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Teaching your dog you're the Alpha
Man's best friend!
There is a reason why dogs have received that title and have kept it over the years...because it's true! Through selective breeding mankind has created a companion like no other. Dogs inherently want to please, love, cuddle, and to be led by us. This is why before training them certain commands, you must earn their acknowledgement of you as their Alpha. I know when we bring these fuzzy babies home that all we want to do is spoil them rotten,but this is one of the worst mistakes you can make with a dog, because if you treat them like royalty they will think you the fool. You will end up with a little gremlin who won't listen to a thing you say! In this hub I will teach you how to communicate that you're the Alpha in their own doggy language in order to prevent unruly behavior and get them in the right mindset before they learn their commands!
Understanding the breed
This is something you need to do before you even start looking for your new dog. Every breed has its own temperament, intelligence, trainability and personality quirks. With a Beagle you need to watch the need to dig and take off when they get a scent in their nose, Terriers are known for being headstrong, Pit Bulls love to chew and if a Poodle gets bored he will find more inventive ways to entertain himself than you care to know. Decide how much damage you are willing to risk to your house. When a great Dane has a pody on the carpet it's going to have a much bigger effect than lets say a Chihuahua. Some breeds are going to need more boundaries while some are going to need mental stimuli in order to be a well-rounded, happy, polite doggy.This is why the more informed you are about different breeds the better before purchasing your new dog.
Give him a bone!
Limit Freedom and Temptation
Trust me, baby gates are one of your new best friends (besides the pooch of course!). Gating off your home to a small manageable area is not only beneficial to you but also to your dog.
When you bring your fur-babe home his doggy brain is going be overloaded by all this new stimuli and he will most likely have a mischief-making meltdown or all the new space will be overwhelming for him which could make him act shy and anxious. In order to eliminate these unwanted events: gate off a room in the house where you spend most of your time, this is your dog's new world. Until he behaves himself, the gated space is all he will get; when he isn't in his designated space he is on a leash.
Your dog's natural curiosity will get the best of him and dogs usually explore with their teeth. This is especially true if you are bringing home a puppy. In order to eliminate as much temptation as possible, so bad habits are put to a halt before they begin, I suggest protecting your furniture by wrapping towels around the legs of nightstands, couches, coffee tables etc. Anything you think your dog can use in order to curb his natural instinct to chew wrap up. Now that you have eliminated things your dog can chew, be sure to replace them with toys he can chew. Chewing on things such as rawhide bones not only cleans a dog's teeth, but helps alleviate boredom.
Trash cans are another treasure trove your dog may become fascinated with. The glorious smells (glorious to the dog, of course) will tempt even the most well behaved dog to throw it all away in order to find a hidden snack. With this situation you may have to invest in tall trash cans with secure lids. If you keep your trash can under the sink be sure to baby proof the cabinet doors because many dogs will figure out how to open them up on their own!
Limiting your dog's freedom and helping them avoid temptation will help give your dog a better chance at becoming acclimated, and you keep a closer eye on him. These preventative steps will also cut down on your stress. Adopting a new dog is almost like bringing home a baby, as far as lifestyle change and stress go, so the more you can do to control your environment the smoother the transition for you and your buddy!
Health and Sterilization
You have prepared your home, you know exactly what kind of dog you want and you made the leap and adopted your new best friend! Now is the time to schedule a vet appointment because you not only want to check your dog's health, for obvious reasons, but you also want to spay/neuter your pup ASAP! A sterile dog is a much calmer, focused and less dominant animal; which will make training a hundred times easier without all those hormones running through his system. My first dog wasn't neutered until he was 3 years old and he was my little Tasmanian devil until about 6 months after his surgery, same with my most recent dog. Her previous owners did not spay her the entire 10 months they had her and she was extremely hyper, aggressive with me and she had a bad habit of peeing in the bed. It took 6 months, as well, after getting her spayed until I noticed her finally calming down.
Can an old dog learn new tricks?
Ok now what?
Your dog's health is in tip top shape, he is neutered(or spayed if a girl), the house is sectioned off and you understand his breed, what next?
The next step is to simply behave like an Alpha would with a pack of dogs in the wild. Throughout the years I have found these steps, I am about to describe, to be beneficial in establishing who's alpha. I suggest to start this type of training right away because the more your dog respects you and wants to please you the quicker he will behave. Dogs don't really know what they want, they think they want to be alpha and will challenge your authority, but at the end of the day if the dog believes he is alpha he will be nervous and aggressive. Think about it, the alpha is responsible for providing food for the pack and leadership, your dog doesn't have the ability to do either, so he will just end up in a constant state of anxiety, which he might express by tearing up your beloved home. In order to prevent that unfavorable situation from happening its extremely important to convey the message (of you being alpha) in your doggy's own language, that way you can begin your new friendship with a calm, submissive animal.
Inside every dog is a wolf!
