How to Alphabetize Yourself

Written by: Dr. Jean Hofve, Holistic Veterinarian, DVM

The root of most behavior problems is what we call the Alpha Syndrome. Instead of the problem being about the dog, most of the time we are dealing with a problem environment or a problem relationship between the dog and its owner. Dogs need a leader, an alpha, and if you do not establish this position yourself, your dog will take it. In your home, this phenomenon will reflect in pushy, out-of-control behavior.

The way to handle this is to alphabetize yourself in relation to your dog. This plan does not resort to punishment. It is about establishing boundaries. In addition to these techniques, obedience training is recommended.

Here are some corrective measures. Be consistent, firm, and patient. The problems didn't happen over night, so the solutions will take time. If you stick to the program, you will see changes.

  • Work on eye contact with your dog. Trace a line from your dog's face to yours and say "look." Hold a toy or treat to make it more interesting. Reward even a glance with praise or the treat.
  • Control the territory. If your dog is lying in your way, make it move for you, instead of walking around it.
  • Earning Praise and Treats. Stop all food treats and petting for this rehabilitation period except what is earned by obeying a command.
  • Schedule meals and eat before your dog. Do not have food available at all times, but make your dog dependent on you for its food and make your dog eat after your meal. The alpha in a pack always eats first.
  • Enter and exit before your dog. Make sure you go out or in the yard, car, home, etc. before your dog. Make the dog "wait" before allowing it to follow.
  • Give commands in a firm low tone and only once. Make your dog obey you the first time you give a command, and don't resort to whining or yelling.
  • Play with your dog but control the games. Don't play any games your dog can win. If you play tug of war, then control the game by making the dog drop the toy at your command. If you play fetch, same thing. Do not play chase, unless you are faster than your dog and are willing to never stop running!
  • Spay or neuter your dog.
  • Until the behavior problems stop, don't let the dog sleep in your bed.
  • Muzzle control. Gently put your hand over the top of your dog's muzzle and hold it for a few seconds. It is a natural dominant gesture.
  • Regularly groom your dog. Work gently with sensitive areas and help your dog build trust in you.
  • Belly rubs. It is a gesture of subordinance and your dog will love it!
  • Down Stays. Have your dog hold a thirty minute down-stay once a day. Enforce it! This can be done while you eat a meal or read.
  • Obedience train your dog twenty minutes a day.
  • Be firm, not harsh. Don't work with your dog if you are tired or in a bad mood. An alpha owner does not hold grudges or throw fits, but is firm, gentle, and consistent.

Recommended Training Books

Don't Shoot the DogDiscusses reinforcement &clicker training, ending undesirable habits, shaping behavior without pain and tips for training the dog, kids & yourself!

Other End of the Leash Why We Do What We Do Around DogsDid you know a dog can feel threatened by a hug? This book describes how our actions effect our dogs and how we can improve communication.