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How to do an "Alpha Roll"


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A friend of mine sent me this article, and I want to pass it on. I don't think I will be educating anyone here, as I suspect all of you are far more knowledgable about such things than most people are, but I simply have a desire to get it widely circulated. I sure wish that I had understood more about dogs at a much earlier age and had not believed some of the books I read years ago. Wish I had seen this article instead!

--D'Elle

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Interesting perspective.

 

I sometimes play with my dogs at their level and even lie on my back on the bed sometimes when we play in there. The Border Collies tend to find that extremely confusing. Both of them seem to feel that the best response to that is to go get a ball as soon as possible and toss it in my face to get the human to act like a human again. Sitting up to toss the ball makes that necessary and that makes them quite happy.

 

Maddie enjoys it, though. Sometimes she will play with me a little, as she does with the dogs and will flop on her own back next to me.

 

I can't say this has influenced any of them in any way that noticeably makes them more obedient or anything.

 

I don't go in for LCK's energy theory personally, but I certainly try to engage in quality play with my dogs (as much for my enjoyment as theirs), and the closest thing I do to alpha rolls are belly rubs, only when the dog has rolled over voluntarily. :D

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TIMES HAVE CHANGED

Old-fashioned training methods come under scrutiny

 

In the first week of the new year, I was contacted by two people who had been bitten by their own dogs. What's interesting is that both bites occurred in significantly similar situations. Specifically, both owners were trying to "alpha roll" their dogs upon the advice of their trainers.

For those of you not familiar with this procedure, it was made popular back in the late 1970's in a book called "How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend" by the Monks of New Skete. It requires a person to grab the dog by the scruff of the neck and pin him to the floor, preferably having the dog roll over on his back.

This purportedly mimics the way one dog establishes "dominance" over another. I'll admit to using this technique back then myself, as its popularity was on the rise about the time I started to get seriously interested in dog behavior and training. Most of my mentors at the time advocated it, as well.

But that was then. Now I know better. Unfortunately, alpha rolls, scruff shakes and other physically confrontational techniques are still being recommended by many people in the pet field. There is too much that is wrong with this approach to address everything in this column, but let's consider the most important myths and misconceptions.

First, the alpha roll delivered by a person to a dog is in no way analogous to what happens when two dogs interact to establish limits with one another. When a dog in a dominant role in a relationship uses body language to reinforce his social position with a more subordinate individual, physical contact is usually minimal and may not occur at all. The subordinate dog also communicates his lower status with appropriate body language.

When a person grabs a dog and throws him to the ground, this is more analogous to an initiating event in a dog fight, when one dog will often grab another by the neck or throat. This is a terrifying, emotionally arousing event for any dog. When owners try this technique repeatedly, dogs will often begin to respond with defensive aggression. When a dog has had enough, he will defend himself from being subjected to such an unpleasant experience, This is when people are bitten and dogs are mistakenly labeled as "dominant."

In fact, years ago, an owner who was bitten by her dog after following her trainer's recommendation to alpha roll him successfully sued the trainer in court for damages. The suit was successful because experts testified that this was a dangerous and inappropriate technique.

When this technique is attempted as a "correction" - with a dog that has already snapped at its owners under other circumstances - it isn't surprising that the dog is going to become more aggressive. The dog has already shown his tendency to respond with aggression to much less intense threats than an alpha roll.

 

Alpha rolls do nothing to teach a dog appropriate behavior. My personal experience with this technique early in my career involved doing this to a Dalmatian that was aggressive to other dogs. After numerous repetitions of pinning Peaches, one night in training class another dog approached her, she growled and lunged at the other dog and then immediately fell to the ground and rolled over. She did this with no input from me. This "correction" had not taught Peaches to tolerate other dogs, but rather only to fall to the ground after threatening them!

In retrospect, I'd apologize to Peaches, if I could, and thank her for being so tolerant of my stupidity. She learned exactly what I taught her.

