Excerpt 3: The Alpha Model
The recent popular trend in dog training that follows the Alpha model causes me grave concern. The Alpha model is based on a flawed interpretation of how an Alpha wolf acts and is unnecessary and unpleasant for the dog.
Under the Alpha model, dog owners assume the role of "pack leader." Owners are taught to be dominant over their dogs. Dominant is not a pleasant word. To me, it brings forth an image of someone's neck being pinned to the floor by the thick-heeled, black leather boot of some unseen individual. As my husband, Kent, once said, "If you are going to put your foot on someone's neck, you better be prepared to leave it there forever."
While I realize that physical abuse is not what trainers under this model are trying to promote, unfortunately, it grants permission to those who, for whatever reason, want to manhandle their dogs. Detailed instructions are given on the appropriate times to physically dominate the dog by forcing him to submit, using what is known as the alpha roll. This procedure requires the person to flip the dog onto his back and put his hand across the dog's throat in an aggressive display of dominance, emulating how, supposedly, an alpha wolf behaves. This is a seriously flawed concept.
Dogs are not wolves, and, even if they were, this model is based on an erroneous interpretation of how alpha wolves behave. As noted earlier, alphas are simply the wolves who can do as they please and are usually the biological parents of the other pack members. They are among the least likely pack members ever to be physically aggressive. Alpha wolves do not have to be aggressive-they are numero uno, the pack leaders, and everyone, including the alpha, recognizes it.
Displays of "dominance" such as the alpha roll would be far more likely to undermine the authority of a true alpha than advance it; genuine leaders do not have to behave in such a manner. Can you imagine the President of the United States choking someone for sitting in his chair in the Oval Office? This dominance model creates a teaching methodology that is totally inappropriate. Don't undermine your own authority with your dog by flaunting it inappropriately. Good leaders are calm, cool, and confident.
Copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Arnold
All rights reserved.