Dogs are pack animals. Their pack family has a very definite pecking order. The leader of this pack gets the best food, place to sleep, etc. If any member of the pack forgets his place, the leader is quick to bite to remind this one that HE is the leader, not the subordinate. The leader does not have anyone to answer to, unlike those lower in the pecking order.
When a dog is part of a human family, the humans become members of his pack. If the dog does not have a firm, consistent human leader, he will assume the role of alpha dog. While this may seem good in some ways (the dog is extremely protective, affectionate and intelligent), it is not good, because when someone breaks the dog’s rules, the dog will turn vicious.
To prevent your dog from becoming the alpha, there are some steps you can take.
- Be sure to spay/neuter. The hormones in an unaltered dog do NOT help him or her become submissive! They have quite the opposite affect.
- Remember that dogs are very good at reading body language. If you are insecure, angry, sad, your dog knows this without you saying a word. Constantly remember, you ARE the leader! Be confident. Be gentle yet firm. Exude an air of authority. Stand straight, and use a strong voice.
- Never ask your dog to do something- command him to do it. As leader, you are entitled to this. Your dog will respect that.
- Walk beside or in front of your dog. If you both are going through a door, you go first. Always. Never let your dog walk or pass by in front of you as that is the place for the alpha, period. If he pushes past you, scold him and remind him that his place is behind you.
- Before rewarding your dog, get him to do a task. For example, before letting him outside to potty, command him to sit and stay. When he does this, tell him good boy, then allow him to go outside. Before allowing him to eat, command him to sit. Once this is done, tell him good boy, and then allow him to eat.
Remember, being the alpha is serious business! A biting dog is a dangerous dog! Laws are in place for “dangerous dogs,” such as pitbulls, chow-chows, rottweilers and more. Many of these dogs as well as other dogs who bite are euthanized quickly. Remember this if being the alpha seems unfair or cruel to you. Isn’t it better to take charge than risk your dog being taken away or cruelly euthanized?
A dog that bites at you or walks away when you scold him or when you try to get him to do something he does not want to do, does not respect your place as his “alpha dog,” or leader of his family or pack. Quite the opposite has taken place – the dog is the alpha, not you! Don’t let that happen!
Taking the above steps really can make a big difference, as I learned through my own experience. My husband has been a dog lover his whole life, so for his birthday in 2002, I decided to get him a dog. My father told me about a co-worker looking to rehome his black lab/chow chow mix. In fact, this man was so determined to get rid of the dog, he told my father he was going to put him down soon if he didn’t find the dog a home. After hearing that, I knew I had to adopt him. Bear was just over a year old, not neutered and extremely dominant. I believe he had been abused in his previous home also, as sometimes his behavior showed evidence of that. For example, if I wore heavy leather work gloves (like when gardening), Bear would attack my hands. Or, if I raised my voice at all to him, even not when scolding him, he would attack me.
Once Bear was neutered and I put the above suggestions into practice, he changed. He became much more secure in knowing that he was safe with us. He also was much less dominant. He tried to maintain some dominance until he died, but a little reminder would cause him to back down. (Being part chow chow, I am sure that is why the dominance was always a part of him, as they are known to be a very dominant breed). Practicing the above suggestions changed a once dangerous dog who easily could have been euthanized into a very loving, caring family member. In fact, about seven months before he died, we adopted two young kittens of about three and a half weeks old. Bear became their loving “big brother” often snuggling with them or playing with them.