No Alphas in the House

Building trust with your dog takes time and care, not harsh training methods

Another way to harm your relationship with your dog is to use outdated “show him who’s boss” handling. Dominance, or “Alpha” behavior by you simply teaches him fear – of you. The risk of human injury skyrockets. Veterinarians now agree that “Alpha Rolls” (flipping the dog on his back), choking and harsh verbal corrections can easily cause him to lash out and even bite. They permanently damage confidence and trust and they don’t teach the dog what you want her to do! Also, tools and collars that pinch, choke or shock a dog may stop a behavior, but they often backfire in ways few people consider. No matter what you’ve heard, these items do cause pain. They wouldn’t stop behavior if they didn’t. In rescue, we see far too many Akitas who are gravely afraid of people, places and things because they were punished with those things. Like people, dogs have long memories. But their memories might not be what you think they are. When you scold Daisy for barking at your new puppy, you may think you’re teaching her to be nicer. But what she’s learning is that the puppy is bad news and gets her in trouble. She learns to dislike him. The seed for aggression between the dogs is planted.

As for the old myth that you must be the pack leader in your house – we now know that it doesn’t apply to our pet dogs. Aggression begets aggression, and veterinary behaviorists agree on this. Always remember, respect from your dog – just like from your friends and family – must be earned. It can’t be demanded. Building trust takes time and care. It’s your responsibility to teach your dog kindly.

There’s a much better way to work with your dog than through punishment. MARS joins with the veterinary community in recommending force-free training. Training based on rewards and positive reinforcement teaches your friend what you do want him to do – unlike a leash jerk. And it helps build the bond between you and your dog. The time you spend teaching your dog skills and habits that you like will result in a family member with solid skills and happy confidence. If you are patient, and reward and praise him when he gets things right, he’ll repeat those things throughout his life. Please, take the time to teach your dog using the methods that vets recommend. Your dog will respond better and love you for it.

Find a great trainer to help you.