It's important for you to establish the dominant role in your relationship with your dog, despite the dog's size or personality. A timid Chihuahua needs to understand who's boss just as much as a threatening pit bull does.
Alpha dogs are typically assertive, fearless and confident. When you don't take a leadership role with such a dog, the dog might assume the role, even if it's a role he doesn't want.
Dogs who don't get direction often misbehave as they try to figure out how to behave around the house. Behavioral problems can arise, such as jumping on you, begging, charging outside when you open the door and even biting you or a visitor.
Steps to Take to Establish Yourself as Leader
- Take your dog on walks for at least 30 to 45 minutes a day. Exercising your dog puts her in a calmer and more submissive state.
- Walk the dog instead of letting the dog walk you. The dog should be slightly behind you at your heel.
- Walk out the door before your dog when taking her for a walk. Enter the house first when you return.
- Work with your dog daily on training exercises. Start with basic commands, such as "sit," "stay," "down" and "come." You can then add more commands to establish your dominance, such as "leave it" and "give."
- Give affection and praise to your dog when she masters a command.
- Make your dog work for her food. This can be as simple as making her sit and look at you for several seconds before she gets to eat.
Be selective in the types of games you choose to play with an alpha dog. Cooperative games are better than competitive ones.
Fetch is a cooperative game where you and your dog work together. Tug of war is a competitive game. If the dog wins, he might act aggressively to you, thinking he is stronger and more powerful than you are.
If you do play tug of war, it works best if your dog knows the command, "drop it" or "give." That way, if you feel as if you can't win, tell the dog to drop or give the toy. You then win. You can let your dog win occasionally, but you need to win most of the time.
A Word on the Alpha Roll
Some people use what's called the alpha roll when training a puppy. This method occurs when you pin down your dog, roll him over on his back and hold him down to establish your dominance. Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, made this technique famous. He uses it because mother dogs do this with their pups. The key is to remain calm yet assertive if you use this technique. Never hurt or yell at your dog. Critics of the alpha roll fear that this technique is cruel and only serves to scare dogs.
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.