bridging the gap

My training is based on the growth of the puppies mind, to make him/her a better canine citizen! Thus I have mentioned the pups mind growth stages along with the training periods.

  • Dog's Body Language


    Over the centuries wolves evolved an elaborate system of body language, facial expressions, and vocalizations to communicate with each other. Domestic dogs also use this means of communication, and all of these signals are easily understood by other dogs. If you can learn to interpret how your dog is feeling by observing its posture and expression and listening to it, you'll be well on the way to successful communication with your pet and better equipped to solve any behavior problems that arise.

    Following are some major canine attitudes and their typical outward manifestations.
    AGGRESSIVE - Ears forward or back, close to head. Eyes Narrow or staring challengingly. Mouth/ Teeth Lips open, drawn back to expose teeth bared in a snarl. Possible jaw snapping. Body Tense. Upright. Hackles on neck up. Completely Dominant position. Tail Straight out from body. Fluffed up. Vocali- zation Snarl. Growl. Loud bark.

    ALERT - Ears Perked-up. Turning to catch sounds. Eyes Open normally or wide. Mouth/ Teeth Mouth closed or slightly open with teeth covered. Body Normal. Possibly standing on tiptoe. Slightly Dominant position. Tail Up. Possibly wagging. Vocali- zation None. Low whine or alarm bark.

    ANXIOUS - Ears Partially back. Eyes Slightly narrowed. Mouth/ Teeth Mouth closed, or slightly open in a "grin." Body Tense. Slightly lowered in a Submissive position. Tail Partially lowered. Vocali- zation Low whine or moaning-type bark.

    CHASE, BEGINNING STAGE - Ears Perked-up, forward-pointing. Eyes Wide open. Very alert. Mouth/ Teeth Mouth slightly open. Excited panting. Body Tense. Crouched low in a predatory position. Legs bent, poised to run. Tail Extended straight out from body. Vocali- zation None.

    CURIOUS/EAGER/EXCITED - Ears Perked-up, forward-pointing. Eyes Wide open. Mouth/ Teeth Mouth open, teeth covered. Possible panting. Body Normal stance. Possible wiggling, standing on tiptoe, or pacing. Tail Up. Wagging. Vocali- zation Excited short barking, whining.

    DOMINANT - Ears Up straight or forward. Eyes Wide open, staring. Mouth/ Teeth Mouth closed or slightly open. Body Very tall posture. Hackles may be up. Tail Stiffened and fluffed. Up or straight out from body. Vocali- zation Low, assertive growl or grunt.

    FEARFUL - Ears Laid back flat and low on head. Eyes Narrowed, averted. Possibly rolled back in head, whites showing. Mouth/ Teeth Lips drawn back to expose teeth. Body Tense. Crouched low in submissive position. Shivering, trembling. Possible secretion from anal scent glands. Tail Down between legs. Vocali- zation Low, worried yelp, whine, or growl.

    FLIGHT, BEGINNING STAGE - Ears Back. Eyes Wide open. Possibly rolled back with whites showing. Mouth/ Teeth Slightly opened mouth. Possible drooling. Body Tense. Shivering. Low, poised to run. Tail Low or between legs. Vocali- zation None. Possible yelp or whine.

    FRIENDLY - Ears Perked-up. Eyes Wide open. Alert look. Mouth/ Teeth Relaxed, possibly slightly open, "smiling" mouth. Body Normal posture. Still, or possible wiggling of whole rear end. Tail Up or out from body. Wagging. Vocali- zation Whimpering, yapping, or short, high bark.

    GUARDING - Ears Perked-up. Forward. Eyes Wide open, alert. Mouth/ Teeth Mouth slightly open, teeth bared. Snapping or gnashing of teeth. Body Tense. Rigid. Hackles up. Standing very tall in an aggressive or dominant stance. Tail Rigid. Held straight out from body. Sometimes fluffed. Vocali- zation Loud alert bark. Growl. Snarl.

    PLAYFUL/HAPPY - Ears Perked-up and forward, or relaxed. Eyes Wide open. Sparkly/merry-looking. Mouth/ Teeth Mouth relaxed and slightly open, teeth covered. Excited panting. Body Relaxed, or front end lowered, rear end up in the air, wiggling in a play-bow. Excited bouncing and jumping up and down. Circling around and running forward and back in an invitation to play. Tail Wagging vigorously. Vocali- zation Excited barking. Soft play-growling.

    PREDATORY - Ears Alert. Held forward or backward to catch sounds. Eyes Wide open. Staring, focusing. Mouth/ Teeth Mouth closed. Body Rigid. Low to ground, ready to spring forward. Quietly sniffing the air. Tail Straight and low. Vocali- zation None (so the prey won't be alerted).

    SUBORDINATE (SUBMISSIVE) - Ears Down, flattened against head. Eyes Narrowed to slits or wide open, whites showing. Mouth/ Teeth Lips pulled way back from teeth in a "grin". Nuzzling or licking other animal or person on face. Body Lowered to ground, front paw raised. Lying on back, belly up. Possible urine leaking/dribbling. Possible emptying of anal scent glands. Tail Down, between legs. Vocali- zation None, or low, worried whining. Possible yelping/whimpering in fear.

  • Understanding a Dog's Senses

    A big part of understanding your dog is understanding their senses and accepting that they are indeed different than humans. Both humans and dogs have the same three senses sight, hearing and smelling, however while most humans communicate in this order hearing, seeing, and then smelling, dogs primarily communicate by smelling, seeing and lastly hearing. Dogs also have a universal sense which humans do not have, where they can feel the energy (emotions) of the other beings around them. The statistics below will vary slightly with different types of breeds, for example a sight-hound may have slightly better vision and a coonhound type of dog may have a slightly better sense of smell than other types. Lets take a look at each of their senses.

