There are many different options when it comes to training dogs. Some people opt for positive reinforcement training. Others go for the balanced method of training. But no dog trainer will agree with another dog trainer about what is right. With that in mind, I am not saying I am right. Maybe my ideas will not help you. But it will help some people with alpha dog training.
As you probably know by now, I own a male Jack Russell terrier. He is now 5 years of age. If you know anything about a Jack Russell, it is they carry an alpha personality. They have to be the dominant person whenever they can.
And I have to admit, it has been a challenge. Milo will push boundaries every time he can. Even for the smallest things. The good news is that will prepare you for challenges in life. If you can find a way to work with a dominant dog like Jack Russell, you can definitely achieve anything in life.
Understanding Pack Theory
When you talk about alpha dog training, you have to understand the term pack theory. It is a term used by traditional training.
A traditional professional dog trainer will teach you to be a pack leader. They will help you exert dominance over your dog by using methods and equipment.
But it is a challenging way. Many times, people do not understand how far they can go. It can sow the seeds of distrust between you and your dog.
For example, one method and technique for demonstrating your role as the alpha leader is the following. Called alpha roll, it is a technique to forcefully hold down the dog on its back or side until he submits after misbehaving.
I am sure we can agree, that this forceful submission is not something you want to practice on your dog, right?
What is the alpha dog myth?
The terms alpha and pack leader have become curse words in the positive training world. They can cause so much damage. Usually, the word alpha is used to describe a dog or person who forcefully exerts control over others.
The reality is that alpha does not need to use force at all. True leadership is shown by teaching and influencing behavior. There are so many tricks you can use to show your dog he needs to follow you.
And most of these techniques come in the form of games. The alpha dog myth comes from the time researchers observed wolves in an enclosed habitat.
Yes, in the wildlife, one wolf becomes a pack leader. He demands to eat, mate, and meet his needs first while the rest of the pack recognizes his dominance.
Dogs originate from wolves, and they do consider family life sort of a pack. But you should not use force to exert your dominance.
Dogs are not wolves. They retain some characteristics, but many years of domestication have changed domestic dogs in so many ways, both physically and behaviorally.
The Alpha Dog Misconception
I believe that all dogs can learn, no matter their age, breed, size, or experience. And living with different dogs over the course of my life has taught me that it is true.
Every dog wants to learn and be trained. It is just a matter of how you do it. And what technique do you use? Some dogs benefit from positive reinforcement. Others, from balanced training. And no, balanced training method is not cruel and you do not use harsh corrections.
One reason why the alpha dog theory does not work anymore is the change in dog behavior. Dogs are more social beings, they form loose social groups. There is no clearly defined leader who asserts dominance and keeps others in line.
So, if there is no alpha dog, why should you assert yourself as the alpha pack leader? You might be doing more harm than good. What your dog will learn if you use force is that it needs to be cautious and wary around you. Instead of wanting to spend time with you, your dog might want to be away from you. And that is not a way to train a companion dog that will go with you anywhere.
Now, I am not saying you should not show your dog who is in charge. As we said before, simple games and techniques can do that. For example, just making sure your dog waits for you to open the door and you to leave first is enough. Or helping your dog learn how to ask for permission before eating.
Even the simplest reward will do it. How many of you reward your dog for sitting calmly and patiently in his bed at home? We only react when the dog has bad behavior. But what about rewarding desired behavior?
All of these techniques and games can help you teach your dog to follow you.
What is Wrong with Dominance Training?
Dominance training can do more harm to the dog and human relationship. In many cases, I can safely say more than half of people, use dominance training incorrectly. And if you miss a single second, your dog will learn a different thing.
For example, a common mistake is the following. Your domesticated dog runs after the squirrel, and you yell come back come back. When your dog actually comes back to you, instead of a reward and praise for coming back, you yell even more. What have you done? You have not trained your dog that coming back will result in praise and reward.
Dominance training can cause distrust between you and your puppy. Your pet might become more anxious and afraid of the consequences.
How to train an alpha dog?
Now, speaking about alpha dog training, I have a couple of suggestions you can use and follow to train your dog. No matter if you have a Jack Russell, or a more submissive dog breed, I am sure they will work.
I am not 100% positive reinforcement. Some leash corrections are fine. Verbal correction is fine as well. But these corrections have to be timely and followed by praise and reward.
Most importantly, I like to teach through games. Making things fun is the way to go.
Consistency is the most important factor in training your dog, no matter if it is a dominant dog or a submissive dog breed.
As I said before, Milo tries to push boundaries to simple things all the time. Of course, I let him sometimes, but not at first. He has to behave calmly and well to get what he wants.
For example, if he whines to get something, like sitting on the sofa or treats, he will not get it. I ask him to sit, stay, or sit and give a paw, or sit and stay calm for 10 to 20 seconds, and then he gets it.
If you give in once, your dog will learn that is the new threshold.
Assert dominance in a healthy way
As I said before, there are ways to assert your dominance and let your dog know that you are the one setting the boundaries and rules.
The door game is a perfect example. Have your dog sit, open the door, and if your dog tries to rush, close it. Do not let your dog move out of the door first. Only when he waits patiently for you to get out and he to follow you, he can come out.
Going out is the single biggest reward for a dog. Make sure he earns it.
Provide mental stimulation
If you are dealing with a bored dog, you will have many common behavior problems. Some bad behavior issues include digging, excessive chewing, barking, and more.
But training is the way to keep boredom in check. You do that by providing mental stimulation. And again, you can do it with a couple of games at home. Nose work games are perfect for offering mental stimulation and physical exercise. And all of that while catering to your dog’s instincts.
Keep things fun
There has to be fun in training, be it positive reinforcement training, obedience training, alpha dog training, or any other type of training.
If things are not fun, your dog will not be enthusiastic about performing. Once your dog realizes that training leads to good things, he will be happy to participate.
Improve your bond
Does your dog love you? Does your puppy love to be around? If the answer is yes, great. If the answer is no, these are the things you need to work on.
How can you improve your bond? With a simple change in your behavior. I bet many of you look at your phone during your walks. Well, start focusing on your dog exclusively during walks. That is your bonding time. Your dog will sense it, and you will have more success in training.
If you offer a positive environment for your puppy, it will love spending time with you, no matter if it is training or just chilling.