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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Does anyone have tips or resources on how I can enforce my alpha status? So far, I just know the very basics, like I eat first, I go through doors first, I get the best bed, get to go on the couches, etc... Plus things like not backing down, not losing eye contact, etc...

Many people have said being alpha is a state of mind and an attitude, but how is that projected? Is the person with the loudest, most threatening voice more alpha than the soft-spoken person?

I've also read about puppy exercises like gently cradling the pup on her back like a baby until she stops wiggling (not what I would consider to be an alpha roll). Does anybody do anything like that?

And if you know of any good articles/books, please let me know! :D
 

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It's not about being the loudest most overbearing human..it's about confidence. These dogs respond to positive upbeat people. They can be fearful or feel challenged by a threatening person and walk all over a meek, mild person. A person who is confident and outgoing in thier demeaner will be miles ahead of a loud, booming, threatening one.
 

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Carrie said:
It's not about being the loudest most overbearing human..it's about confidence. These dogs respond to positive upbeat people. They can be fearful or feel challenged by a threatening person and walk all over a meek, mild person. A person who is confident and outgoing in thier demeaner will be miles ahead of a loud, booming, threatening one.
good post!
 

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Check out the Dog Whisperer

Watch a few episodes of the dog whisperer. It will make a world of difference for you.



asleep in the glades,

jackie
 

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Purplesauerous said:
Your Welcome!
I was on my way to work and didn't have time to elaborate! Thank you for taking the iniative to do some homework! :)
I just read this article (OK, 3/4 of it) and unless my reading comprehension went from extremely high to non -existant, this articles is not at all debunking the alfa theory. It is mearly specifying the correct way to assume the alfa roll (no, I don't mean with the dog on his back). The article clearly states dogs function in a pack heirchy. Hence, someone has to lead the pack. I understand this article to underscore Carrie's point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
nanniesrock said:
I just read this article (OK, 3/4 of it) and unless my reading comprehension went from extremely high to non -existant, this articles is not at all debunking the alfa theory. It is mearly specifying the correct way to assume the alfa roll (no, I don't mean with the dog on his back). The article clearly states dogs function in a pack heirchy. Hence, someone has to lead the pack. I understand this article to underscore Carrie's point.
I agree with you. I think the point is that there is still an alpha, but they don't necessarily play the role that they are commonly thought to. It makes sense that if you are the most important person in a group, you don't start the challenges, and don't deal with the menial jobs. And also that a leader with a positive attitude will get more respect than one who's constantly yelling and punishing.
 

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Maybe I'm anthropomorphizing too much here, but I can't help but liken dogs to children sometimes. (I'm well aware of the fact that dogs are not people...I'm just drawing a comparsion here. :)) Both dogs and children need a leader, someone to provide the necessities, set and enforce rules, etc. When children don't have strong parental guidance, they sometimes lead themselves. You often hear of the oldest child "raising" the younger children in a family because mom and dad just weren't there for them. I think dogs are much the same way. They need and want a leader, but when that leader is inadequate, they take leadership into their own hands (err...paws!) They're not constantly looking for a way to overthrow your leadership (like some people think they're doing when they pull on the leash, walk out the door in front of their owners, etc.), but they do need a leader.

Anyone have any thoughts on that?
 

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Leeann, I'm sure you're aware that I constantly make dog/child analogies. Another I'd be willing to make is testing boundaries. I've dealt with enough children to safely say they will only test boundaries until they are sure the boundaries will not move. Once they've established where the boundaries lay, and that they will never move, and exactly what will happen if they cross those boundaries, they will stay inside them. I've been a Nanny for 10 years, and I have never had a child consistently test the boundaries after they've discovered these things. I'm willing to bet dogs are the same. If you tell the same dog repeatedly he cannot sit on the sofa, and refuse to allow him to do so even for a second, he will stop trying. I do not think of my dog as a person, but child/dog analogies make perfect sense to me :D
 

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http://www.thepetprofessor.com/articles/article.aspx?id=456

