Part 3 of this 3 part series.
From this day forward, you’re going to teach your dog that he is a dog, not a miniature human being in a furry suit. His mother taught him how to be a dog once and how to take orders. Along the way, through lack of training or misunderstood intentions, he’s forgotten. With your help, he’s going to remember what he is and how he fits into the world. Before long, he’s even going to like it!
Dogs were bred to look to humans for food, companionship and guidance. An alpha dog doesn’t ask for what he wants, he demands it. He lets you know in no uncertain terms that he wants his dinner, that he wants to go out, that he wants to play and be petted and that he wants these things right now. You’re going to teach him that from now on, he has to earn what he gets. No more free rides. This is going to be a shock to his system at first but you’ll be surprised how quickly he’ll catch on and that he’ll actually become eager to please you.
Start with the simple command SIT. Reward him with praise and a tidbit. Don’t go overboard with the praise. A simple “good boy!” in a happy voice is enough. Now, every time your dog wants something - his dinner, a trip outside, a walk, some attention, anything - tell him (remember, don’t ask him, tell him) to SIT first. When he does, praise him with a “good boy!”, then tell him OKAY and give him whatever it is he wants as a reward. If he refuses to SIT, make him SIT using his leash and collar. No SIT, no reward. If he doesn’t want to obey, don’t give in. DON’T give him what he wants or reward him in any fashion until you get what you want.
Make him sit before giving him his dinner, make him sit at the door before going outside, make him sit in front of you to be petted, make him sit before giving him his toy. If you normally leave food out for him all the time, stop. Go to a twice daily feeding and you decide when he’ll be fed. Make him sit for his dinner. If he doesn’t obey the command - no dinner. Walk away and ignore him. Bring the food out later and tell him again to SIT. If he understands the command, don’t tell him more than once. He heard you the first time. Give commands from a standing position and use a deep, firm tone of voice.
If the dog respects certain members of the family but not others, let the others be the ones to feed him and bring him the good things to his life, for now. Show them how to make him obey the SIT command. It’s important that your whole family follows this program. Dogs are like kids - if they can’t have their way with Mom, they’ll go ask Dad. In your dog’s case, if he finds a member of the family he can dominate, he’ll continue to do so. You want your dog to learn that he has to respect and obey everyone. Remember - his place is at the bottom of the totem pole. Bouncing him from the top spot helps but if he thinks he’s anywhere in the middle, you’re still going to have problems.
Think - you know your dog and know what he’s likely to do under most circumstances. Stay a step ahead of him and anticipate his behavior so you can avoid or correct it. If he gets into the trash and growls when scolded, make the trash can inaccessible or set him up. If he likes to bolt out the door ahead of you, put a leash on him. Make him sit and wait while you open the door and give him permission - OKAY! - go out. If your alpha dog doesn’t like to come when he’s called (and he probably doesn’t), don’t let him outside off leash. Without a leash, you have no control over him and he knows it.
Petting and Attention
Alpha dogs are used to being fussed over. In a real dog pack, subordinate dogs are forever touching, licking and grooming the alpha dog. It’s a show of respect and submission. For now, until his attitude has shown improvement, cut down the amount of cuddling your dog gets. When he wants attention, make him SIT first, give him a few kind words and pats, and then stop. Go back to whatever it was you were doing and ignore him. If he pesters you, tell him NO! In a firm voice and ignore him. Pet him when you want to, not just because he wants you to. Also, for the time being, don’t get down on the floor or on your knees to pet your dog. That, too, is a show of submission. Give praise, petting and rewards from a position that’s higher than the dog.
Teach him games to play. Hide & Seek and directed play - two-ball retrieve are appropriate. Make sure you’re the one who starts and ends the game, not the dog. Stop playing before the dog gets bored and is inclined to try to keep the ball or toy. Use a long line so you can control the game. Teach him to bring a ball and drop on command. When he does, throw the second ball.
Where does your dog sleep? Not in your bedroom and especially not on your bed! Your bedroom is a special place; it’s your “den”. An alpha dog thinks he has a right to sleep in your den because he considers himself your equal. In fact, he may have already taken over your bed, refusing to get off when told or growling and snapping when anyone asks him to make room for humans. Until your dog’s alpha problems are fully under control, the bedroom should be off-limits! The same goes for sleeping on furniture. If you can’t keep him of the couch without a fight, deny him access to the rooms until his behavior and training has improved, or have his leash on at all times under supervision and pull him “OFF”.
Our obedience class teaches you to train your dog. It teaches you how to be alpha, how to enforce commands and rules, how to get respect and to keep it. All family members who are old enough to understand and control the dog should participate in the class.
Obedience training is a lifelong process. One obedience course does not make a trained dog! Obedience commands need to be practiced and incorporated into your daily life. They are commands you will use every day. In a dog pack, the alpha animal uses occasional reminders to reinforce his authority. Certain commands, like DOWN/STAY, are especially effective, nonviolent reminders of a dog’s place in the family pack order and who’s really in charge here.
A well-trained obedient dog is a happy dog and a joy to live with. Dogs want to please and need a job to do. Training gives them the opportunity to do both. A well-trained dog has more freedom. He can go more places and do more things with you because he knows how to behave. A well-trained dog that’s secure in his place within the family pack is comfortable and confident. He knows what’s expected of him. He knows his limits and who his leaders are. He’s free from the responsibility of running the household and making decisions. He’s free to be your loving companion and not your boss. He’s free to be a dog - what he was born to be and what he always wanted to be in the first place!