Alpha Training

“Alpha Training” is the process of helping your dog understand who “the boss” is.

This is a VERY important step in helping your dog to become a ‘good citizen’ because all dogs want — no, NEED — to know who their leader is. Since they’re social, pack animals, dogs are very interested in a structured hierarchy with a clearly defined leader. If a leader is not established, the dog seeks to fill that vacuum by placing themselves as the leader — certainly not something a good owner wants.

The method that I use with most of my dogs is a gentle “dominant down”. What I’ll do is sit on the floor cross-legged and leaning against a couch with the dog laying on their side on the floor in front of me, their back to my crossed legs. My hands are lightly placed on their rump and shoulder to prevent them from getting up. The dog is free to look around, fall asleep, whatever. They simply are not permitted to get up.

We sit like that for about 30-45 minutes at a time (as the owner, you should plan ahead — make sure your bladder and the bladder of the dog are empty, that there’s a phone within easy reach to get any calls, that the TV is tuned to your favorite program, etc) a few times a week for a month or so. The dog will squirm and fuss and wiggle like crazy the first several times you do this “dominant down”, so it is advisable to begin the program when the dog is small and more manageable. After they understand that they’re protected while you’re holding them, they won’t fuss as much. In fact, the dominant down is a source of bonding between you and the dog, so they will lay quietly. After a while, I was able to simply keep one hand gently on them, allowing my other hand to be free.

At the end of the session, release the dog with a normal statement of “good-dog”. Don’t be too generous or excited with your praise after the dominant down — the dog didn’t do anything special, after all, only what you expected.

Keep this behavior up for a month or so, or until your dog shows signs of understanding that you are the boss. From time to time, if my dogs misbehave, I’ll do a dominant down with them to remind them of who is boss.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions, and how this process works out for you and your dog!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.