The first step in eliminating these techniques from our training and behavior modification repertoire is to realize that most problem behaviors attributed to "dominance problems" really are not. Becoming "more dominant" over your dog is not a way to solve behavior problems. Second is to acknowledge that humans have no chance to mimic the subtle communication signals that occur between dogs. Third, recognize that an alpha roll is equivalent to initiating a physical fight with your dog.

If you've been told to alpha roll your dog, you should step back and find another trainer, or certified-applied or veterinary behaviorist, who has the skill and knowledge to take a second look at why your dog is showing problem behavior and can formulate a more effective and safe behavior modification program for you.

 

Dr. Hetts, a certified applied animal behaviorist, owns a behavior consulting practice with her husband, Dr. Dan Estep

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Dear Doggers,

 

Dr. Hetts has written a refutation of the alpha roll with which I agree. So does almost every other pet dog trainer whether traditional,"positive" or ecollar. I know hundreds of sheepdoggers, some of them brutes, and not one would "alpha roll" a dog. I know perhaps a hundred pet dog obedience trainers and not only have I never seen the "alpha roll" attempted, I've never heard of anyone solving a dog problem with it nor recommending its use.

 

I have no doubt some trainers still use it. I've heard of one sheepdog trainer who half-drowns his dogs to get obedience. He is unique, not representative.

 

The "alpha roll" like "hanging" and "helicoptering" occur frequently in "positive" and/or "behaviorist" denunciations of competing training methods. These extremely rare training methods become, take your choice, straw horses or marketing tools.

 

Dr. Hetts, like many other "positive" advocates uses the alpha roll as a club against trainers who may, from time to time, use a physical correction: "Unfortunately, alpha rolls, scruff shakes and other physically confrontational techniques are still being recommended by many people in the pet field."

 

Many sheepdogs can't tolerate a scruff shake: others may require it. Outlawing physical corrections for all trainers with all dogs is witless - unless you're willing to give up on and kill those dogs your preferred method cannot reform.

 

Dr. Hetts confusion of brutal (alpha roll) "dominance" and "pack leadership" is another behaviorist commonplace. Because core behaviorist beliefs ignore genetic predispositions, that successful trainers can and do assert leadership over pet dogs which mimicks wolf pack leadership is seen as magic at best and cruelty at worst. (Cf: Cesar Milan).

 

Dr. Hetts writes: The first step in eliminating these techniques from our training and behavior modification repertoire is to realize that most problem behaviors attributed to "dominance problems" really are not. Becoming "more dominant" over your dog is not a way to solve behavior problems."

 

More "dominant", no but becoming a more effective pack leader solves many ills.

 

And she continues: "Second is to acknowledge that humans have no chance to mimic the subtle communication signals that occur between dogs."

 

Phooey. Dogs and humans meet in a middle ground of mutual understanding where two species communicate subtly and effectively. I intend to do just that when the sun comes up and I take my dogs to sheep.

 

Donald McCaig

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Because core behaviorist beliefs ignore genetic predispositions, that successful trainers can and do assert leadership over pet dogs which mimicks wolf pack leadership is seen as magic at best and cruelty at worst. (Cf: Cesar Milan).

 

The whole wolf pack thing is another area where I don't go in for LCK's work. Dogs aren't wolves. Sure, there are some similarities, but how many of us share our homes with wolves the way we do with our dogs? How many of you would take a wolf out to work your sheep? How would that work out? Dogs can live with us the way they do and be what they are in our lives because they are not wolves.

 

Because of that, study of wolves in an attempt to understand dogs is going to be extremely limited. If one wants to better understand wolves, then study wolves. If one wants to better understand dogs, then study dogs. Maybe I'm oversimplifying, but that just seems like logic to me.

 

Still, I do agree with him on the one point that quality play (or, I would extend this to work of some kind) with one's dog is going to go a lot further in creating a substantial relationship between dog and handler than roughly flipping one's dog on his or her back from time to time.

