The Alpha Dog

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How do you handle an alpha dog, and what do I mean by an alpha dog? An alpha dog is one who assumes that he or she is leader of the pack - and in a family situation, the leader of the family pack.
Molly, our Cocker-Bichon cross, was an alpha dog.
As a young puppy she didn't get the training she needed and so took on various character traits that were not healthy.
When I first met her she was a couple of years old and these traits were deeply embedded.
She was not friendly, she would growl at visitors and she might snap at them.
I was probably tougher on her than anyone else and would certainly discipline her.
However a lot was ingrained.
Over the years she improved, but never received any specific training to help move her from her alpha position.
There's a lot of information out there on the web, in books and from trainers about dealing with this very important issue.
When I look back on all the dogs that have passed through my life, none of them had the training that would have made them better household pets.
The biggest challenge would have been Bruno, the Doberman my parents had in Britain in the late fifties.
Had Bruno received alpha training perhaps it would have stopped him from some of his worst traits, like chasing animals, such as sheep.
It was traits like these that persuaded my parents that this absolutely beautiful dog should be put down because of the risks he posed.
If I were to start with a new dog today I'd be very careful to make sure that I and the puppy got the training to make sure who was the head of the household - and that the puppy would be subservient and well-mannered.
The new dog must not be the dominant one in the household.
If you're buying a dog from a reputable source, you should make sure that you know what negative traits that animal might exhibit and the best ways to deal with them - and deal with them early before they manifest into serious problems.
As the literature will tell you, simply because you're human you can't assume that you are automatically the leader of the pack.
You have to clearly demonstrate it to the dog so that there's no confusion whatever in the dog's mind as to who is boss.
And it must begin at the beginning, not when a dog, such as Molly, has behaviors already ingrained.
Even though these can be improved in an older dog, it's far more effective to start early.
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