The idea that dogs follow the pack leader first began to take shape in the 1920s when ethologists (biologists who study animal behavior) discovered pecking orders in chicken coops. They began looking for similar social organizations in other species. They found what they were looking for and began to call these groups, dominance hierarchies. This idea really took off in the dog world after former Nazi, Konrad Lorenz, won a Nobel prize in biology for his observations and theories about canines, most of which have been invalidated by modern DNA. (His belief that Germans were the "master race" was also invalidated—not by modern DNA but by Patton's Third Army and other Allied forces.)
One result of the theory was the creation of a certain mindset in dog trainers, which has resulted in some pretty horrific training advice. For example, "How hard should you hit your dog?" ask the Monks of New Skete in How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: Their answer? "If she doesn't yelp in pain, you haven't hit her hard enough." They also recommend throwing your dog on her back and yelling "No!" in her face to correct bad behavior. This is known as the alpha wolf rollover and is supposedly what alpha wolves do to enforce their authority. (The monks have since backed down on this technique, calling it dangerous to the handler, though still ignoring the fact that it's just plain mean to the dog!) In The Intelligence of Dogs, Stanley Coren gives us a "kinder, gentler" version of this exercise, asserting: "You should deliberately manipulate and restrain your dog on a regular basis, placing it in a position that, for wild canids, signifies submission to the authority of a dominant member of the pack." He goes on to suggest periodically forcing your dog onto her back while lifting one of her legs in the air. According to Coren, this shows the dog that you're alpha, and is supposed to create a better relationship with your dog.
Around the same time that I first read Coren's advice, I saw a documentary about wolves on TV. At one point in the film a papa wolf led his pups out of the den, began to play with them, and then rolled over on his back, supposedly "signifying submission". He then encouraged them to jump on his stomach and chest and even allowed them to nip at his ears and nose. This was enormously fun to watch because it put both papa and progeny in a happy, joyous emotional state.
So, who's right, here? Stanley Coren and the monks? Or the papa wolf?
After thinking about this for a while I decided-just as an experiment-to do the exact, polar opposite of what Coren had suggested. If the alpha theory were true, I would be creating problems by allowing my dog Freddie—an un-neutered male Dalmatian—to think he was the pack leader, right? But what would happen if the alpha theory were false? I wanted to find out. So I got down on my hands and knees and began wrestling with Fred; growling at him and slapping him lightly (and sometimes not so lightly) on his sides, back, and haunches; getting him riled up. At one point, after he was really into roughhousing with me-jumping and twisting around, batting at me with his front paws, even nipping at my nose and ears, totally happy-I rolled over on my back.
"Oh, no!" I cried, acting submissive. "You got me! I surrender! You got me!"
And, just like the young wolves on TV, Freddie loved this game. It made him even happier. Later on our evening walk, a funny thing happened: Freddie was twice as attentive and responsive as he had been before.
I've since done this exercise with a number of other dogs and I've gotten the same result. Dogs are always more obedient and quicker to respond after I've rolled over on my back and "pretended to be submissive."
So what emotions did I actually stimulate in Freddie when I rolled over on my back? The desire to dominate me? I don't think so. The need to be fed food treats? What food treats? Why did this game make Fred and all the other dogs I've tried it on so damn happy and so willing to obey me at the same time?
It stimulated and reinforced positive social feelings. It was fun. It was a game. It put us on the same level. It made the dogs confident, happy, and emotionally bonded in the most positive way possible. Did any of them suddenly think they were the alpha dog? Of course not. If they had, why would they then be so quick to obey me afterward instead of expecting me to obey them?
What, if anything, does this say about the alpha theory?