 

If he came to that understanding through a study of wolves, then that's good. But seriously, plenty of people who haven't studied wolves have come to the same conclusion.

 

Dogs and humans meet in a middle ground of mutual understanding where two species communicate subtly and effectively.

 

Well said!

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Dear Doggers,

Kristine writes:"Dogs aren't wolves"

 

Agreed.

 

 

" study of wolves in an attempt to understand dogs is going to be extremely limited"

 

Disagreed. They speak the same canid language and wolf studies have and can inform doggy discussions.

 

Certainly, like wolves (and in a somewhat different fashion, humans) dogs are pack animals and understanding pack dynamic and claiming leadership is vital to any pet owner's success. Like wolves, dogs don't get "maybe".

 

Leadership is not "domination"; It's striving to be that animal that if you were a dog you'd trust and obey.

 

Donald McCaig

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It's striving to be that animal that if you were a dog you'd trust and obey.

 

I'm with you on that 100%. And I'm not saying that there is nothing to be learned from wolves, but that any conclusions made about dog behavior based on the study of wolves needs to be filtered through the lens of the dog. Many things won't translate directly because the wolf and the dog are distinct species, in spite of the characteristics that they share in common.

 

The alpha roll is a good example. Somewhere along the way, someone decided that forcibly rolling a dog onto his or her back as a form of discipline was good and effective, based on a study of wolves. More recent studies of wolves are turning that idea around. Which is right? Now that the wolves have been studied, I'd say look to the dogs for the final answer that question. Do dogs forcibly alpha roll one another as a form of discipline or to establish a hierarchy? To me the answer to that is quite clear.

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Leadership is not "domination"; It's striving to be that animal that if you were a dog you'd trust and obey.

 

Years ago I studied horsemanship under a clinician who put forth the training philosophy of what he termed "passive leadership"; the dynamic that Donald has succinctly outlined here. At the time he was railed at by those who asserted that if you were not dominating your horse, your horse was dominating you--period. They typically cited the "alpha horse" model as the basis for their argument. It's always so interesting to me to see the many parallels that exist in training approaches. I believe there are many roads to Rome, but why take the one that will lead to strife along the journey. In my observations,I think it boils down to the fact that technique is easy to teach (if dog does "a" you do "b"), while leadership isn't.

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Dear Doggers,

Kristine writes:"Dogs aren't wolves"

 

Agreed.

 

 

" study of wolves in an attempt to understand dogs is going to be extremely limited"

 

Disagreed. They speak the same canid language and wolf studies have and can inform doggy discussions.

 

Donald McCaig

 

Long terms studies of wolves - a 25 year study in the United States and a 12 year study in the Canadian Artice have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that wolves DO NOT USE alpha rolls, etc. Wolf packs are made up of a tightly knit family group - not a bunch of random individuals. The wolf pack is one of the most cooperative groups of animals to ensure its continued existence.

 

Yes, there is similar body language, etc, but if you study packs of feral dogs, they do not consist of a single family unit. THey consist of a group of individual dogs living together - it is a much looser, less cohesive group than a wolf pack. There has been lots of studies of packs of dogs in a varity of countries, as they study feral dog populations.

 

Dogs don't alpha roll each other to establish dominance, unless there are two individuals getting into a fight, and that is something totally different - it's a show of agression. When two dogs meet, the sumbissive dog may volunatarily lie on the ground exposing it's stomach to indicate that it is a worm and lower than the other dog, or it may crouch, pin its ears back and lick the other dog's muzzle, etc.

 

The "alpha" dogs in a pack don't keep their status by being bullies and grabbing all the other dogs and shoving them to the ground. It is much more benign that that. As well, there is a female heirarchy, male heirarchy and then the interaction between the males and the females. The female heirarchy is quite fluid. Just because Fifi is alpha, doesn't mean she doesn't give up resources to another "lesser female". Males are much more rigid - rules are rules, and they are willing to abide by them. Then the relationship between the males and females is that the females rule, and they get to change the rules without telling the males (Sound familiar guys?).