    The Nose

    A dog interprets the world predominantly by smell, where as a human interprets it by sight. As a human I cannot even imagine what that would be like, to get most of my information from what I was smelling. This is why a blind or deaf dog can get along just fine if allowed to be a dog, given the proper leadership and exercise and their sensory whiskers are not cut off when they are groomed. While a dog's brain is only one-tenth the size of a human brain, the part that controls smell is 40 times larger than in humans. A dogs sense of smell is about 1,000 to 10,000,000 times more sensitive than a humans (depending on the breed).

    A human has about 5 million scent glands, as compared to a dog who has anywhere from 125 million to 300 million (depending on the breed). Ever wonder why your dog's nose is wet? The mucus on a dog's nose actually helps them smell by capturing scent particles. When a dogs nose is dry they may lick it to aid them in scent. When a dog smells something they are not just registering a smell, they get an entire story. They can smell pheromone which is not only found in the urine and fecal, but on the skin and fur. From this they can tell a lot about another dog or human including if they are male or female, what they ate, where they have been, what they have touched, if they are ready to mate, if they have recently given birth, or had a false pregnancy and what mood they are in. They have even been known to smell cancer on people, alerting them to it and saving their lives.

    This means when your dog smells another person, tree that another dog has peed on, pant leg that another dog has rubbed up against, or a chair that someone has sat in, they are actually reading a story, not just smelling an interesting scent. While a human will smell something like spaghetti sauce as one smell, a dog smells each individual ingredient. Unlike humans, dogs can move their nostrils independently allowing them to know what direction a smell is coming from. A dog can both sniff and breathe. These are two different functions. Breathing is for air, but when they sniff with short breaths they actually save some scent that does not get exhaled. When a dog is over heated and actively panting their sense of smell is reduced by as much as 40 percent as they use the air to cool themselves rather than for smelling. Puppies have heat sensors in their nose to help find their mother during the time when their eyes and ears are closed. These sensors disappear by the time they are adults.

    The Eyes

    Since dogs do not have a spoken language, their thoughts are more like a sequence of images, much like a child before they learn to speak. A common question among humans is, "Are dog's color blind"? The answer is no, not exactly, meaning they do not only see in shades of only black and white. Studies have shown that dogs see in colors of various shades of blue and yellow. For example, a rainbow to a dog would be as follows: dark blue, light blue, light-gray, light yellow, dark brownish yellow, and dark gray. Purple, and blue are both seen as shades of blue.

    Greenish-blue is viewed as a shade of gray. Red is seen as a black or dark gray. Orange, yellow and green all are seen to a dog as various shades of yellow. This means that bright orange toys, to a dog are the same yellowish shade as the green grass. If you want your dog to clearly see his toys in the green grass you are better off with giving the dog blue toys, but no worries, if you have orange, yellow or green toys the dog will just find them with his nose.

    Dogs can see the best at dusk and dawn. Their low light vision is much better than humans. While a humans vision is considered perfect at 20/20 a dog's vision is on average 20/75. Dogs can recognize objects better when they are moving and sometimes overlook the same object when it is still. Dogs see images on a TV screen, but most likely also see a rapidly flickering light in the picture. Almost like a strobe light, because a humans flicker resolution ability is about 55 Hz and a dog's is about 75 Hz.


    Animals can feel energy (in human words... emotions). It is a universal animal language. Have you ever been watching a group of wild animals out in the yard, perhaps a squirrel, rabbit and a deer all eating peacefully? Clearly these animals are not speaking words to one another asking if they all come in peace. Some how they all know that they are not going to harm one another. Or perhaps you know a dog that other dogs do not tend to like, or a cat that likes one dog but not another. Or perhaps you know of a person who dogs are prone to bark at.

    When I was a kid growing up I had a Lab mix who just loved everyone. There was not a single person he didn't like, except for my uncle. When my uncle would come around he would bark at him. I later found out that many dogs tended to bark at my uncle and as I got older I realized my uncle was a very tense, nervous person.Another example was a time when my husband and I were driving down the road with our two dogs in a van that did not have any windows in the back. The dogs were sleeping on the van floor. Suddenly our Pitbull stood up and started growling.

    I was in the passenger seat and saw nor heard nothing. My husband on the other hand was amazed. He had just passed a cop and for a split second thought he may have been speeding and at the exact moment he felt a chill of fear run down his spine, his dog had popped up from his curled up sleep and growled, not at us but towards the walls of the moving van. The dog had felt his fear and was jumping up in protection mode.Dogs interpret human emotions such as worry, anxiety, fear, anger, pitty and nervousness, as a weakness and they do not listen to these emotions.

    Dogs listen best to someone who is calm, but firm in their approach. They use their sense of energy to determine who should be the leader of their pack. The being with the strongest, and most stable energy is the one they look to, be it themselves or another being around them. While you can hide your emotions from another human, you cannot hide them from a dog.

  • Alpha Humans - What does it mean to be dominant

    You hear time and time again that you must be dominant over your dog. What does that mean anyway? A lot of people mistake that as meaning you must be bossy, pushy, harsh and even so far as angry when the dog does something wrong. This is a very incorrect assumption. Lets take a look at the dictionary definition of the word "dominant"

    1. ruling, governing, or controlling; having or exerting authority or influence: dominant in the chain of command.
    2. occupying or being in a commanding or elevated position.
    3. predominant; main; major; chief: Corn is the dominant crop of Iowa.
    4. Genetics. of or pertaining to a dominant.
    5. Music. pertaining to or based on the dominant: the dominant chord.