The following is from When Elephants Weep by Masson and McCarthy (words in brackets are mine):
In recent years the idea of the dominance hierarchy has become more controversial, with some scientists asking if such hierarchies are real or a product of human expectation ... Some ethologists now argue that while dominance relationships [Rex is more dominant than Spike] may be real, dominance ranks [Spike knows that Rex is alpha and he's beta] are not.
The authors go on to say that scientists have now found that "pecking orders" don't necessarily exist in all chicken groups (which is where the whole thing started in the first place), and that some social hierarchies, previously thought to be ruled by the alpha male are actually controlled by a middle-ranking female! Some alpha theorists are now saying that there isn’t just one alpha wolf in a pack, but there may be anywhere from three to five who are “alpha” under different circumstances. To me this is completely illogical.
I’ve found that there are three fatal flaws in the alpha theory—three ideas that, when analyzed properly, don't make any sense.
Flaw #1 - You Can't Pee on a Concept
Remember what Stanley Coren said about forcing a dog over on her back every day? (See The Myth of Alpha (Part 1). He said that this position "signifies submission to the authority of a dominant member of the pack." But dogs don't think symbolically. They don't use signifiers. To a dog, a thing is what it is and that's all that it is. It never stands for something else. Alpha is only a designation; a way scientists have of representing or signifying an animal's rank or status within the social hierarchy. But rank, status, role, and hierarchy are all concepts, symbols, or designations. They are not tangible, sniffable, audible, or visible, which means that they can't exist in a dog's mind. After all, you can't bite, sniff, chase, lick, or pee on a concept.
Some might say that when a dog chases a tennis ball it signifies (or represents) a squirrel or other prey animal. But is that really the case? If we look for the simplest explanation, we see that a dog's hunting instinct is hard-wired to respond to anything moving in a certain way. Think of a puppy on his first walk. Even if he's never seen a pigeon before, the moment he sees a leaf or a bit of paper caught in an updraft he starts to chase it. The leaf doesn't symbolize or represent a pigeon to the dog (especially if he's never seen one before). He chases it only because it's moving in a way that automatically stimulates an unconscious, genetic reflex. But (some might ask) couldn't the recognition of rank and status also be instinctive and genetic? Couldn't the dog's brain be hard-wired for that as well?
No, because there's a huge difference between an instinct and the ability to think symbolically. For one thing, instincts originate in the hypothalamus and symbolic thinking originates in the frontal lobes. A dog’s brain has a hypothalamus, but his frontal lobes (if they could even be called that) are small and undeveloped. In The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain, Terrence Deacon, a leading neuroscientist and evolutionary anthropologist, writes, “Species that have not acquired the ability to communicate symbolically cannot have acquired the ability to think this way either.” It should be clear that dogs can't recognize symbols or designations. Without this inherent cerebral ability to think symbolically, how can a dog relate to things like rank and status? He can't. He simply doesn't have the type of brain nor the accompanying cognitive architecture to process them.
So we have to ask ourselves this: when one dog acts submissively towards another is he doing it because a) he recognizes the other dog's rank and status? Or because b) he recognizes that the other dog is stronger physically or emotionally? The answer is probably b. We could go even further and say that the dog doesn't even recognize, cognitively, the other dog's superior emotional and physical strength, he only senses it or feels it. This makes more sense, and yet we could go even further than that—and in so doing be much closer to the truth—and say the dog isn't even able to feel or sense the other dog's superiority. All he can really do is feel the changes in his own temperament when the two come into contact. Still, no matter how specifically we want to look at this, we have to realize, once and for all, that there can never be any recognition or awareness in a dog's mind of his own or of anyone else's rank or status in the pack.
Flaw #2 - There Are No Cocktail Bars in Nature
Alpha theorists seem to think that dominance is the defining characteristic of the pack instinct when it's really just a secondary aspect of the sex drive (the primary one being the actual, physical act of mating). It also may have an influence on two other survival behaviors-eating and sleeping—but let's look at the reproductive aspect first:
The main manifestation of the dominant/submissive polarity in animal behavior comes when two sexual rivals vie for the right to breed with an available partner. This rivalry can only take place between two males or between two females, but never between a male and a female. And never, ever, between a dog and a human. (This behavior occurs in all species, by the way, not just canines. Think of two rams butting heads, for example, or two guys in a bar fighting over a cocktail waitress.)
A second manifestation occurs when a dam steals pups from her less dominant counterpart to raise with her own litter. In some cases—such as when food is scarce—a dominant female may even kill a rival's newborn pups.
There are two other situations where dominance may rightly be said to occur. One is a rivalry over food. The other relates to the best place for sleeping. Still, these are both survival, not social behaviors, because food and sleep are necessary for survival.
Keep in mind however, that whenever dominant behavior does occur it has absolutely nothing to do with the pack instinct. Sex is not a social activity for animals—its only purpose is to insure the survival of the species; or more correctly, to insure the survival of the genetic code. Dogs and wolves—no matter how socially developed—are still just dogs and wolves. To them, sex is a completely asocial experience. There are no mixers, dating services, or cocktail bars in Nature.
Still, people often tell me, "My dog is alpha," or, "My dog is very dominant." This is simply not the case. The language needs to be more exact: the dog is simply "assertive", not dominant, and definitely not alpha. When you act "dominant" toward a dog, he can only experience what you're doing as aggression. This is a popular training technique (or used to be), but not a good one.
Flaw #3 - "Let's Get Together and Kill Us a Moose"
What really sets dogs and wolves apart from other social animals is not the pack hierarchy but how they hunt. The fact is, the pack instinct only exists to enable canines to hunt large prey by working together as a cooperative social unit.
According to Ray Coppinger, co-author of Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior, and Evolution, when wolves settle near a garbage dump, and are able to scavenge for a living, rather than having to hunt large prey, the pack's "social structure" becomes much less clearly defined. Other wild canids, such as coyotes and jackals, only form packs when the conditions in their environment make it necessary for them to hunt large prey in order to survive. When they don't need to hunt large prey, they don't form packs. It's also notable that lions are the only social cats in nature, and they hunt in a similar manner to the way wolves chase and ambush large prey. Meanwhile, the wild dogs of Africa, who are so distantly related to dogs, genetically speaking, that they're practically not a member of the same family, not only hunt large prey as a pack, they also hunt small prey this way as well. And they're the most social mammals on the planet.
The question becomes obvious: is there a direct correlation between sociability and the canine prey drive? The answer should be just as obvious—yes there is.
When you look at the alpha fallacy with these three flaws in mind, it makes no sense. No wonder some ethologists are starting to question it. Now, some alpha theorists are suggesting that there isn't just one alpha wolf, there may be as many as five of or six! How much sense does this make to you? However, if you begin to look at the pack from the point of view of a new scientific discipline called Emergence Theory, which began to develop in the late 1950s, you may begin to understand that the pack is not a top-down hierarchy, but a bottom-up heterarchy. Knowing this may totally change how you relate to and train your dog.
Article submitted by: © Lee Charles Kelley
 
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