Thursday, April 29, 2010


Do you believe that personalities rub off on one dog to another? Well I do. Unfortunately, it’s normally the one with the worse personality traits that rub off to the dog that has the better personality. Normally it’s the alpha dog (the leader) that determines how another dog may act.

If you house a dog with a more submissive disposition with a dog that is the alpha dog, than the dog with the submissive temperament will usually follow and do what the alpha dog does. If the alpha dog barks at everyone she sees, usually the submissive dog will do the same thing. And you can always be sure that the leader of the pack will lead those that are less strong in personality into temptation all the time. It’s almost like the more submissive dog never really gets to develop his own personality when living with the more dominate dog.

The submissive dog does whatever the dominate dog does. If the leader jumps all over the counters when she comes in, so does the submissive one. It’s as if the submissive dog watches and imitates whatever the alpha dog does. Most of the time, the alpha dog is a very smart dog which also means that he can be very conniving to make thinks go his way. Understandably the human in the family MUST BE the alpha at all times with this type of dog. However, he can still try to maintain his dominate role over the other dogs in his domain. If he can’t control the human, he will still try to control the other dogs in his “pack.” When the human maintains the role of “alpha” this fits in well with the dog, because in the wild they would always have a pack leader which they would follow.

When researching the material for this article, I was interested in something that I read about the dog and his touching us or leaning on us. I have three female German Shepherds. The oldest one is the mother of the other two. You’ve read my articles about my very testy, trying, conniving, and bad to the bone, “Bu.” I wrote one time about how she has gotten into this habit every single night before she goes to bed. I sit on my computer chair and they share a treat with me. “Bu” without fail, after receiving a few pieces of whatever I’m sharing with them, has to come up behind my chair and gently tap the top of my head. This goes on every single night without fail. When someone read about this, they told me not to let her get away with it. Well this article that I just read, said the same thing. This article said, and I quote: “When a dog is constantly leaning on you, putting his paw on you, or touching you in some way, this is not your dog loving you, it is your dog displaying dominate behaviors.” Gee and all the while I thought she was giving me kisses on my head! I tell you the more you are involved in the ownership of dogs, you realize that there is still so much more to be learned. And believe me, owning “Bu” is a continuous education!

Being the alpha human means that you must establish yourself first in everything that you do. This means that you must be first to eat, first to come in or go out the door and the first one to establish where you will sit or lie down before the dog tries to sit or lie down on your comfy sofa. The dog must be second in everything. His needs come after your needs.

Because this breed is extremely intelligent, if you don’t show that you are the alpha, they will look to take that position away from you. It’s wise to teach this breed or any breed for that fact, the “barter” system. This means teach them to do your command for everything that you give them. If they want to go out, make them sit at the door before you let them out. If they want a treat, make them do something to earn it. In other words, reward good behavior and not the other way around.

I believe that there are different degrees of “alpha” type dogs. I’ve owned German Shepherds for most of my adult life. I’ve always been the alpha in my dog’s eyes and never had any of them challenge me……until “Bu.” They were gentler, calmer dogs then what I own now. You would think in my later years on this earth, that I should be blessed with those types of dogs now. Nope, I got stuck with the “nut” cases now instead! Lord have mercy! I guess someone “upstairs” thinks that I need to be kept on my toes, challenged, and my nerves rattled a little bit more. Is this meant to keep me younger or put me in my grave sooner?!?!

Now what do I mean about different degrees of alpha? All of my dogs over the years had an alpha in their pack (next to me). Those alpha dogs, however, ruled the others with a gentle paw. They might give a little growl to warn them about something or in the case of the two dogs pictured at the top of my blog……..Nuance and Rajah…….if she wanted his bone or whatever it was that he was chewing, she’d take her mouth and gently clamp it over his. He’d release the chew bone to her. She’d grab it and strut around the room with it in her mouth. She didn’t really want it, but she wanted to know that she could take it from him whenever she wanted to. She was 58 pounds. He was 105 pounds. Sissy boy!!!........only kidding. He truly loved and respected her. There were never any fights or aggressive growling. It was just the order of things and the order of the pack leader with her submissive house mate.

The more aggressive alpha is the one that you really need to keep your eye on. She isn’t just content taking a toy away; she might initiate a fight doing it. This type of dog needs to be in control at all times. Also this type of dog needs to be controlled (by you) at all times.

My “Bu” can never just lie still contently chewing on her bone. If her sister gets up and goes into the kitchen, she MUST get up to see what she’s doing. It’s like she thinks her sister needs direction from her. The other day, her sister (Jess) was scratching herself while lying on the back deck. It was like “Bu” couldn’t stand it any longer, so she gets up with her pompous little body and walks over to her sister. I’m watching this out the window. She takes her paw where Jess is scratching herself and hits her with it a few times right where Jess is scratching. Was she being kind trying to help her sister, scratch an itch? Or was she telling her, “I had enough of your scratching, so cut it out?!”

I believe the alpha dog is the type of dog that must have training which can be as simple as teaching him the most basic of commands. Just as long as he's learning and taking direction from you. He becomes used to taking direction from you and this makes you the alpha in his eyes.

So you can see there are different degrees of alpha. Some of them are tolerable and then others are ones you must monitor at all times. I don’t think I will ever be able to take the “alpha” out of Bu, but she must know that I am the alpha over her at all times. Believe me these types of dogs will test you time and time again. The little darlings just want to make sure you’re still on your toes. Heaven help you if you slip! Give me strength dear Lord! Give me strength!

My rating: alpha dog: (1), alpha human: (4)

From the book: "CLICKING WITH YOUR DOG".......Clicker training is a method of teaching behavior to dogs using positive reinforcement. The successive approximation of desired behavior is marked with a clicker and rewarded with a treat, a toy, or a pat. Inappropriate behavior is ignored, not punished. In 1985, Karen Pryor published the seminal work on this method, Don't Shoot the Dog (Bantam), and issued a revision in 1999. Both editions are highly theoretical and are aimed at the educated, informed lay reader. Tillman, an ergonomics illustrator as well as a dog trainer and clicker-training instructor, has made Pryor's principles and techniques accessible to the rank amateur. Using easily understandable text and clear, step-by-step drawings, she guides the novice through all the steps necessary to teach dogs almost 100 different behaviors, from basic obedience to housebreaking to tricks. She also applies the principles to the elimination of problem behavior. While Paul Owens's The Dog Whisperer (LJ 10/1/99) covered much the same subject matter, Tillman's book teaches the skills through illustrations.

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