    No where in the definition does it explain how you reach this position. Being dominant over your dog does not mean you are to be mean to your dog. It means you must communicate to the dog who is going to be the leader. Pack leaders are not aggressive, angry or bossy. Lower members of the pack are not fearful of the pack leader, but rather respectful. The pack leader is the stronger minded being, calm but very firm. They set rules and they expect them to be followed. They set boundaries and they expect them not to be crossed. They place limits on what the others are allowed and not allowed to do and they expect everyone to stay within the limits. Pack leaders are not dominant-aggressive, they are calm-assertive.

    Dogs need a dominant, alpha leader, a being who is calm and very strong-minded. Dogs instinctually crave this leadership and guidance. Size means nothing. It is all about energy. All about how the being is feeling inside. Unstable humans make unstable dogs. A human who lacks confidence will not have a dog who listens to their commands.

    If you find yourself correcting your dog with anger, you are not being a good pack leader. Your dog should never fear you. You are looking for respect from your dog, not fear. When a dog respects you they will happily want to follow you. One cannot accomplish this respect using fear and aggression.

    Many dogs today develop issues for several reasons:
    In order to be alpha over a dog you must make the dog understand what it is you are communicating to them. This means you have to stop thinking human and start thinking dog. How would one dog tell another dog what they wanted. Do they start yelling and screaming at one another. No, dogs do not talk, yell or scream so this logically would not be the answer. Being a dog is a very instinctual, natural thing. When a dog is treated like a human or a little toy the dog can either lose, or often never learn, their real sense of being. This can cause catastrophic damage to them mentally and emotionally. So many people corrupt their dogs in this way that we humans start seeing the resulting abnormal behaviors as dog traits, when really they are disturbed or unstable dogs.

    Puppy mill pups often have unstable mothers and unstable dogs around them. The dogs are locked in cages where there is not enough room to act on their natural instincts. The mother dogs are often fearful. Since the mother dog is not stable she is not able to naturally teach her pups the way a stable dog would. These pups never learn major keys in the instinct of being a canine animal. It is like a baby squirrel not having a mother to teach it how to survive out in the wilderness. The lessons are not being passed down from one animal to the next. Puppymill dogs often come with pre-existing issues that are NOT breed traits but results of unfortunate upbringings. The dogs loose their natural balance, and you as their owner need to bring it back for them.

    Then there are the dogs that were born to good breeders with stable canine mothers. These pups are off to a good start until they get home with their new families who, with all good intentions, treat them like little babies. They do not teach the pup the rules or give them boundaries and limitations, everything the pup does is "cute" and laughed at. They are not taught to properly walk on a lead while they are young. They are not taken for daily walks. They are not taught to follow. They are not properly communicated with. They are treated so much like a human that they begin to loose parts of their natural instinct. These instincts are not lost forever, just unable to be used because the resources around them are all wrong for the animal and the dog becomes unstable. However the owners still do not recognize that the dog is unstable, and the dog is just assumed to have these quirky traits, when really the dog is going crazy inside. Dogs were not meant to be little humans. They are little canines.

    Even worse, there are puppy mill pups who were never taught from their mothers how to be a dog, and then brought home to humans who toss more of the same onto them. Again, since it is instinct we are talking about, even these dogs are not necessarily lost forever, they can be helped if the humans take the time to learn what the dog needs as the canine animal and give it to them.

    Our job as dog owners is to give the dogs back their natural instincts. Treat them like dogs not like little humans so they can be the animal they were born to be, allowing them to be mentally stable.

    Do not push your dog around, be your dogs calm, but firm and confident leader so they can look to you for guidance, and respect will follow. Bullying does not work. Anger does not work. Being pushy does not work. Learn a dog's body language and what it means. Learn what they are telling you with their body language. Learn how to tell things back to them in a way they naturally understand. Satisfy their natural instincts. Give them what they need to be balanced animals. Your dog is telling you a lot, are you listening?

  • Why dogs must be followers?

    Why dogs must be followers. With humans in the leadership role and a submissive dog - can the dog be happy? A happy dog is a dog who not only gets enough exercise and mental stimulation, but a dog who knows 100% with complete confidence and security what their role in life is and where they stand. In a pack of canines there is the leader who keeps order, setting rules that must be followed and making all of the decisions, and then there are the followers who look up to the leader for guidance. Both leader and followers are content when the alpha member makes the rest of the pack feel like they are safe and the leader sees their structure being upheld. The leader is happy and the followers are happy, because both feel their survival depends upon this order. The leader is the stronger minded being. The being who displays a natural authority and is able to make good, confident decisions. It's all in the mind and energy which is being projected, size has nothing to do with it.

    Humans and dogs can only peacefully coexist when the dogs are in the follower role. Human society cannot allow dogs to bark, growl, snap at or bite another human whenever they please in order to tell them they are not happy with what they are doing. If our dogs get away and are running the streets it cannot be the dog who decides when they must come back. We cannot let the dog decide when it is ok for us to leave for work. We cannot let the dog decide who is allowed to walk into your home and who is not. We cannot let the dog decide who is allowed to touch "their" ball or sit in "their" chair.

