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How to Do Alpha Exercises With a Dominant Dog

Dogs who exhibit aggression and dominance often play the role of alpha at home. These dog training tips will re-train and control a dominant dog who thinks he’s alpha.

Training Methods and Tips to Train a Dog Who Thinks He’s the Alpha

Most dogs who exhibit aggression and dominant behaviors toward humans are not “mean” or “bad” dogs – more often, these dogs have assumed the role of alpha in their “dog pack” of human family members. After all, dogs do not communicate with words – they communicate with body language, with vocalizations like growling and with teeth.

Perhaps the most effective way to regain control over an alpha dog and his aggressive or dominant behaviors involves performing daily alpha exercises that will reinforce the human’s position as pack leader and alpha.

The following dog training exercises and simple changes in dog care will help dog owners to regain control over a dominant and even aggressive alpha dog.

Play the Role of Pack Leader with Alpha Body Language

An alpha dog is confident and mentally strong, so for a dog to recognize a human as the alpha, that human must display a pack leader attitude. Dog owners must believe that they are in control – they are physically larger, more intelligent, and more stubborn.

Exude confidence and dominance when interacting with the dog. When giving the dog a training command, stand tall, make eye contact, and speak firmly. All dog commands should be said with firmness – there is a big difference between “Sit?” and “Sit!” and the dog will pick up on these voice cues. So when giving training commands to a dog, speak with authority and confidence.

No More Free Rides! The Dog Must “Earn” His Keep

The human alpha and leader of the dog’s “pack” can reinforce his position as the alpha by requiring the dog to “work” for everything that he receives. If the dog wants his dinner, he must first “sit.” If the dog wants affection, he must “lay down” first. If the dog would like to go outside for a walk, he must first “sit” while the human passes through the door – a dog who is first out the door is in control and dominant.

These basic changes in dog handling put the human in control as the alpha, and the dog’s submissive role is reinforced. It should also be noted that many alpha dogs will exhibit varying degrees of food aggression or toy aggression, so owners should use caution and carefully monitor a dog’s body language during play and meal time.

This also means that a dog’s whining for dinner and other inappropriate behaviors must not be rewarded with a meal, affection, play, etc. If the dog is acting inappropriately, it’s the pack leader’s duty to stop this behavior and to have the dog perform a command with good behavior before dinner is served. This is a vital part of training for a dog who believes that he is the alpha.

Teaching a Dog to Be Submissive With Exercises

Many trainers — including Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer — utilize the following dog training exercises (or similar derivatives) as a way to reinforce a human’s role as the pack leader, while helping the dog to feel comfortable with a submissive role. These exercises will not be well-received in the beginning and the dog will struggle, resist, growl or bite, so owners must perform these alpha exercises with the assistance of a certified dog trainer, particularly in the beginning. Once the dog has been in training for a period of time, and the dog’s dominance problems have improved, the trainer will instruct the dog owner to perform these exercises at home.

Dog owners should never attempt to perform alpha exercises at home with a dog who has just started training to eliminate dominance, nor should these exercises be performed at home with a dog who has exhibited aggression in the past – these cases must be handled with an experienced, certified dog trainer. Perform these alpha exercises improperly or too soon in a dog’s training to eliminate dominance, and a dog bite is very likely to result.

  • Stand straddling the dog, with the dog’s head facing forward. Place your arms around the dog, just behind the front legs and lock your fingers together under his chest. Lift the dog’s front legs up off the ground, for a few seconds at first, and then gradually increase the amount of time. If the dog resists or struggles, interrupt with a firm “No!” or “Tsst!” Some dog trainers prefer to growl, but this should only be done under the instruction of a professional trainer.
  • Once the dog is comfortable with exercise 1, trainers will move on to this exercise: Place the dog into a “down.” Flip the dog onto his side and maintain a hold on his scruff with one hand and place the other hand on the dog’s rib cage and maintain eye contact. Speak sharply with a “No!” or “Tsst!” if the dog struggles. Once he relaxes, speak soothingly and rub his rib cage area, slowly moving toward his belly. Once the dog is comfortable doing this exercise while on his side, advance by flipping the dog onto his back and performing this same exercise.
  • Never allow a dog to challenge your authority. If a dog snaps, growls or acts dominant (i.e. mounting or humping a human’s leg) this must not be ignored – the situation must be handled calmly and with the authority of an alpha. Flip the dog onto his back, grasp the dog’s scruff and make eye contact, while firmly saying “No” or “Tsst!” at any inappropriate feedback. The dog will calm and submit, and only then can he be released. The dog must then be ignored for a period of five to ten minutes following the incident, thereby discouraging inappropriate behavior as an attention-seeking method.

Passive Alpha Exercises for a Dominant Dog

Professional dog trainers will not only prescribe active alpha exercises; they will also prescribe more passive exercises to eliminate a dog’s dominance. These involve changes in lifestyle; changes in the way that the dog behaves in the home.

One easy way to assert dominance involves maintaining an alpha position in a physical sense. Dog owners should always maintain a position that’s physically, ahead of or above the dog while re-training a dominant dog who believes he is the alpha. When walking out the door or while out on a walk, the dog must not lead – he must be at the owner’s side.

During the training process, the dog must not sit on the couch or sleep in the human alpha’s bed – he must sit or sleep at a level that’s below the alpha (i.e. on the floor or in a dog bed.)The dog also must not eat before the alpha – his dinner must be served after the alpha eats.

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