Showing who's the boss
This is where your going to need to try to understand how your dog thinks. In the wolf pack there is an alpha, the alpha eats first, is the leader and its either his way or the highway; you are the alpha. There is this instinct working for you, and, through thousands of years of selective breeding, we have programed dogs to look to us for both guidance and leadership. So automatically your puppy is going to expect you to be in charge and if you fail to communicate that you are, your dog is going to think he is. The whole trick is how to properly let our doggies know we are alpha, and since dogs do not understand us the way we do them, we must get on their level and communicate their way.
When you first bring your buddy home is the best time to start this communicating of who's the boss. I consider this the most important part of training because if your dog doesn't respect you, he's not going to care all that much by what you need to teach him during training sessions. When you first bring your dog home take him to your designated area and do not allow him on furniture and no gushing over him (I know its hard because he's the cutest thing you've ever seen, but try to restrain),, you can show him affection when he does something which pleases you, but other than that, keep your distance- no treating him like your little baby quite yet. Your pup needs to get the idea that he is on the low end of the totem pole in his new pack and your in charge and decide everything for him. He is only allowed to sit with you when invited; he only receives affection when you decide to give it to him. This will automatically communicate to pooch that he needs to earn the alpha's approval. You always want your dog in the state of mind where he wants to earn your affection and look to you for guidance and leadership.
No, means No!
Probably the most obvious demonstration of dominance is telling your dog “no” when he is doing something you don’t want him to do. I recommend doing it on day one, even if your dog is timid and shy, just make sure your tone isn’t too sharp, but at least say the word so your pup can begin recognizing it. When you say “no” to your dog you need to be in total alpha mode. Your facial expression, tone of voice, and attitude are going to be the key elements in communicating no=bad. I also throw in some kind of physical reinforcement like a firm pinch on the neck. In the wild this is the way an alpha would say, "stop that, this is your warning".
When a dog barks, the pitch and volume are a huge part in what the dog wants to communicate. When your dog commits a wrong your tone must be authoritative, your pitch needs to be deep and the volume needs to be louder than normal, but don’t scream at your dog, ever (it makes them anxious, an anxious dog=a destructive dog).
One of the many wonderful things about dogs is their ability to sense our moods. I don’t know how my dog does it, but when I get sad or anxious not too much time goes by before I see a paw on my thigh, and, with a slight tilt of my head, a terribly worried looking doggy face. The dog’s ability to sense our moods is one of nature’s greatest mysteries and treasures. Applying this to training your dog is crucial. When saying “no”, it must always be done feeling serious, feel like this moment is a big deal and be totally confident (totally alpha). Now this sounds easy enough if your dog does something that is really serious (like chewing a brand new pair of leather pumps), but lets say it’s a loveable antic, for instance your adorable puppy just ate your cupcake and now has frosting all over his cute little face and now he looks hilarious, in this case it may be slightly more challenging to feel like what your little guy just did was a big offense.
Wait for it
Eat like an Alpha
Another simple and effective way to establish dominance is when you feed puppy in the morning and evening eat your meal before he gets fed. In the wild alphas always eat first, then the second in command, and so on and so forth. When you eat your meals have your dog’s bowl, filled with food, right beside you. As your eating your pooch may whine, beg, bark at you, or just throw a fit, but to every misbehavior let your only response be a firm no. When you are finished give him his food, then walk away. You as the alpha have no need to beg for Fido’s food, so theres no reason to stick around. Now, again, this may sound cruel, but remember dogs do not think like humans. To a human child this would be psychologically damaging, but, remember this is a dog. All this is communicating is who’s who in his new pack, the whining, or begging is just another attempt at testing your position, after he gets his food he will forgive and forget in the way that only dogs can do.
Play like an Alpha
Once your dog is comfortable enough to play and wrestle with you, you can use this as an opportunity to establish dominance. When wrestling take an opportunity to pin him down with your hands, lightly lay on him until he stops struggling. I know this may sound strange, but with this you are copying what an alpha wolf would do to show he is in charge, and that is exactly the message you want to communicate. Dogs test each others' physical strength through play so this is the perfect way to let your dog know you are the faster, stronger, smarter one. The reason why he may struggle is because he is just trying to buck your authority, however if he starts to whine, yelp, or act afraid then get off because you haven’t established enough trust yet for this exercise. Go with the other techniques for now, until he trusts you more. NOTE: some dogs are very good at manipulation and will fake acting scared, in this situation you just need to know your dog and trust your gut. If he is the type to be smart enough to do this, continue holding him down, just make sure not to accidentally hurt him, until he submits.
A Loveable Companion
It sure is hard work showing a dog who's alpha, but you will reap the rewards for years to come. Not only will further training prove to be much simpler, but your dog will feel more secure and happy knowing his place in your pack. Remember there is no such thing as a bad dog, just misunderstood ones. If your dog is acting out the only person to blame is the person you see in the bathroom mirror every morning. Fortunately, even if your dog has developed some bad habits this situation can be reversed, it'll just take longer. Please keep an eye out for my next hub on the commands to teach your dog, now that you have established dominance!