    By not listening to what your dog wants when the dog is the leader of your pack you are causing them to become mentally unstable, often with stress and/or anxiety. In the dog world leaders are allowed to leave the followers, however followers are not allowed to leave the leaders (separation anxiety). A dog who is allowed to be the leader has humans who leave the house when they did not give them permission. They come inside the house when they did not tell them they could. They don't wake up or go to bed when the dog tells them they can and they don't eat when the dog says they must.

    Dogs who flop back and forth from leader to follower are always testing to see where they stand. Most do not want the position and give it up easily, but still have the nagging instinct to take over when they sense weakness. These dogs are not truly happy either, because they never really know who is going to be leading at any given moment and therefore cannot feel secure.

    We cannot expect our dogs to behave and listen to us if we are not consistently showing them that we are the leaders. Dogs instinctually crave structure and order, and look for the strongest minded being to be that leader. If they detect that the person in charge is not strong enough, by instinct the dog will begin to take over that roll. Dogs do not care if that being is human or canine. If they feel they are stronger than the others around them they will begin to take over in order to "save" their pack.

    If you do not communicate to the dog that you do not agree, how is the dog to know and learn? Dog's need discipline, not punishment. Never hit or scream at a dog. Dogs do not understand nor interpret anger well. Positive reinforcement is a wonderful training method for keeping a dog from developing bad behavior problems. By rewarding the good you encourage that behavior. When you have a dog who has already developed a negative behavior positive reinforcement training does not always work well. For example, tossing a treat when the dog is not growling does not teach the dog not to growl. One cannot fix aggression with treats. This does not mean you are to be overbearing and forceful with your dog by any means. Read, "What does it mean to be dominant?" for more details. It's all about proper human to canine communication.

    While wild dogs can be happy in both leadership and follower positions, in order for a canine to live with humans they must be followers. It is not fair to allow a dog to be the leader of a human pack, because humans are not able to go about their lives doing everything our dogs ask of us. We must go to work and the kids must go to school. Dogs cannot come with us to the market, nor accompany us on all of our other necessary errands. You are not doing your dog any favors by allowing them to flop back and forth between leader and follower, nor are you doing them any favors by allowing them to run your home. It is very stressful for a dog to believe they must be the leaders yet not be able to control their followers, and it is equally as stressful for a dog not to have the stability of a consistent, strong-minded leader.

  • Dogs and human emotions

    Studies suggesting dogs are more humanly complex than we think are just plain wrong. There is a study put out by Friederike Range and the colleagues at the University of Vienna in Austria and Paul Morris of the University of Portsmouth suggesting dogs have a complex range of simple unpleasant emotions such as jealousy and pride giving them a sense of fairness that has never been discovered before.

    One should never mix their own emotions in with a scientific study. Humans would love to believe their little balls of fur are human, however they are not and never will be. It is studies like this one which can be very damaging when owners confuse dominance with emotion. Yes the other dogs had a reaction when another dog got the food, when the new baby arrived or when they were ignored, but the "WHY" is the question.

    While dogs do possess emotions, they are not as complex as human's. Dogs do however feel the emotions coming from humans. They feel them as an energy radiating from our bodies. The dog knows if you are sad, nervous, stressed, happy, calm, strong minded, confident, passive, anxious, hyper, or meek etc.. However what we all need to understand is, a dog does not read negative energy coming from humans in the true meaning of the emotions. They simply read it as a weakness and they react accordingly. It is a natural instinct for a dog to have an order in their pack. When we humans live with dogs, we become their pack. The entire pack cooperates under a single leader. Lines are clearly defined and rules are set. Because a dog communicates his displeasure with growling and eventually biting, all other humans MUST be higher up in the order than the dog. The humans must be the ones making the decisions, not the dogs. That is the only way your relationship with your dog can be a complete success.

    Lets look at the why. There can be many reasons for each of these issues.

    The New Baby

    Why does a dog sometimes begin to act differently when a baby comes? This happens for varying reasons depending on how badly the owners misinterpret their dog's actions. The dog may claim the baby, the dog may be confused about his place and he may sense energy from the owners that he never felt before that confuses him. It's a new pack member and the owners emotions change. The dog knows this and there are varying things that can effect his reactions. Emotional, nervous or stressed parents, sensing jealousy from a human sibling, not accepting the baby into the pack, thinking he is higher up in the pack, not sure where his new place is in the pack, owners sending the wrong or mixed signals to the dog. Things are different and the dog needs to be secure in his pack and see himself as lower than the baby. He needs to know the new rules regarding the baby right up front from the minute the baby comes home. Problems can and will arise when the owners fail to communicate the dog's place among the new member. If humans become emotionally upset when the dog goes near the baby or near items which smell like the baby instead of calmly but firmly claiming space around the baby/items communicating that the baby as alpha over the dog, the dog is going to react in ways he has never done before. What it is not is a human type of jealousy. It is a reaction to a new pack member and the wrong signals coming from the humans within the pack.

    Other Dogs

    Another claim of the study suggests that dogs hate to see their owners being affectionate to other dogs. This is not an emotion of "hate" or "jealousy" coming from the dog. It is dominance. The dog owns the human and does not want the other dog near their property. He may not want to allow another pack member in. One of the two dogs may sense an instability in the other dog, or unstable emotions coming from the humans around them, causing a fight between the dogs. An imbalance in the other dog or humans around them will cause them to react, but not hate. A submissive type dog with stable beings around him will share in the excitement of another dog, calmly say hello by smelling, or ignore the other dog altogether.


