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by Vicki DeGruy
From this day forward, you're 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's forgotten. With your help, he's going to remember what he is and how he fits into the world. Before long, he's even going to like it!
Dogs were bred to look to humans for food, companionship and guidance. An alpha dog doesn't ask for what he wants, he demands it. He lets you know in no uncertain terms 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're 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'll be surprised how quickly he'll catch on and that he'll actually become eager to please you.
If your dog doesn't already know the simple command SIT, teach it to him. Reward him with praise and a tidbit. Don't 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 don't think he understands the command, work on his training some more. If he just doesn't want to obey, ignore him - DON'T 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'll be fed. Make him sit for his dinner. If he won't 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, don't 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 won't do as he's told. It's important that your whole family follows this program. Dogs are like kids - if they can't have their way with Mom, they'll go ask Dad. In your dog's case, if he finds a member of the family that he can dominate, he'll 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's anywhere in the middle, you're still going to have problems.
Think - you know your dog and know what he's 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 doesn't like to come when he's called (and he probably doesn't!), don't let him outside off 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's 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 SIT first, give him a few kind words and pats, 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 because -he- wants you to. For the time being, don't 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's higher than the dog.
Games: If you or anyone in your family wrestles, rough-houses 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. Your dog is already probably stronger and quicker than you are. Rough, physical games prove that to him. He doesn't need to be reminded of it!
Find new games for him to play. Hide & seek, fetch or frizbee catching are more appropriate. Make sure you're 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's 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 can't keep him off the couch without a fight, deny him access to the room until his behavior and training has improved.
Crate-training: Dog crates have 1,000 uses and working with an alpha dog is one of them. It's 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's 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. Don't let your dog out of his crate until he's 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.
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