 

Dr. Ian Dunbar has done a lot of studies on dog packs, and also dog packs as they relate to "pack" breeds, such as beagles, harriers, etc. There is a reason why people keep large packs of these breeds when using them for hunting.

 

A friend of mine usualy has 10 - 12 dogs living with her, and I always have 4, so in reality we have a pack of 14 - 16 dogs of both males and females to watch at any one time, as we spend so much time together.

 

In the 20 years that we have been friends, the only time I have seen one dog "alpha" roll another was when a fight broke out.

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If you feel you must alpha roll then I suggest this tried but true method. Take a large newspaper, roll it tightly then hit the percieved 'alpha' with the roll many times! Works good! Guarenteed results! Alpha won't do that again!

 

LOL!! Pam, I love this, May I use it?

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Well, I tried it out and here are the results:

 

on my back on the floor rolling around, Shiloh runs over wagging like crazy and licks my face 100 times. I pop up and say " get your butt"...he does it! business as usual.

 

I would say it was a success! :)

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Do dogs forcibly alpha roll one another as a form of discipline or to establish a hierarchy? To me the answer to that is quite clear.

 

I've not witnessed a great many doggie interactions, and I'm not sure if this is alpha rolling, or just plain disciplining, but when he was a pup, I watched Robin's mother roll him like a bowling ball. It wasn't play, that I do know. She was deliberately going after him for some transgression, generally for plowing through the litter and plopping down in the communal food dish, or some other bad manners. She'd shove him out of the way and he'd pop up and plow right back through. He was definitely a pup that could take a licking and keep on ticking. When he came here, Ladybug rolled him around a few times herself for the same thing.

 

It didn't do any good. He still plows through like a tank and plops himself down just about where ever he feels like it --it doesn't matter who happens to be occupying the space, if he wants it, it's his. Unless of course, I've told him he doesn't belong there.

 

This was also a pup that right from the first would never go over on his back. It took me about four months to convince him that it was a *good* thing to expose his belly and I did it gently in stages but now he flops over like a fish for a tummy rub, in fact requests one every night. So, does that make him the alpha?

 

Liz

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LOL!! Pam, I love this, May I use it?

 

 

Go ahead! Use it on anyone who thinks they need to alpha roll their dog.

 

I once had the misfortune of working with a Beardie whose owners had been told to use the alpha roll on the dog for it's biting. It not only made the biting worse but did nothing to quell the myrad of other behaviour problems with the dog.

 

Alpha rolls are derrived from misunderstanding of wolf behaviour. I have NEVER seen a dog discipline another by forcebly rolling it on it's back without trying to rip the 'subordinate' to shreds! I have however seen a subordinate appease a dominant dog (which fluctuates according to the circumstances BTW) by rolling on it's back and offering it's belly and throat in an act of submission. This I had many opportunities to observe with my old male Pyr and a rescue BC I had who could not resist picking a fight with the Pyr on fewer occassions with other dogs.

 

Way back in the dark ages when I started training, alpha rolls were used on occassion. I never saw any good results from them, at best mistrust from the dog and more often an increase in worse behaviours, especially biting behaviour.

 

Therefore I think my version of the Alpha Roll is the best one to use any time someone thinks they need to use an alpha roll

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Dear Doggers,

Most civilians confuse leading a dog pack with the dogs' instant and blind obedience. "One command/one time", "Don't give any command you can't enforce" are traditional obedience mantras and like it or not, traditional obedience and its awards are still the pet dog gold standard. "Positive" trainers who've never earned advanced obedience titles are criticized for the failure.

 

I don't intend to delve deeper into obedience culture/history/meaning but I suggest that when people think of a "pack leader" they think of (a) one whose dog has been trained to heel off lead and (b ) one whose dog can be prevented from visiting that bitch in season across a busy street by a simple recall.