    The study also suggests a reasoning of fairness, where one dog decides things are not fair and reacts to it by refusing to obey or getting emotionally upset about it. Dogs were asked to perform a trick and the dog's enthusiasm was lowered when they saw other dogs being rewarded with food but receiving nothing for themselves. Some of the dogs even turned their heads refusing to look at the human or other dog. So why is this?

    A dog who is doing a trick without food and notices someone else doing the trick using food with another dog in sight or smell range is suddenly distracted. He wants to eat the food too and he looses interest in the trick. It's a distraction and a learnt behavior that he could be getting food for his action. It is also very possible the person doing the experiment sent off a different emotion (energy) to the dog during different parts of the experiment. The dog would sense this and react differently.The dogs who turned away refusing to look were not upset nor were they trying to get even in any way. They were in fact submitting to the other dog and or humans. Communicating their respect, as the leader eats first, and the others wait until the leader is finished. Eye contact is a challenge. Therefore a dog who turns his head refusing to make eye contact with you is telling you he is allowing you to be his leader. This misinterpretation of the dogs reaction is actually a very common and damaging one. Humans see their dogs turn away from them refusing eye contact, the humans attach their own emotions to it and think the dog is upset or mad. They go over to the dog in attempt to "make-up" offering sympathy and affection. The dog suddenly feels this human as weak and instinctually believes he needs to be stronger in order to "save the pack". He becomes alpha whether he wants the job or not because, in his mind, the pack needs a strong leader in order to survive.

    Getting even for being ignored

    It was also suggested that dogs that were ignored gave their paws much less often, doing so in only 13 out of 30 trials and some showed more stress, such as licking or scratching themselves.

    Now for the why, and this one seems a bit silly. Do we humans think the dogs enjoyed giving their paw over and over again? They do it for the reward of food or praise. No reward and the dog is not motivated. But he's not mad or jealous and he is not upset because things are unfair. Sure the dog wants the other dogs food, but he's not having a jealous fit. He's reacting. Give praise and he reacts to get more praise. Show food and he wants to eat it. He's just not as interested in the guy without the food. As far as the stress... If I were a dog I would be stressed too if I was with humans who were sending confusing vibes my way.

    This study is actually really sad and damaging to dogs who come into contact with people who may believe it. We are not doing our fellow canine animals a favor by attaching our human emotions to them, confusing dominance and submission with human emotion. If we as humans do not take the time to learn a dog's instincts we will continue to see more and more unwanted dogs in shelters.

    The number one cause of death in dogs today is euthanasia.

    A dogs temperament is a direct reflection of the owners ability to understand him and give him what he instinctually needs. There are no bad dogs. Don't let your dog down!

  • Establishing yourself as pack leader

    Whether you have just adopted a young pup or an adult dog, you have many things to teach your new companion. You want your dog to be loved, trained and lively, but not spoiled, a robot or uncontrollable. Dogs can be naturals at learning manners and commands, particularly when you understand a key aspect of their nature. Dogs are social, pack-oriented animals. Your dog will respect a strong, clear, fair leader. If you fail to establish this position for yourself, your dog will feel obliged to try to take the position of leader for himself.

    The Alpha Role

    In a natural state, dogs would live their entire lives within the closely structure social order of their pack. While young, they would begin to learn the workings of the pack's social system and, as they grew, begin to establish their place within the pack's dominance hierarchy. Dominance, submissiveness, leadership, obeying others - these are all concepts that are understood by every dog. These are all concepts that you must understand as well if you are to relate you your dog in a successful manner. Each pack has a leader, an individual who is dominant over all pack members. In wolf society, this individual is called the "alpha." This is the member who makes the decisions, who must be obeyed. This is the individual that you must be in your dog's eyes.

    Steps to Establishing Your Role as Alpha

    Professional trainers know that it is a waste of time to try to train a dog without first establishing themselves as alpha to the dog. Every dog needs a leader to listen to and adore. Without this leader, a dog will feel lost and unstructured. If you do not take the role of alpha, your dog will be forced to take the role himself. Here are some steps to establishing your role as the alpha. Notice that these involve both behavior and body language - two types of communication that your dog will understand.

    1. Always praise your dog as if you own it.

    Put your hands firmly on the dog. Hug the dog. Pat him so that your hands get warm from the contact. Do not praise him in a timid way.

    2. Praise warmly, well and quickly.

    Do not drag out your praising of a working dog. Do not fawn over the dog just because he did one sit-stay.

    3. Reprimand fairly and quickly, then forgive.

    Don't hold a grudge. When you put your hands on your dog, do it with confidence and authority. Hands on does NOT mean hitting. Hands on may mean a collar shake, a leash correction, a surprising assist into a sit or down. Do it quickly and with authority. Then when you've made the dog do exactly what you want - once - give him a hug. That's alpha.

    4. Make the dog obey on the first command.

    Don't ho ld a grudge. When you put your hands on your dog, do it with confidence and authority. Hands on does NOT mean hitting. Hands on may mean a collar shake, a leash correction, a surprising assist into a sit or down. Do it quickly and with authority. Then when you've made the dog do exactly what you want - once - give him a hug. That's alpha.

    5. Give commands only if you can follow through, and make sure you always follow through.

    If the dog is running across the park to meet another dog, do not yell "come" - if he decides not to obey, you have no means of correcting him. Once he accepts you as leader, he will stop and return to you - because he will have learned that leaders are to be obeyed.

