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Graduating from Boot Camp: What's next?

by Vicki DeGruy

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 isn't going to solve your alpha dog's problems forever. It's a way to get basic respect from a dog who's 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're making a difference? If boot camp has been successful, your dog should start looking to you for directions and permission. He'll 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'll "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.

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