Do I need to be the Alpha?

The idea of “alpha” dogs is derived from a study concerning wolves. In this study, the researchers observed what they described as “alpha” and “beta” behavior, meaning some wolves are dominant over others.

This theory has long since been debunked (by the very researcher who proposed the theory, no less!), but its effects are still felt in the dog training community today. As cousins to the wolves, our lovable pups have had dominance theory applied to them, as well. Essentially, many trainers assert that you must show your dog who’s boss for it to mind.

This is simply not true!

You do not need to prove that you are an “alpha;” the very concept does not exist to dogs. However, they do know that you provide them with what they want and need, and they understand the concept of working for you. Basically, they know, “if I do this for you, I expect you to do this for me.” It is much more the language of equals.

Rather than dominance, almost every modern training program (athena+nike included!) subscribes to positive reinforcement. This is a system of rewarding your dog when they give you the desired behavior. For example, if your dog sits when you say “sit,” they would get a treat and praise.

Depending on the program, this may also coincide with negative punishment, or punishing unwanted behavior. For example, if your dog jumps on you, you might hit or yell at him. We do not believe in negative punishment at athena+nike. This is detrimental to a dog’s mental well-being.

By using positive reinforcement, you can train a dog to do just about anything! Dominance, negative punishment, etc. will make your dog afraid of you and other people, and they still may not perform desired behaviors when asked.

Additional Reading:
Dog Training and the Myth of Alpha-Male Dominance
Dog Behavior and Training – Dominance, Alpha, and Pack Leadership – What Does It Really Mean?
Dominance and Dog Training
What is the RSPCA’s view on dominance dog training?
New Study Finds Popular “Alpha Dog” Training Techniques Can Cause More Harm than Good

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