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Have We Gone "Alpha" Overboard?

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June 29, 2009

Have We Gone "Alpha" Overboard?

By David DiBenedetto

Everywhere you turn these days, some “celebrity” dog trainer is talking about being the leader of your pack—in other words, the alpha wolf. In fact, just yesterday I was reading an article about a trainer who insisted that you should refrain from acknowledging your dog when returning home from work. Here’s what she had to say ...

“Each time you go in and immediately acknowledge your dog by talking to him or even just making eye contact you have communicated to them your status as pack follower.”

The trainer goes on to suggest that you should stay aloof, much like the alpha wolf would when returning to his pack, for at least five minutes. The result, according to the trainer, is a “well-behaved and well-balanced dog.”

Call me a pushover, but when I see Pritch after a long day’s work and she’s wagging her tail (and her butt) like she hasn’t seen me in a week I’m going to bend over and say “hi.” And, hell, if I’m feeling especially loving I may even look her in the eye when I do it! I highly doubt this occasional doting will lower my status among my pack of one. When it comes to training a hunting dog, much of the pack leader mentality is naturally built into everything we do on a regular basis.

Maybe the above tactics are necessary if you own a dominant pit bull or some other extremely aggressive breed (or if you’re dog knocks you on your rump when you come home), but I’m happy I don’t need to employ them. I don’t know about you but after a grueling day at work there’s nothing better than a dog that greets you like you can do no wrong.

Comments (13)

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from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

that lady is making sense but I wouldnt be able to follow that idea either

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from muskiemaster wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

amen, I don't see anything wrong with coming home and relaxing with your little pup after a long day and petting there ears and scratching there back. Although I understand that you can't let the dog feel that it's the alpha I believe you can still play around with them for a little bit.

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from jcarlin wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

When I come home my 2 girls run out to the car (i don't think it's becuase they're fone of me as much as it's a contest), to be the first to greet me. When I get into the house the two hounds are at the door. Behind them are generally my wife iwth my one year old son. Though these might be a sign of me being lucky, I don't see how my dogs could possibly take me greeting them along with the 4 other human members of the family to mean that they're anything special in the hierarchy. It could be that I'm doing too much observing and thinking and not enough believing TLC and Animal Planet though.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

That might be my most poorly typed post yet.

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from jcarlin wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

I think we should all remember that "celebrity" trainers need to appear to be on the cutting edge of training philosophy. The target audience of those shows is often one step away from going to a pet "psychic" to find out what troubles their cat. Those trainers don't necessarily get paid to show tried and true, common sense methods. Their careers have shifted to being focused on the entertainment value.

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from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

jcarlin- I couldn't agree more with that last statement. And precisely why I put the quotation marks around the word celebrity. It all feels rather hollow these days. - D

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from ingebrigtsen wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

Well actually watch nature channel or sumething and see the alpha come back to the pack.. it will meet and greet, but will let the rest of the pack come meet and greet IT.. but when someone is overly exited then it is aloof like "cut it out u little twerp!":P so this "expert" havent gotten the real picture in my opinion..
:P

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from seadog wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

I think it's good to recognize the pack mentality that dogs naturally have, but I think this "expert" has it wrong. I'm probably the pack leader in my house (at least I like to think so). When I come home to my wife, 3 kids, and 1 dog, guess who usually greets me first. When I play with her right away, I'm rewarding her. Why would I punish her for being happy to see me? If my wife ever beats Roxy to the door, I promise I'll kiss my wife before I play with the dog.

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from jonah wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

I agree that it's fine to greet the dog when coming home. And I can't say I agree with the "celebrity" trainer in this instance. However, if the context of that advice was that a dog had severe separation anxiety, I could absolutely get behind it. I am not a trainer, but spent a good stretch of time working in a "doggy day care" and we had dogs who were an absolute wreck when their owners left. When their owners dropped them off they (the owners) practically smothered the dogs with attention, apologizing all over themselves for leaving the dog in a giant fenced-in area filled with toys and other dogs. Same thing when they picked them up. The owners were so worked up it was no wonder the dogs could hardly stand being alone.
Anyways, I think that advice is probably meant for owners who have no idea how to raise a dog. Obviously not the F&S crowd.