 

The civilian believes pack leadership requires doggy robots, dependent at every moment for instruction from the robot controller.

 

I believe pack leadership is sensitive to the dog's life world and expects not perfect but conditional obedience.

 

Hence: On the trial field I expect my sheepdogs to accept and execute commands hundreds of yards away at a rate of several per second. They must commence nearly every command for us to succeed. The exceptions prove the rule.

 

When I am walking my Gang of Four, this time of the year, they are very interesting in digging moles out of the fencelines. Do they stop what they're doing when Donald whistles. Er, no. Often it takes a coupld whistles. Sometimes it takes a shout. And when we walk on do they linger just behind me to return to a particularly interesting site? Well, er, yes.

 

We don't have perfect obedience or anything like it. Because they and I KNOW perfect obedience isn't required.

 

When anyone arrives at our remote farmhouse the dogs go ballistic barking. I say "Hush!" Do they? Well, er - more or less. Eventually.

 

Because not barking isn't important and they and I KNOW it.

 

I often travel with my four dogs. I tell the nice lady at the desk that, yes I have a dog and pay five dollars extra. Then I back the wagon to the door and whisk them into my room. I walk them two by two because motel clerks don't fuss about two dogs and any two black and white dogs are the same ones they saw earlier.

 

Loading and unloading the car, crossing the parking lot off lead, ignoring that little fluffy dog on a flexilead - that's important and the dogs KNOW it's important. They read me and the situation and are exquisitely obedient. When a party of drunks pauses outside our door on a Saturday night, they alert but remain utterly silent. They musn't bark and they KNOW it.

 

If being a pack leader means obedience when it is necessary, it also means loosing the reins to let dogs be dogs.

 

Donald McCaig

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believe pack leadership is sensitive to the dog's life world and expects not perfect but conditional obedience.

 

Hence: On the trial field I expect my sheepdogs to accept and execute commands hundreds of yards away at a rate of several per second. They must commence nearly every command for us to succeed. The exceptions prove the rule.

 

When I am walking my Gang of Four, this time of the year, they are very interesting in digging moles out of the fencelines. Do they stop what they're doing when Donald whistles. Er, no. Often it takes a coupld whistles. Sometimes it takes a shout. And when we walk on do they linger just behind me to return to a particularly interesting site? Well, er, yes.

 

We don't have perfect obedience or anything like it. Because they and I KNOW perfect obedience isn't required.

 

When anyone arrives at our remote farmhouse the dogs go ballistic barking. I say "Hush!" Do they? Well, er - more or less. Eventually.

 

Because not barking isn't important and they and I KNOW it.

 

I often travel with my four dogs. I tell the nice lady at the desk that, yes I have a dog and pay five dollars extra. Then I back the wagon to the door and whisk them into my room. I walk them two by two because motel clerks don't fuss about two dogs and any two black and white dogs are the same ones they saw earlier.

 

Loading and unloading the car, crossing the parking lot off lead, ignoring that little fluffy dog on a flexilead - that's important and the dogs KNOW it's important. They read me and the situation and are exquisitely obedient. When a party of drunks pauses outside our door on a Saturday night, they alert but remain utterly silent. They musn't bark and they KNOW it.

 

If being a pack leader means obedience when it is necessary, it also means loosing the reins to let dogs be dogs.

 

 

That's us to a T...

 

I don't really care who is alpha...just adhire to the above statement and all is well!

 

I do love the part about barking and "welcoming" visitors at the house...er yes we eventually settle down...but we LOVE visitors!

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I often travel with my four dogs. I tell the nice lady at the desk that, yes I have a dog and pay five dollars extra. Then I back the wagon to the door and whisk them into my room. I walk them two by two because motel clerks don't fuss about two dogs and any two black and white dogs are the same ones they saw earlier.

