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Alpha vs A Leader and Fear Based Training

The dog training world is full of ideas and ideologies, some good, some not so good and a good dose of urban myth perpetuated now by social media and keyboard warriors.  Its funny how many people I see think or have been told to be an Alpha to their dog.  So just for a minute lets delve into what an Alpha is.  So according to the dictionary “denoting the dominant animal or human in a particular group, denoting a person who has a dominant role or position within a particular sphere”. We can see to dominate is the key word here so again the dictionary says “having power and influence over others, presiding, ruling, governing, controlling, commanding, supreme, authoritative, forceful, bullish”.

Now we know this is part of nature and that cannot be changed but what we can do is move to a way in which you can still be the Alpha but not be using excessive techniques like fear to achieve this.  This is where we differ to many as we like to be Leaders to our dog ie, Pack Leader.  What does the dictionary say about a leader? “Leadership is the art of motivating a group to act towards achieving a common goal”.  The leadership definition captures the essentials of being able to inspire others and being prepared to do so.  Effective leadership is based upon ideas original or borrowed but won’t happen unless those ideas can be communicated to others in a way that engages them enough to act as the leader wants them to act.  Put even more simply, the leader is the inspiration and director of the action. He or she is the person in the group that possesses the combination of personality and leadership skills that makes others want to follow his or her direction.

Right, now we have our definitions what does this mean? We follow an ideology where we believe you should be a leader to your dog and gain their respect to follow you by want – Not to follow you because they fear you.  To do this you need to learn to understand them and communicate with them in a non verbal way that engages them – ie speak DOG.  Just like humans, dogs are individually unique in personality.  We Blend our training methods so that they are tailored uniquely to each owner.  After all dogs are easy Humans are hard.  Your dog is an amazing animal and is superior to us in many ways and yet like in the human world we don’t respect them and often they don’t respect us.  If you have a bad manager in the workplace who flip flops on rules then you may work for them but not respect them.  Dogs are no different – you are their manager and when you can not be consistent with your behaviors they will not respect you either.  Then the Human being the emotional creature that it is goes but I love you why won’t you do as i ask? I feed you dammit, I clean up after you. Then you get all Mad and up in their grill and in comes the fear for the dog….. We have heard it all before – its all you, you are not being a Leader – just Calm your farm.  To be a good Leader you need to be calm – not an emotional mess and wreck – you are no good to yourself like that let alone your dog.  You need to follow through with what you ask – if you ask the dog to do something follow through with the instruction otherwise your dogs looks at you and goes, crap leader cant enforce anything I will do what I like.  They heard you they chose not to respond.  So we have some basic concepts here of what goes on in the home, now how not to enforce things. FEAR is a horrible thing yet so many people like to use it, client after client are amazed at how we can get the dogs respect so quickly by setting clear boundaries and rules and enforcing them, which in turn actually makes the dog more loving in their nature.  Whereas fear can often create other issues.  Two classic examples is using ball bearings or chain thrown in the direction of the dog to scare it to stop barking – whilst effective the dog then develops other issues associated with noise, the other the spray bottle.  When a spray bottle is used to break a focus ie it is barking and you spray it at their rear end to get them to look at you so you can call them that is fine, to spray it in their face as a punishment then you may as well use a bat because it creates a fear and mistrust of you and you break your relationship.  Equally hitting the dog in any way or form, I have never seen a dog go up and slap another dog for being bad or rubbing another dogs nose in poo for doing it in the wrong place – you as the human are just an asshole with no emotional self control.  Stop using fear and intimidation and start building a genuine relationship with your dog based on respect and mutual trust – your dog will love you for it.

As always life is full of decisions – make an informed one.