Alpha dogs are leaders of packs and are usually the biggest and strongest animals in any given group. Thus, alpha rolls—which involve physically forcing your dog onto its side or back to show that you are dominant—will not be a common practice for them.
However, there are benefits to alpha rolls, especially since they are believed to be a stress reliever for your dog. However, more science-based, force-free dog obedience training methods are proven to be more effective and ensure a healthier, happier relationship with your playful pup.
A Brief Historical Look
The original studies of wolf behavior in the 1940s showed a hierarchy with struggles in a controlled captive environment. With wolves raised in captivity, they were unrelated and brought together at various stages in their lives.
Since then, more studies have focused on wolf behavior in its natural setting, showing that it is usually dominated by related individuals who do not have conflicts within their groups. Moreover, the “alpha” concept has been proven to be outdated.
You don’t often see wolves pinning down another pack member in a bid to dominate them. When there is tension within the group, you often observe a member voluntarily rolling over into a submissive position.
Dogs also offer this as appeasement behavior to show they mean no harm and only want a peaceful interaction. Therefore, an alpha roll is not normal behavior for canines. Dogs are also vastly different in their wolf ancestors’ behavior, and applying the same principles across the board is not appropriate.
Why You Should Not Force Alpha Rolls in Dog Obedience Training
Dog training that’s too forceful can provoke a fearful, defensive response. This can make an animal aggressive toward its owner or others instead of its trained behavior. It’s worth considering a gentler approach that will foster a greater sense of trust between a dog and its owner.
Alpha Roll Dog Obedience Training Alternatives
Teaching your dog an alternative behavior with reward-based methods is much more effective and less stressful.
- If your dog growls when you attempt to stop their fun, it’s not because they’re angry. It’s a defense mechanism for them to continue their behavior, and it’s effective, especially if people or other animals back off from it.
A better option would be to consider purchasing a more comfortable piece of furniture for your dog to sit on, like a nice dog bed, and give your dog tasty treats every time they go there.
- If your dog likes jumping on guests, they are usually just excited to see you, and they have likely learned that jumping up will get attention in the past. Your dog needs to unlearn that behavior by doing something else or playing with them when guests arrive as a distraction.
Make sure family members and visitors do not reinforce your dog’s jumping up. Encourage them to turn their backs when they jump up and ignore the behavior.
- You should also help your dog not be afraid of people. Make house guests welcome. Maybe your dog has growled at a stranger that came into the house. When you’re scared of something new, a natural response is to protect yourself. But if you respond by punishing your pup, it can make them associate strangers with the pain they experience when an alpha roll is used on them, and they can become even more anxious around strangers.
Teaching a dog not to be frightened of people is much more effective and kinder. It is better to reward a dog for behaving positively than to force it to interact with people. Provide the dog with safe spaces like crates or the option to be in another room. Teaching your dog that interactions with strangers result in better human interaction and fellow canine relationships.
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