    6. Give permission.

    Give it for what is about to do anyway as long as it is OK with you. This does not mean you say OK when you see your dog about to steal a plate of cookies. This means you do say OK when your dog is about to get into the car for a ride with you, eat the food in his bowl, go out with you for his afternoon walk. It means that in a subtle way you are teaching the dog to look to you for approval and permission instead of making decisions on his own. Remember - the better behaved the dog, the more freedom and fun he can have.

    7. Deny permission.

    Monitor your dog's behavior. Teach him some manners. Even if you like him to walk on your couch and coffee table, he shouldn't behave that way in other people's homes. When you take him to the lake, he should wait for permission to swim. It may be too cold some days or there may be too many young children swimming.

    8. Do a sit-stay.

    This is an easy way to reinforce your role as alpha. Put the dog in a sit-stay for five to ten minutes. For particularly dominant dogs, make it a down-stay, and even more submissive position. If he's a wild animal and he doesn't know the meaning of the word obedient, all the better. When he breaks - and he will - put him back. If he breaks 14 times put him back 14 times. At the end of a few minutes, the dog knows you're alpha. He knows that anyone who holds his leash can call the shots. And this is with no yelling, no hitting, no electronic stimulation, no leaving him in the kennel or garage for three days, no nothing. Just a sit-stay. Easy and effective.

    9. Be benevolent, but tough.

    Act like a top dog. Tough, but loving. Always be fair an never get angry. Dogs understand what's fair and what's not.

    10. Be a model to your dog.

    The top dog behaves with dignity, surety, confidence, authority, and intelligence. This will help your dog to be calm himself.

    11. If you have more than one dog in your home.

    you decide the "pecking" order within the dog pack by routinely feeding the "top" dog first, giving that dog bones first, etc. Make the others wait for their turn. This is another means of exerting your authority.

    Your Dog Will be Happier

    You may think that this system is just being too controlling and not "fair" to the dog. Actually, by being consistent in your handling and in your demands on the dog you are being fair. He needs structure - to understand what you want and what his responsibilities are. What is truly unfair is giving up a dog because of behavior problems - problems caused by the lack of structure and guidance that were the owners' responsibility to give. Unfortunately, animal shelters are filled every day with these dogs. Firm, loving training will keep you and your dog happy - and keep you together.

  • Establishing and keeping alpha position letting your dog know you are the boss

    Below are a list of rules every dog owner should follow to ensure your dog knows his place in your human pack. If your dog guards his food, or growls at humans in the family. these rules should be strictly followed .Dogs need to have a clear place in their pack. A dog lacking in this clear order is an unhappy dog.

    Sometimes, a dog might not be showing signs of aggression, however the dog is suddenly showing signs of separation anxiety, such as destructive behaviors when you leave the house. A dog who steals food from human hands has no respect for the human, and therefore do not see them as pack leader. A dog who questions his place in the household pack can sometimes cause him to suddenly display destructive behaviors, as the dog is confused and taking his anxiety out on your house.A dog who knows his place in his human pack is a happy dog. A dog who does not is a confused dog and can exhibit many unwanted behaviors because of it.

