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Leader of the Pack - Becoming the Alpha

  Your new pup, or dog, needs you to be the Alpha.  But what exactly is the alpha??? 

Think attitude.  It's all in the attitude and knowing how to use every day events to promote that attitude.  You are in charge.  Your dog needs you in charge otherwise, it will take over the role.  Attitude for some is difficult.  Many people just want to love, take care of and give to their pet.  Many don't really understand the basic make up of dogs and are at disadvantage to being the Leader or the Alpha. 

Dog Basics:  Some basics to consider are that dogs are pack animals.  The pack is a serious hierarchy consisting of dominant dogs and going down the ladder to submissive dogs.  The dominant dog is considered the Alpha, usually it is a mated pair consisting of a male and a female.  Much has been written on this subject and it is all quite fascinating, but for the sake of simplicity, they are usually the parents and the pack consists of their children and possibly others that for a multitude of  been incorporated into the pack.  In the pack, each has its role and needs the security of the hierarchy.  If a pup/dog does not receive appropriate dominance they will attempt to dominate.  The structure must prevail.

That is why you must learn your appropriate dominant position as the Alpha or the Leader with your dog.  Your dog needs you to be dominate, however, he/she may test and even argue with you over the dominate position in your family.  Challenges usually surface during adolescence so expect to be challenged.

Knowing the importance of being in charge and developing strategies to communicate that to your dog will create a harmonious relationship and life together. Several major key components exhibiting your attitude are eye contact, a calm demeanor, body language and voice. 

Tone of voice is important -  A normal voice is used for commands.  When you state a command remember you are not asking, you are telling.  The low firm voice is for corrections.  Saying NO in a low firm voice usually works.  If not, try a low guttural growl, as the mother dog would, immediately when your dog misbehaves. A soft calm voice is suitable for praise and reward. A high pitched voice indicates play and fun time.  Be careful with this because if taken to far it can give the dog a sense of being out of control. 

Your Body Language - Dogs watch and learn from body language.  Assume the body stance and your dog will follow. 

Calm Demeanor - Mama Dogs do not yell and scream.  They do not get all excited and high pitched.  They are calm, relaxed, gentle with the pups.  If need be they put the pup in check with a low but usually soft growl, followed if needed by pinning the pup with her paw or if the youngster is really in trouble she will pick the pup up by the scruff of its neck.  She does not argue, rationalize, explain or negotiate.  She just does.  She knows the limits and she communicates that without hesitancy in the immediate moment of misbehave. ***Exhaling will relax YOU and communicate to your pup a sense of safety in your leadership.... the dogs can 'feel' when we are tense/nervous & INSECURE, if they feel us be that way, they will be that way.

Eye contact is essential.  Dominant leader is in charge of eye contact.  That may sound strange but in the pack that is what  happens.  If you even blink your dog will think he is in charge.

Your Attitude  is communicated to your dog.  Using the above components will assure an attitude of being in charge and your dog will receive it.

Now to put this into practical use. 

Some exercises with pup - If you have a very young pup, sit with your legs in front of you, put the pup back down and belly up on your legs.  A submissive pup will lie comfortably.  A less submissive, -wanna a be- dominant pup will struggle.  Hold the struggling pup firm using a low guttural sound and direct eye contact, pup must be first to look away, until the pup calms down. 

Variation is to hold the pup, one hand behind head, one under body so the belly is facing you.  Or both your hands under pups front arms, pup dangles in air. Make sure you are comfortable.  Make direct eye contact, and low guttural growl until pup calms down. 

If pup is large framed, stand over pup, with one of your legs on each side of him, straddling him.  Both are facing same direction.  Put both hands under his chest just behind front legs.  Lift him up, his front legs come off floor, back legs stay on floor.  Use growl if pup fusses. 

Hold each of above, 15-30 seconds after pup calms down.  Be gentle and firm.  Vary where you do this and suggest several times a day.

Basic Commands need to be taught as soon as possible.  These commands, sit, stay, leave it, come, etc are vital to the necessary subordination your pup learns from your dominance.  The commands can be used daily in your new role as the pack leader.  For example, have your pup 'sit' before giving him/her food, a walk, the ball, before giving what ever the pup wants.  You can incorporate basic commands into your daily life utilizing opportunities to remind the pup that you are in charge. 

You are creating the social order of a pack which gives your pup a sense of belonging and security.  Being consistent, especially with your tone of voice and gentle guidance will help your pup come to accept its position in your family pack. Although you are making your pup a member of your family remember the pup needs your family structured like a dog pack.
Some exercises for you - Getting in touch with your inner leader.  In front of your mirror: Practice your growl.  Make it come from your gut.  See what your face does when you growl.  Try it with your teeth together.  Do it curling your lips and showing your teeth.  Do it soft.  Do it louder.  Do it somewhere in between.

Stand tall, shoulder squared, head erect.  Then shrink to half your size, curl shoulders, bend knees.  Do several times to feel the difference.  Which stance communicates your leadership position to the pup? 

Practice your commands.  Yes you are still in front of the mirror, isn't this fun!  Using a regular voice, state the commands, sit, stay, come, leave it, etc. 

Next use a lower voice for the command NO, STOP, LEAVE IT.

Next, walk down the hallway, with your best and strongest posture.  Head up, back straight, shoulders squared, arms swinging freely to the side.  Why you ask, well you are the leader, now FEEL it.

Okay, you may not like these exercises, but if you are not used to being the leader, it starts inside.

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