let him outside off the leash. Without a leash, you have no control over him and he knows it.
Petting and Attention
Alpha dogs are used to being fussed over. In a real dog pack, subordinate dogs are forever touching, licking and grooming the
alpha dog. It is a show of respect and submission. For now, until his attitude has shown improvement, cut down on the amount of
cuddling your dog gets. When he wants attention, make him to SIT first, give him a few kind words and pats, and then stop. Go back to whatever it was you were doing and ignore him. If he pesters you, tell him NO! in a firm voice and ignore him some more. Pet him when you want to, not just because he wants you to. Also, for the time being, do not get down on the floor or on your knees to pet your dog. That, too, is a show of submission. Give praise, petting and rewards from a position that is higher than the dog.
If you or anyone in your family wrestles, roughhouses or plays tug of war with your dog, stop! These games encourage dogs to dominate people physically and to use their teeth. In a dog pack or in a litter, these games are more than just playing – they help to
establish pack order based on physical strength. Especially if your dog is already stronger and quicker than you are. Rough, physical games may prove that to him. He does not need to be reminded of it! Find new games for him to play. Hide & seek, fetch or Frisbee catching are more appropriate. Make sure you are the one who starts and ends the game, not the dog. Stop playing before the dog gets bored and is inclined to try to keep the ball or Frisbee.
Where does your dog sleep?
Not in your bedroom and especially not on your bed! Your bedroom is a special place – it is your “den”. An alpha dog thinks he has a right to sleep in your den because he considers himself your equal.
In fact, he may have already taken over your bed, refusing to get off when told or growling and snapping when anyone asks him to make room for the humans. Until your dog’s alpha problems are fully under control, the bedroom should be off-limits! The same goes for sleeping on furniture. If you cannot keep him off the couch without a fight, deny him access to the room until his behavior and training has improved.
Dog crates have 1,000 uses and working with an alpha dog is one of them. It is a great place for your dog to sleep at night, to eat in and just to stay in when he needs to chill out and be reminded that he is a dog. The crate is your dog’s “den”. Start crate training by feeding him his dinner in his crate. Close the door and let him stay there for an hour afterwards. If he throws a tantrum, ignore him. Do not let your dog out of his crate until he is quiet and settled. At bedtime, show him an irresistible goodie, tell him to SIT and when he does, throw the goodie into the crate. When he dives in for the treat, tell him what a good boy he is and close the door.
Graduating from Boot Camp: What’s Next?
Just like in the army, boot camp is really just an introduction to a new career and new way of doing things. A tour through boot camp is not going to solve your alpha dog’s problems forever. It is a way to get basic respect from a dog that has been bullying you without having to resort to physical force.
How long should boot camp last? That depends on the dog. Some will show an improvement right away, others may take much longer. For really tough cookies, natural leaders that need constant reminders of their place in the pack, Alpha Dog Boot Camp will become a way of life. Social climbers may need periodic trips through boot camp if you get lax and accidentally let them climb back up a notch or two in the family pack order.
How do you know if you are making a difference?
If boot camp has been successful, your dog should start looking to you for directions and permission. He will show an eagerness to please. Watch how your dog approaches and greets you. Does he come to you “standing tall”, with his head and ears held high and erect? It may look impressive and proud but it means he’s still alpha and you still have problems!
A dog who accepts humans as superiors will approach you with his head slightly lowered and his ears back or off to the sides. He
will “shrink” his whole body a little in a show of submission. Watch how he greets all the members of the family. If he displays this
submissive posture to some of them, but not others, those are the ones who still need to work on their own alpha posture and methods.
They should take him back through another tour of boot camp with support from the rest of the family.
Once your dog has begun to accept this new way of life and his new position in the family, you should take him through an obedience course with a qualified trainer. All dogs need to be trained and alpha dogs need training most of all! You do not have to wait until he is through with boot camp to start this training but it is important that he respects at least one member of the family and is willing to take direction from them.
Obedience class teaches you to train your dog. It teaches you how to be alpha, how to enforce commands and rules, how to get respect and to keep it. All family members who are old enough to understand and control the dog should participate in the class.
Obedience training is a lifelong process. One obedience course does not a trained dog make! Obedience commands need to be practiced and incorporated into your daily life. In a dog pack, the alpha animal uses occasional reminders to reinforce his authority. Certain commands, like DOWN/STAY, are especially effective, nonviolent reminders of a dog’s place in the family pack order and who is really in charge here.
A well-trained obedient dog is a happy dog and a joy to live with. Dogs want to please and need a job to do. Training gives them the opportunity to do both. A well-trained dog has more freedom. He can go more places and do more things with you because he knows how to behave. A well-trained dog that is secure in his place within the family pack is comfortable and confident. He knows what is expected of him. He knows his limits and who his leaders are. He is free from the responsibility of running the household and making decisions. He is free to be your loving companion and not your boss. He is free to be a dog – what he was born to be and what he always wanted to be in the first place!
When You Need Professional Help
If your dog has already injured you or someone else or if you are afraid of your dog, you should consult with a qualified professional dog trainer or behaviorist before starting Canine Boot Camp. Your dog should also have an exam by your vet to make sure there are no physical causes for his behavior. To find a qualified trainer or behaviorist near you, contact your veterinarian or the American Kennel Club for a list of obedience training clubs in your area.
This article was written by Vicki Rodenberg De Gruy, Chairman of the Chow Chow Club Inc.’s Welfare Committee, submitted by Ange Wallace, owner of the Travel Agency and a huge animal lover and uploaded with permission from the author.