    1. The number one way to communicate to a dog that you are his pack leader is to take him for a walk. Not the type of walk most humans take their dogs on but a pack walk where the dog is made to heel beside or behind the human who is holding the lead. This is most important for all dogs, as in a dog's mind, the leader always leads the way. A dog must not be allowed to sniff or eliminate anywhere he wishes, but where you allow him. One marking against a tree is enough for male dogs. The dog should be concentrating on following the human, not worried about leading the way. This pack type walk should be done daily. Not only will this release built up energy, but it will satisfy the dog's instinct to migrate, which all dogs possess. Dog's who have excess energy bottled up inside them and who do not have their migration instinct met will develop various instability issues that most people mistake for being breed traits.
    2. All humans must eat Before the dogs, as the leader always eats first. When you give your dog its food eat a small snack first while he is watching, lay the snack near the dogs food so that he thinks you are eating out of his bowl (the leader always eats first).
    3. No table scraps should be fed to the dogs during a meal.
    4. Feedings must be at a scheduled time. (no self feeding dog food dispensers should be used, as this allows The Dog to Choose when he eats.)
    5. Humans must not let the dog go through any doorways first. Or up or down the stairs first. Dogs must always go through the doorways or up and down stairs After the humans, as the leader of the pack always goes first. If the dog does not stay behind the humans, the dog must be told to "stay" and given the command to "come" after all humans have passed through. (Read Training to find out the necessary basic commands all dogs should know. These commands are vital in the communication between you and your dog and should always be taught.)
    6. When you have left the house or the room, even for a minute and come back in the room, ignore the dog for a few minutes.
    7. A simple obedience command such as “Sit” should be given before any pleasurable interaction with the dog. (i.e. play session, petting, feeding or a walk etc…) The children should give the dogs commands at least once a day and reward with a treat when the command is followed. A simple “Sit” will do. No treat should be awarded if the dog does not follow the command. Show your dog he does not get anything for free. His food, water, treats, even praise/love have to be earned by doing something. Even something as little as sit, come, or making him wait for the treat while you hold it in front of him. Make sure the dog takes the treat from your hands gently. Do not tolerate a mouthy dog.
    8. You should not lay on the floor to watch TV when the dog is around and no one should roll around the floor playing with the dogs, as a human should never put himself in an equal or lesser height position than the dog.
    9. You are the one who greets newcomers first, the dog is the last who gets attention (the pack leader is the one who greets newcomers and lets the rest know when it is safe to greet the newcomer)
    10. If a dog is laying in your path, do not walk around the dog, either make the dog move or step over the dog.
    11. During the time you are establishing your higher pack position, no hugs should be given to the dog by you, as a dominant dog may consider this a challenge of power.
    12. If you establish eye contact with the dog, the dog must avert his gaze first. If the human averts first this reinforces the dogs higher power position. Tell the children Not to have staring contest with the dog, as if they avert or blink first, it will only reinforce, in the dogs mind, that He is Top Dog.
    13. Ideally dogs should not sleep in your bed. In the dog world the most comfortable place to sleep is reserved for the higher members of the pack. If a dog is allowed to sleep on the bed, the dog must be invited up and not be allowed to push the humans out of their way. Making them sleep at the foot of the bed rather then for example on your pillow is best.
    14. Dogs must never be allowed to mouth or bite anyone at any time, including in play.
    15. Any attention given to the dog, including petting should be given when the Human decides attention is to be given (absolutely No Petting when the dog nudges or paws you or your hand. This would be letting the dog decide and reinforcing, in his mind, that he is higher on the scale than the human.)
    16. Games of fetch or play with toys must be Started and Ended by the Human.
    17. Very dominant dogs who have a problem with growling should not be allowed to lie on your furniture, as the leader of the pack always gets the most comfortable spot. Dogs belong on the floor. If you do decide to allow your dog on the furniture, you must be the one who decides when he is allowed up and you must be the one who decides when he is to get off, by inviting him and telling him to get down.
    18. No tug-of-war , as this is a game of power and you may lose the game giving the dog a reinforcement (in the dog's mind) of top dog.
    19. Dogs need to be taught a “Drop it” or release command. Any objects the dog has in his possession should be able to be taken away by all humans.
    20. Dogs own no possessions, everything belongs to the humans. They are all on "loan" from the human family. You should be able to handle or remove any item at all times from the dog with no problems from the dog. Even if you are taking a chicken bone out of the dog's mouth. 21. Dogs should not be allowed to pull on the leash. When they do this they are leading the way and it is the humans that need to lead the way and show they're higher up in the pack order. (In the wild, the leader of the pack always leads the way; the leader leads the hunt.)
    22. When you put his food dish down, he must wait until you give the "OK" to eat it. Place his food on the ground and tell him to wait. If he darts at the food, block him with your body. You can point at him and tell him, "No, Wait" however do not speak much. Dogs are, for the most part, silent communicators. They feel one another's energy and your dog can feel yours. Yes, your dog can read your emotions. So stand tall and think "Big" and stay confident. do not be nervous, your dog will sense this and assume you as weak. It is this weakness that triggers a dog to try and take over (for the good of the pack, the pack needs a strong leader). Give the dog a command before giving them their food. If a dog does not follow the command (i.e. to sit), he does not eat. Try again in about 20 minutes or longer. Repeat this until the dog listens to the command. When your dog calms down and waits patiently, (ears set back, head lowered even slightly, laying down is good if he is relaxed with his ears back, No signs of growling on his face) invite him to eat his food. The people in the family the dog growls at should feed the dog the majority of the time.
    23. Small dogs or puppies who demand to be picked up or put down should Not get what they want until they sit or do another acceptable quiet behavior. They should not be put down unless they are settled quietly in your arms.
    24. Dogs should Never be left unsupervised with children or Anyone who cannot maintain leadership over the dog.
    25. To reinforce your position even more, you can make your dog lie down and stay there for 20 to 30 minutes a day. Tell him to lie down, then tell him to stay. If he tries to get up, correct him.
    26. Last but certainly not least... when you are around your dog avoid emotions such as fear, anxiety, harshness or nervousness. Your dog can sense these emotions and will see you as weak. This will escalate your problem as your dog feels an even stronger need to be your leader. Think Big and Powerful and be calm, assertive, and consistent. Remember, there is no hiding our emotions from our dogs. They can in a sense, read our minds, in reading our emotions. This energy is the universal language of animals. Talk less, using more body language. Picture yourself, in your own mind as big, powerful and very sure of yourself. Pull your shoulders back and stand up straight. Your dog will feel this. This is your number one resource when it comes to communicating with your dog. Your dog will be happy and secure knowing he has a strong pack leader to care for him.
    By incorporating all these behaviors in his normal day your dog will realize that you the human are alpha over him and he is beneath you. Obedience exercises and classes are great and very useful, however, obedience training alone does not address pack behavior problems.

  • Most importantly dogs will be dogs

    The jobs done by dogs have largely disappeared or have been replaced by careers as pets or participants in a variety of sports or service jobs, but canine predatory instincts are alive and well. The onset and ultimate conclusion or interruption of predatory behaviors follows breed-specific patterns developed and fine-tuned by genetic selection and training. However, these instincts are part of the whole dog repertoire, a fact that prudent owners keep in mind when dealing with a pet dog and choosing a new breed or mix to add to the household.

    The most obvious manifestation of predatory behavior is the stalking, chasing, and often killing of critters in the dog’s home territory. Dogs will chase, catch, and kill cats and other animals that enter or pass by their yards even if they live harmoniously with cats, ferrets, Guinea pigs, rabbits, or other pets in the household. Some dogs will accept the presence of animals they grow up with but will stalk, chase, grab, and even kill newcomers. This tendency makes it tough to bring an adult dog that has a well-developed prey drive into a home with pets of species that it considers fair game.

    Development of predatory behavior varies in individual dogs as well as between breeds. Some dogs of herding breeds show little or no aptitude for the job, but others seem born to the task. Some adult dogs are great with cats; others – to the chagrin of new owners who acquired their new pets from a shelter or rescue group – see cats as prey.

