• He's always pulling at the leash, taking the lead position on walks and trying to control his movements— and yours!
• He's always jumping up on other dogs and people or growling and barking excessively to take on a dominant and protective role
• She hogs the human furniture, particularly the bed and the couch, and growls territorially when she's expected to share these spaces.
• She ignores you when you use basic commands like "Sit," "Stay" and "Come."
• She cooperates with your commands when it suits her, but when it doesn't, she tries to manipulate you, either by growling aggressively or by showing exaggerated submissiveness—such as shrieking as if she's in pain, twirling around in circles or dropping down and rolling over like a diva who's had her crown stolen.
Watch out for any of these signs of master manipulation. They are indications that your dog is challenging your leadership. These manipulative tactics then become learned behaviour when owners have a track record of submitting and caving in to their dog's controlling behaviours.
3 things you'll need
These are the three key things you'll need to begin alpha training:
- A good leash
- A good collar
- A big bag of focus, consistency and patience, especially if your dog has been playing alpha for many years
Pick the right leash
I advise owners to use a six-foot (about two-metre) lead because shorter leashes will stifle your dog, increasing anxiety and resentment—and this is not a good way to set the tone for getting in sync with your dog and bonding with him.
Longer leashes and extending leashes are too dangerous and completely useless in terms of maintaining control over your dog. Harness rigs are also useless because they're designed for sled dogs. They'll force your dog to pull, which automatically puts them in the driver's seat. Use a strong nylon leash that's about three quarters of an inch wide (about two centimetres wide).
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How to choose a collar
When it comes to collars, you need to find something that's humane but that will also allow you to react quickly to bad behaviours and act as an extended hand for correction purposes.
I'm totally against choke chains and pinch collars because they cause pain during the entire walk and can damage your dog both physically and emotionally—I think they should be banned!
I recommend a Martingale collar, which was created for horse training and adapted for dogs. It consists of a fabric section and a short chain rigged with a metal ring that attaches to the leash. The design allows the collar to be secure but also comfortable unless the leash is strained, in which case, the part of the chain that connects to the fabric collar tightens and the part connected to the leash extends. (Picture the chain as a circle that triangulates when there's friction on the leash.) This allows your dog freedom to move around while you maintain control.
The Martingale collar also lets you use quick movements to correct your dog when she pulls on the leash, but it will loosen immediately, so there's no danger of inflicting pain or potentially harming the dog either physically or emotionally.
Look for the Martingale-style "Hustle Up" collar that I designed (it's available at pet stores and online at www.bradpattison.com). Make sure, too, that the collar you buy has metal loops and buckle clasps. They're better than plastic ones because plastic will break over time. Check the collar and leash periodically to make sure the loops are still tight, especially if you have a big dog.
Before you put the Martingale collar onto your dog, test it on your hand first. You'll notice that a quick pull on the leash will cause you absolutely no pain or discomfort.
Focus, patience and consistency
Focus, patience and consistency are also key with alpha training—as with any dog training. If you're frazzled and tired and can't focus on the task at hand, your mind will wander or you'll become frustrated and stressed out during the process. Your dog will naturally pick up on those emotions and he'll either see them as weaknesses and take the reigns or he'll become frustrated and confused.
You need to approach alpha training with energy and determination so your dog understands that you're in control. You can't pull that off if you're so stressed that you throw hissy fits and vent your frustrations on your dog.
Excerpted from Brad Pattison Unleashed by Brad Pattison. Copyright © 2010 Brad Pattison. Excerpted by permission of Random House Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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