In the wild, dogs operate on a social hierarchy. It's been that way since the dawn of time and continues today in wolves and wild canines. The hierarchy is pretty simple. There is one leader, called the Alpha, and the followers.
The Alpha is the strongest of the pack. They make all of the decisions for the rest of the canines. As a result, they're also the most respected. They eat first, tell the pack what to do and where to go, and sets the tone for how the pack lives.
This hierarchical way of thinking doesn't stop just because a dog is domesticated. It's an instinctual thing. If you have more than one dog in your house, you may notice that one of your dogs seems to have command over the rest. However,
Regardless of whether you have one dog or a pack full of them, there should only ever be one Alpha in the home. The Alpha should be you.
Your family is like a pack. It's important that you become the Alpha. Not only will this help to avoid any aggressive behavior, but it can help tremendously with obedience training.
Many confuse Alpha-like behavior with bullying. That is not the case. It's simply demanding respect and asserting your dominance in everything you do. Becoming the Alpha doesn't mean scaring your dog into submission. In fact, your pup will probably be more inclined to show you some loving as the Alpha.
Here are a few ways you can assert your dominance and become the leader of your pack.
Become the Alpha by Acting Like an Alpha
Dogs are cunning creatures. They operate solely on body language. Thus, if you don't display the physical characteristics of an Alpha, you'll never be one in the eyes of your dog. Canines know what to look for in leadership material.
This doesn't mean that you should walk around your home and steamroll your dog in an attempt to act tough. It just means that you should never submit to your dog.
If they are acting up, correct the behavior. Don't let them get away with things that you have trained against. Use the power of your voice to be an authoritative figure in your home.
Your dog needs to know that your verbal commands have meaning and should be listened to. You should never beg your dog to do something, as this shows signs of weakness.
There are also a couple of smaller things you can do to show your dominance and act like an Alpha. Something as simple as not walking around your dog is enough. If your dog is blocking the hallway, make them get up and move.
Simple shuffle your feet or make some noise to let them know you're trying to get through. Dogs will always accommodate their Alpha, not the other way around.
#1. Make Eye Contact
Eye contact can be incredibly powerful, even to dogs. When you give a command, you should always make strong eye contact. This shows that you're serious about your command and that your dog needs to listen.
There may be instances when your dog is starting to act out of line. You can use eye contact to put a stop to it without even uttering a word.
Lock eyes with your dog and hold onto that stone-cold stare until your dog breaks the gaze.
#2. Adopt an "Alpha First" Mentality
Alphas always come first in a pack. It's important that you adopt that same mentality in your home. When you're going out for a walk, make sure that you are the first out of the door. Your dog should let you through, not crowd the door waiting to be let out.
During the walk, you should be walking up front. Your dog needs to be by your side or behind you.
When you're at home getting ready for dinner, you should eat first. Make sure that your dog doesn't beg or plead for a bite. They need to learn that your needs come first.
While these small little changes might not seem like they're doing much, they have a lot of significance in the eyes of your dog.
#3. Control All Resources
One of the most effective ways to assert your dominance is to control all of your dog's resources. In the wild, it is often the Alpha who leads the hunt. They are directly responsible for making sure that the pack is fed. The same should apply at home.
Your dog should never have access to treats or food without you. Keep things locked up tight. When dinnertime rolls around, make your dog wait for their food. The last thing they should be doing is going in for a bite before you even have a chance to set the bowl down.
As mentioned earlier, it's a good idea to eat before you feed your pet. Then, make them sit and stay as you prepare the meal. Set the bowl down and have your dog wait before you give them the "OK" that they can start eating.
The same applies to toys. While it may seem cruel to deprive your dog of toys, it's a great way to assert your dominance.
Instead of leaving toys out at all hours of the day, keep them stowed away. Bring them out when your dog is being good. If they start acting up, you can take them away to show that you mean business.
#4. Protect Your Personal Space
This tip is often a point of contention among some owners. While many people love to share their beds with their dogs, it's not a good idea if you're trying to assert your dominance.
More aggressive dogs will see this as an act of submission.
Your private space should be yours and yours alone. While it's great to cuddle up next to your dog, this should be done in a place that you don't sleep.
Letting your dog sleep on your bed with you makes your authority a bit murkier. You see, the Alpha always has the best sleeping spot. Everyone else cuddles together for warmth. Sleeping on your bed may make your dog view you as a littermate rather than the Alpha.
The same applies to the couch. If your dog tries to jump up on your personal space, give them a firm "Off!" command.
#5. Be Consistent With Rules
Alphas just aren't the leader, they're also the voice of reason. They set the rules and make corrections when necessary. One of the biggest problems that owners face in terms of training is slipping on the rules.
The moment that you fail to address an infraction is the moment that you provide an opening for your dog to challenge your rules.
Obedience training should be fair, yet consistent. If you establish that your dog is not allowed to go into a certain part of your home, this rule should be kept up throughout their life.
If you give your dog a stern warning when they beg for food, you should be doing this each and every time they do so.
Furthermore, training should go beyond their puppy years. Many owners think that once their dog has the basics, they can stop teaching their dog new things.
Your dog is smart. They'll encounter new challenges and temptations as they get older, so you need to keep up with the training techniques and provide them with guidance well into adulthood.
#6. Correct Bad Behavior
This is a crucial part of being the Alpha. There may come a time when your dog challenges your authority. This is perfectly natural. If a dog sees signs of weakness in their Alpha, they may challenge them to become the new Alpha.
Sometimes, misbehavior is simply your dog testing their boundaries. Whatever the case may be, the wrongdoings should be addressed. This is especially true if the problem involves aggressive behavior such as growling or biting.
You should be firm, yet fair. Again, screaming or hitting is not the answer. In fact, doing so may do more harm to your Alpha status than good. Alphas are always in control and know how to reinforce the rules gently.
The best way to address bad behavior is to simply give your dog a stern warning. Commands like, "No!," or, "Stop!" are usually more than enough to get the message across.
#7. Make Your Dog Earn Everything
Before you ever give your dog a treat, toy, or special extra, make them earn it. Aside from their daily kibble, your dog should have to work for everything they get.
Your dog needs to learn that rewards come with following a command. If you just give your dog treats for no good reason, they may start to believe that they are entitled to all of those goodies.
They may even start to get a bit bossy, challenging your authority anytime they want a treat or toy.
Becoming the Alpha is an important part of dog ownership. While these tips may seem a bit harsh at first, they're really just about being a strong leader. Many people do these things without even realizing that they are establishing themselves as the Alpha. By asserting your dominance, your dog will learn to be well-behaved and well-rounded canine.