    Puppy owners can assess the potential for prey drive in their pets by watching puppy play. If squeaky toys, rolling balls, butterflies, birds, falling leaves, or objects dragged along the floor elicit stalking, chasing, pouncing, and biting from puppies, chances are the pup will also chase anything that moves and will carry this behavior into adulthood. If the pattern begins early, it may be tough to teach the pup that the resident cat or ferret or Guinea pig is off-limits. If the pattern begins later, after the pup has learned to accept other household pets, he may still be a threat to wild animals and wandering cats.

    Herding breeds, especially those without livestock to work, will stalk, circle, gather, and drive children, a habit that makes it tough for kids to have friends over to play. Dogs with a predatory sequence that includes bite-and-grab can easily frustrate a game of catch, badminton, or croquet or provide constant interruption to batting practice in the back yard.

    The impact of predatory behavior can be minimized through training and by removing the dog from the scene, but the behaviors cannot be erased once they are established.

    Dogs with a high degree of predatory behavior are a challenge to train, especially if the family includes small children or other pets. As puppies, these dogs stalk, chase, and bite ankles, hands, pantlegs, floppy slippers, and dolls, blankets, or stuffed toys dragged around by toddlers. As adults, they may injure or kill other pets and resident wildlife, including the neighbor’s roaming feline or the nest full of baby bunnies in the garden.

    All puppies exhibit some predatory behaviors, but some breeds and individuals seem to have an extra dose. Border Collies are notorious for their workaholic personalities that include the orient, eye, stalk, chase sequence.

    Terriers developed to hunt and kill vermin; hounds designed to track and run down quarry; herding dogs that work by nipping or nudging livestock; and hunting dogs used to confront large game generally have a heightened prey drive that make them unsuitable for owners without the time, circumstances, or inclination to provide proper socialization and training that can ameliorate problems.

  • Understanding different dogs and their behavior

    Basic canine predatory behaviors in seven steps(which we in training call drives) : orient, eye, stalk, chase, grab-bite, kill-bite, dissect. Dogs do not necessarily exhibit all of these behaviors even though they are designed to implement them.

    Orientation on the prey animal starts the sequence. The dog focuses on the prey with an intent stare honed to perfection in the Border Collie, then stalks the prey with a slinking motion to get into position for the chase or pounce. The chase may culminate in a grab-bite or a kill-bite but the chain often breaks before the kill and ends with most dogs before the prey is eaten.

    Predatory behaviors begin at different ages in different breeds; while Border Collies and some other breeds may stalk prey at 10 weeks of age, guardian breeds generally don’t develop this behavior until they are five-to-six months old. Herding dogs orient, focus, stalk, and chase livestock, but with few exceptions, the behavior chain is broken before the grab-bite.

    Flock guardians exhibit none of these behaviors towards sheep because farmers place their puppies with the sheep before stalk and chase behavior are triggered, so the dog becomes accustomed to the sheep and never learns that they might be fun to chase and even kill.

    Pointers, retrievers, spaniels, and other breeds developed to hunt and retrieve game birds also have an interrupted predatory behavior sequence. Spaniels flush their birds and pointers freeze when they scent their birds; both wait until the hunter completes the shot and sends them to retrieve the downed game.

    Terriers generally carry the sequence through to the kill and are therefore still valuable as pest control. Dogs of many other breeds kill small wild animals and non-resident cats even if they get along with other pets in their households. Size may determine modus operandi, but not the instinct to do the job.

    Once dogs get past about 25 pounds, size doesn’t appear to have a lot to do with the propensity to herd, hunt, pull, or do other canine jobs. Canaan Dogs weigh 35-55 pounds; German Shepherds tip the scales at 80 pounds or more; and Corgis reach 25-35 pounds, yet all have herding abilities. Hunting dogs range in size from the Cocker Spaniel (25-30 pounds) to the retrievers (60-80 pounds). Sled dogs built for speed weigh 35-50 pounds; those built to haul heavy freight reach 90 pounds.

  • Dog behavior

    All dogs – purebreds and mixes – exhibit general canine behavior patterns. Dogs are predators with body parts designed to hunt, chase, kill, and eat. Size, color, coat type, activity level, and trainability are all incidental to these characteristics. Yorkshire Terriers and Toy Poodles, Bulldogs and Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Newfoundlands – all are predators by nature.

    Some dogs exhibit breed-specific behaviors such as extraordinary tracking ability, fierceness in the face of ferocious or dangerous quarry, a heightened sense of territoriality, an insatiable desire to run, or an uncanny ability to round up livestock. The American Kennel Club divides dogs into groups depending somewhat on these characteristics: Sporting dogs are those that hunt and retrieve game birds; hounds track mammals by scent; terriers dig into vermin dens; and herding dogs help farmers move sheep and cattle.

    Working dog group includes breeds that guard livestock and territory, pull carts and sleds, and serve man in a variety of jobs. Even the toy breeds had careers – they were companions, bed-warmers, mousers, and flea-magnets in royal castles and mansions throughout the world. The non-sporting group is the only one without a common thread, but most of these dogs had jobs in the past: Schipperkes were watchdogs and vermin-dispatchers on barges and in shops; Bulldogs helped butchers control cattle; Dalmatians guarded coaches and horses; Poodles, Finish Spitz, and Shiba Inus were hunting dogs; and Lhasa Apsos warned Tibetan monks of approaching strangers. Few dogs have real jobs these days, but many retain the instincts that served them and their masters well in the early days,which are misunderstood as bad behavior today due to our lack of understanding and learning .

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