More on ‘Being Alpha’

I just found this and had to share 🙂
Alpha Roll
The Quest for The (Un)Natural Punishment

Some misguided folks’ interest in dog body language is limited to their quest to devise socalled “natural” ways to punish a dog. For example, to employ stare downs, scruff shakes, and alpha rollovers in an attempt to punish a dog in the same manner a top dog might reprimand a lower-ranking individual, or a she-wolf might chastise a cub. This approach is really too silly for words and an insult to the dog’s intelligence. Nonetheless, such tabloid, pseudo-science obvious appeals to some types, even though it may be a little thin on logic and scientific backing, and often, next to ineffective. And all of this rigmarole takes place under the guise of training. If it were not so abusive, it would be laughable.

The very concept that one has to manhandle a dog to gain his respect is just plain wrong — and as potentially dangerous as it is ludicrous. What if a child tried to manhandle a large dog? Should the poor dog object, no doubt he would be punished, surrendered to a shelter and likely euthanized. Why assume such an adversarial and combative relationship with an animal? Why treat our best friend like our worst enemy?

Surely, any punishment is an indication the dog has not yet been trained effectively, otherwise the dog would no longer misbehave and therefore no longer require punishing. Any punishment should prompt the owner/trainer to go back to step one and retrain the dog, preferably using different methods (since the previous techniques obviously did not work that well). Repeated punishments, however, are a blatant advertisement of a trainer’s incompetence. The punishment-oriented “training” method has obviously not worked at all because the dog continues to misbehave, (or rather, to act in a manner which it has not yet been taught is
unacceptable). I think we are talking about a bad teacher here, not a bad dog.

And just what is it with these campy she-wolf impersonations? Some people are just itching to grab a pup by the scruff and roll her over and pin her to the ground. Under the guise of training? No. It’s just an excuse to bully and frighten puppies and dogs under the misassumption that this is how dogs do it in the wild. This borders on full-blown lycanthropy, whereby the “trainer” feels he/she has been transformed into a wolf and so administers wolfy punishments. Soon these people will go the whole hog (or dog) and resort to dressing up in doggy suits (with moveable ears and waggy tails) to muzzle-bite puppies on gaudy television shows — Trainer Gladiator, Owners Gone Wild or Puppy Survivor. Or perhaps, they will even resort to urine marking in their futile quest for virtual-reality, olfactory communion. I am sure no dog in his right mind is even remotely duped into believing that his owner is a wolf, a top dog, or a postpartum bitch. Too silly for words.

The vital flaw in this lycanthopic fiasco is that when trainers cite the supposed dominant behavior of alpha wolves, top dogs and bitches, they actually give an accurate description of insecure, middle-ranking males — the annoying blustering of little furry sacs of testosterone. They have utterly overlooked the true subtlety of dog behavior and body language and completely failed to notice how a true top dog can put down a lower-ranking transgressor at fifty paces with a mere glance. A true top dog uses mental control (not physical domination) to prompt respect and active appeasement in lower-ranking individuals. Perhaps we should learn
from this.

©2006 Ian Dunbar
Dog Star Daily; Body Language

Okay – so maybe Dr. Dunbar goes a little far in this but I think he’s trying to make a point. You can also take a look at this blog to see more effects of ‘Alpha Training’.

Have you ever tried some of these methods? I know I have. The time I really did my best to do this I was working with a dog at the Humane Society of the Palouse in Moscow. The dog was a large black lab type that had a hankering for jumping on you. So each time it jumped on my I grabbed him by his neck and made him lay on the ground. Of course after the first time he was curious and had to do it a few more times. By about the sixth time he wouldn’t even come over to me. He stood a few feet away from me and gave me this look of “you are NOT a fun person to be around”. So what had I accomplished? The dog didn’t jump on me anymore but he no longer wanted anything to do with me either. I think there is a better way.

Have you had any experiences with this type of training that had unexpected results?

3 thoughts on “More on ‘Being Alpha’”

  1. My name is Gail Walsh. I am the president of Paws 2 Dance and I have also been a member of WCFO for the last 10 years. To celebrate our 10th anniversary, on Nov. 6th, our club will be performing a musical drama, ‘Escape the Darkness”. This 1 3/4 hour drama has been over two years in the making and will be acted out on stage in a beautiful new 1.100 seat theatre.

    Legend has it that the Furz, (dogs and their handlers), once lived happily above ground in the forest with the Kiters, (indoor musical kite flyers). After a falling out between the two groups, the Kiters move below ground with their evil ruler Da’Gor. The Furz living above ground are always afraid that the Kiters will return to take one of their own and warn their children to not wander too far from their community. When one of the triplets belonging to the Furz wanders too far into the forest, suspense arises.

    As you can imagine this has been quite the undertaking. We have had to raise $30,000 dollars, make all our own props, paint all the back drops, make our own costumes and the list goes on and on. We have put hours and hours into rehearsal. We have been in good hands though with Ray Underwood as our director, choreographer and dog trainer. Ray was one of North America’s first freestylers back in the 1986 with MCSI. Our producer and stage manager, Lin MacDonald has been a professional stage manager in theatre and films for over thirty years and has worked on several Walt Disney films.

    Since we are a non profit society, after our expenses, the proceeds will be going to a Wild Life Rescue Group.

    The theatre is about 10 minutes from the border in Washington. I thought that some of you down your way might be interested in coming to see this one night performance. I know it is a long drive but maybe you could fly in.

    We are also having a competition with 52 entries, the following day which will be in the theatre as well. This should be a very special competition since we have a lot of extra things happening. Michele Poulet and myself will be performing separate demonstration routines on stage with special lighting right after the competitors are finished. During the lunch break there will be a demonstration of musical kite flyers.

    It would be great if some of you could come. The tickets are reasonable at $26 for adults. If you need any more information please feel free to contact me or have a look on our website, http://www.paws2dance.com

    Gail and Pepsi,

  2. Here is a video from the man who essentially coined the term ‘alpha’ in relation to wolf (and dog) social structures.

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