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from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

Hell, that is one of the best parts of having a dog... someone that is happy as hell to see you when you get home. Trust me, nobody will express how happy they are to see you like a dog will.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ChuckG wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

For some dogs there is no need to be the dominant member of your family pack. But my male lab who was an only puppy and is really quite a royal pain in the @ss sometimes, is constantly testing the fence for signs of weakness! He needs to be shown that I am the alpha as you put it. It doesn't take much really, just to stare him down once in a while until he lays down and looks away. Then he's good for a few weeks :D

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from henslecd wrote 4 years 13 weeks ago

The author assumes that all dogs behave perfectly. This is a horrible assumption.

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from Jeff Bowers wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

The "dod whisperer" techniques have been condemned, or at least not supported, in a lot of the world.

While they're possibly useful for extreme cases, and few of those, positive training and reinforcement is better.

We don't even watch that show since it looks wrong to me. There's nothing we haven't been able to teach our dogs with a few liver treats.

http://www.apbc.org.uk/press/problems_with_aversive_dog_training_techniq...

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from ingebrigtsen wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

Well actually watch nature channel or sumething and see the alpha come back to the pack.. it will meet and greet, but will let the rest of the pack come meet and greet IT.. but when someone is overly exited then it is aloof like "cut it out u little twerp!":P so this "expert" havent gotten the real picture in my opinion..
:P

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

that lady is making sense but I wouldnt be able to follow that idea either

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from muskiemaster wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

amen, I don't see anything wrong with coming home and relaxing with your little pup after a long day and petting there ears and scratching there back. Although I understand that you can't let the dog feel that it's the alpha I believe you can still play around with them for a little bit.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

When I come home my 2 girls run out to the car (i don't think it's becuase they're fone of me as much as it's a contest), to be the first to greet me. When I get into the house the two hounds are at the door. Behind them are generally my wife iwth my one year old son. Though these might be a sign of me being lucky, I don't see how my dogs could possibly take me greeting them along with the 4 other human members of the family to mean that they're anything special in the hierarchy. It could be that I'm doing too much observing and thinking and not enough believing TLC and Animal Planet though.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

That might be my most poorly typed post yet.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

I think we should all remember that "celebrity" trainers need to appear to be on the cutting edge of training philosophy. The target audience of those shows is often one step away from going to a pet "psychic" to find out what troubles their cat. Those trainers don't necessarily get paid to show tried and true, common sense methods. Their careers have shifted to being focused on the entertainment value.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

jcarlin- I couldn't agree more with that last statement. And precisely why I put the quotation marks around the word celebrity. It all feels rather hollow these days. - D

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from seadog wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

I think it's good to recognize the pack mentality that dogs naturally have, but I think this "expert" has it wrong. I'm probably the pack leader in my house (at least I like to think so). When I come home to my wife, 3 kids, and 1 dog, guess who usually greets me first. When I play with her right away, I'm rewarding her. Why would I punish her for being happy to see me? If my wife ever beats Roxy to the door, I promise I'll kiss my wife before I play with the dog.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jonah wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

I agree that it's fine to greet the dog when coming home. And I can't say I agree with the "celebrity" trainer in this instance. However, if the context of that advice was that a dog had severe separation anxiety, I could absolutely get behind it. I am not a trainer, but spent a good stretch of time working in a "doggy day care" and we had dogs who were an absolute wreck when their owners left. When their owners dropped them off they (the owners) practically smothered the dogs with attention, apologizing all over themselves for leaving the dog in a giant fenced-in area filled with toys and other dogs. Same thing when they picked them up. The owners were so worked up it was no wonder the dogs could hardly stand being alone.
Anyways, I think that advice is probably meant for owners who have no idea how to raise a dog. Obviously not the F&S crowd.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

Hell, that is one of the best parts of having a dog... someone that is happy as hell to see you when you get home. Trust me, nobody will express how happy they are to see you like a dog will.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ChuckG wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

For some dogs there is no need to be the dominant member of your family pack. But my male lab who was an only puppy and is really quite a royal pain in the @ss sometimes, is constantly testing the fence for signs of weakness! He needs to be shown that I am the alpha as you put it. It doesn't take much really, just to stare him down once in a while until he lays down and looks away. Then he's good for a few weeks :D

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from henslecd wrote 4 years 13 weeks ago

The author assumes that all dogs behave perfectly. This is a horrible assumption.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jeff Bowers wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

The "dod whisperer" techniques have been condemned, or at least not supported, in a lot of the world.

While they're possibly useful for extreme cases, and few of those, positive training and reinforcement is better.

We don't even watch that show since it looks wrong to me. There's nothing we haven't been able to teach our dogs with a few liver treats.

http://www.apbc.org.uk/press/problems_with_aversive_dog_training_techniq...

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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