Being alpha means being strong, confident and brave.
It’s easy to convince a puppy you deserve to be alpha.
You are bigger and stronger, You make scary things go away and protect them from loud noises. You bring the food. You can pick them up if they misbehave. You are being alpha.
I was careful to establish myself as alpha early on with puppies.
Later, I step up my alpha game. I provide good treats, give them lots of attention and ear scritches. I care for them when they are hurt. I take them interesting places and enforce my will in other ways like “you will get a bath.”
I made sure I maintained my role. It is easier to stay on top when you are already there.
Being alpha means I act confident, even when I don’t feel it.
Your body language tells your dog how you are feeling and what you expect from them. If you stand straight, it says you are alpha. You don’t look to the dog for direction, you expect them to look to you, to follow your lead.
If you are me, you hope this works.
One day I was alone in the front yard with three dogs: one old, two puppies. The two sweet girls in the picture above.
The puppies were learning the boundaries of the yard. Learning to stay within those boundaries. This learning was in its early stages. The old dog Thunder was there to set a good example. Except he didn’t.
Thunder, both blind and deaf, decided to take a walk on his own. He’d never done that before.
But there he was heading up the street, following the route we took each morning. Except it wasn’t morning. He wasn’t on a leash and I had two puppies running loose in the yard. He was pretty fast for an old dog so there was no time to gather the puppies into the house. The puppies didn’t know “stay” yet. And this wasn’t the time to learn.
I went after the old dog because he was in the most danger (same prioritizing paradigm I used when my kids were little.) I maintained the alpha erect posture.
I did not look behind me to see if the puppies were following. I assumed (hoped) they were. I was not foolish enough to expect two puppies to sit patiently in the yard and wait, getting into zero trouble in my absence. They were a cattle dog mix, in other words, mischief waiting to happen.
When I caught up to the old dog, I made a quick glance backward and yup, there the puppies were trailing behind me. I gently turned the old boy around. We headed back to the house.
This was the tricky part.
I stood tall and really, really hoped the puppies kept following me. They did. I had already established myself as alpha. Or maybe just the source of food.
Whatever it takes.
We all got back to the yard safely. There was much patting of dogs, a big sigh of relief, and a big ole “what were you thinking?” directed at Thunder. He didn’t care. It was time for his nap.
Cesar Milan has some ideas about being alpha.
This is what distinguishes the true pack leader from the rest.
They are honest. They are real. They accept. They are in touch. They are present. They are respectful. They are balanced. And they know their pack.
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