I love the whole post, but - Ladies and Gentelmen! - the added-by-me emphasis, explains once and for all, why - even though the BC are not bred for looks - the majority of BCs are black and white :lol:

Maja

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Dear Doggers,

Most civilians confuse leading a dog pack with the dogs' instant and blind obedience.

 

I believe pack leadership is sensitive to the dog's life world and expects not perfect but conditional obedience.

 

We don't have perfect obedience or anything like it. Because they and I KNOW perfect obedience isn't required.

 

If being a pack leader means obedience when it is necessary, it also means loosing the reins to let dogs be dogs.

 

Donald McCaig

 

Mr McCaig, thank you very much for this post. Reading it made me feel ever so much better about how I handle my dogs. I come from being taught as a teenager that obedience training means a choke chain and Absolute Obedience. Although I am very different in my training techniques and philosophy these days, I still have had a lingering uneasiness that I have not trained fully enough, or am not a good enough trainer, or something, because I do not get instant obedience all the time. Nor do I try to enforce such.

 

I have come in recent years to value the relationship I have with my dogs far above any concept of Instant Compliance. And, yes, my dogs do seem to know when it is necessary for them to listen to me right now and do what I ask. I used to see myself as a sort of benevolent dictator over my dogs, and thought that was the right way to have it. I also thought the Monks of New Skete wrote a good dog training book when it first came out. Gosh, how much I wish that I had had better insight years and years ago. I don't fault myself......you can't know what you don't yet know. And I know better now. But I wish it had been different. Now I see the relationship between the dogs and me as a partnership. They get to be dogs. After all, that's why I love them. And their dogness is valuable to me many practical ways as well. I'm the leader, and they seem perfectly happy with that, so I don't have to go around proving it. But I have had a tendency to be embarassed if someone sees me tell my dog(s) to do something and they don't do it right away. I think I will feel a lot better about that after reading what you wrote. So thanks again, Mr. McCaig.

---D'Elle

And Jester and Kit, Good Dogs.

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Here are two more reasons why the alpha roll is a very bad idea. First, it puts your face in close proximity to the teeth of the dog you are trying to correct for a major war crime, often biting. Second, my old friend Arthur Haggerty once told me about wrestling a really aggressive Doberman to the ground and holding him there in the alpha roll position. While he was there on the ground with the snarling dog, he began to wonder how he'd be able to get up since that would mean letting go of said snarling Doberman.

 

Wolves and dogs "do" the alpha roll, but from the other way around. The offending or submissive animal rolls himself onto his back as a way of saying, "Ha ha, only kidding. I'm no threat to you." Dogs, particularly young dogs, sometimes do that when meeting an older dog out on the street. But neither wolves nor dogs force each other to lie on their backs and submit. For us to do that is unnecessarily aggressive and pretty dangerous. It's a misunderstanding, not a training device.

 

Carol Lea Benjamin

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Long terms studies of wolves - a 25 year study in the United States and a 12 year study in the Canadian Artice have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that wolves DO NOT USE alpha rolls, etc. Wolf packs are made up of a tightly knit family group - not a bunch of random individuals. The wolf pack is one of the most cooperative groups of animals to ensure its continued existence.

 

Yes, there is similar body language, etc, but if you study packs of feral dogs, they do not consist of a single family unit. THey consist of a group of individual dogs living together - it is a much looser, less cohesive group than a wolf pack. There has been lots of studies of packs of dogs in a varity of countries, as they study feral dog populations.

 

Dogs don't alpha roll each other to establish dominance, unless there are two individuals getting into a fight, and that is something totally different - it's a show of agression. When two dogs meet, the sumbissive dog may volunatarily lie on the ground exposing it's stomach to indicate that it is a worm and lower than the other dog, or it may crouch, pin its ears back and lick the other dog's muzzle, etc.

