The "Alpha Dog" Misconception - Patriot Dog Training
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The “Alpha Dog” Misconception

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The “Alpha Dog” Misconception

Here at Patriot Dog Training, we believe that all dogs can learn, regardless of age, breed, size or experience. Our experience in working with a wide variety of dogs has taught us that this is true, and that almost every dog wants to learn and be trained. As such, we use several different training techniques to both correct negative behavior and offer rewards/treats for positive behaviors. One common training method that we don’t agree with, however, is the “alpha rolling” technique.

If you’re not familiar with alpha rolling, it’s the concept of asserting dominance over the dog by pinning them down on the ground the way an “alpha dog” would do to a smaller or weaker dog in a pack. The theory goes that it establishes you, the human, as the alpha of the pack and teaches the dog to accept its position and submit to your will. It’s based largely on the belief that every pack of dogs has one leader (or alpha) and the rest fall in line behind him.

The problem with this logic, however, is that it may not actually be accurate. There’s been a lot of discussion in the past decade or so that what was originally interpreted as the alpha dog asserting dominance might have misunderstood. Even L. David Mech, the biologist who coined the term in the 1970s by studying the behaviors of wolves, has stated that his original findings were not correct. Common theory now shows that dogs don’t even form packs (like wolves in the wild, for example), but instead form loose social groups that lack a clearly defined leader who asserts dominance and keeps the others in line.

If alpha dogs don’t actually exist, then trying to train your dog by asserting yourself as the alpha pack-leader could actually be doing more harm than good. What your dog really learns from this sort of behavior is that you can cause it physical harm and that it needs to be cautious and wary around you. Rather than learning which behaviors are acceptable (rewards) and which are not (discipline), the dog learns to be defensive or submissive out of fear. Alpha rolling may lead your dog to see you as a bully rather than as a leader or trainer.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t show your dog that you’re in charge and he isn’t. Never correcting negative behaviors can cause a dog to think it can get away with anything and will lead to tons of behavior issues down the road. In order to give your dog the training it deserves, you need to teach your dog that you’re the boss and that negative actions have negative consequences, but making the animal fearful of you isn’t going to help make that easier.

At Patriot Dog Training, we offer dog training services that use corrective tools (e-collars, for example) as well as rewards and treats to train your dog to respect humans and be submissive without instilling fear or defensiveness in them. We will never alpha roll a dog and don’t believe it’s the correct way to teach your dog to behave. If you’re interested in knowing more about how we operate and our dog training techniques, feel free to contact our team. We’d love to help you with any of your dog training needs!

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