 

The "alpha" dogs in a pack don't keep their status by being bullies and grabbing all the other dogs and shoving them to the ground. It is much more benign that that. As well, there is a female heirarchy, male heirarchy and then the interaction between the males and the females. The female heirarchy is quite fluid. Just because Fifi is alpha, doesn't mean she doesn't give up resources to another "lesser female". Males are much more rigid - rules are rules, and they are willing to abide by them. Then the relationship between the males and females is that the females rule, and they get to change the rules without telling the males (Sound familiar guys?).

 

Dr. Ian Dunbar has done a lot of studies on dog packs, and also dog packs as they relate to "pack" breeds, such as beagles, harriers, etc. There is a reason why people keep large packs of these breeds when using them for hunting.

 

A friend of mine usualy has 10 - 12 dogs living with her, and I always have 4, so in reality we have a pack of 14 - 16 dogs of both males and females to watch at any one time, as we spend so much time together.

 

In the 20 years that we have been friends, the only time I have seen one dog "alpha" roll another was when a fight broke out.

 

 

 

http://www.societyandanimalsforum.org/jaaws/full_articles/7.4/verkerkhove.pdf

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But neither wolves nor dogs force each other to lie on their backs and submit.

 

I have to disagree with that a little bit. I've seen my LGD roll Mick onto his back and hold him down. The whole time Mick is growling and acting like he's still lead dog. He is, Lil the LGD defers to him most all the time untill she feels threatened that Mick is going to hurt her or he's after her food. Then she does this more to protect herself from him than an alpha thing. she usually waits till I come over and drag Mick away, cause if she let him up he would be right back at her. Once drug away, Lily is back to submitting to him. I've also seen Raven roll another dog. It was a youngester that was being to pushy in Ravens book. She held the young dog (not exactly tiny puppy) down for a while then let it up and continued on their way. But she was telling that dog something.

 

I don't really feel the need to roll my dogs for anything but I have rolled Mick over onto his side and made him relax when he was picking on one of my older dogs. It was more of a claming thing than a punishment, at least in my mind.

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..... I've also seen Raven roll another dog. It was a youngester that was being to pushy in Ravens book. She held the young dog (not exactly tiny puppy) down for a while then let it up and continued on their way. But she was telling that dog something.....

 

 

Maybe the same thing Robin was being told? "Mind your manners, youngster! You don't rule the world yet!" I was thinking about this thread tonight while watching Ladybug having a peaceful snooze on DH's lap (her favorite spot for a repose) when along comes...you guessed it, Wonder Boy, wriggling up into the recliner, plopping his not inconsiderable sized self into DH's lap, beside her (a tight squeeze!) Ladybug just heaved a sigh and laid her nose down on her paws on the chair arm, looking at me with an expression something like, "I never could teach that boy any manners." Once in a rare while she'll give him the evil eye for some transgression, but for the most part, he goes unchallenged these days. (And yes, some nights, DH ends up with all three of them on his lap -- one day, they'll all go down in a heap!)

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Dear Doggers,

Most civilians confuse leading a dog pack with the dogs' instant and blind obedience. "One command/one time", "Don't give any command you can't enforce" are traditional obedience mantras and like it or not, traditional obedience and its awards are still the pet dog gold standard. "Positive" trainers who've never earned advanced obedience titles are criticized for the failure.

 

I don't intend to delve deeper into obedience culture/history/meaning but I suggest that when people think of a "pack leader" they think of (a) one whose dog has been trained to heel off lead and (B) one whose dog can be prevented from visiting that bitch in season across a busy street by a simple recall.

 

The civilian believes pack leadership requires doggy robots, dependent at every moment for instruction from the robot controller.

 

Donald McCaig

 

I was at a workshop once in which the trainer used her young 5-month old puppy for a couple of demos. The trainer was a positive trainer and believed in 100% management of the environment and the puppy's action - but in an upbeat, happy manner. I was very impressed with how well the puppy obeyed, and she seemed quite happy, but I didn't see that "spark" of excitement in the puppy. So in spite of my positive outlook on this situation, the term "Stepford dog" kept running through my mind (Or maybe I was just being cynical.)

 

Jovi

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