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Alpha. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

One of the most misused terms in all of dog training is the term Alpha. I hear this term used over and over again.

Alpha is a scientific term that allows researchers to identify the animal in a social situation who has the most access to the most resources from food to safe sleeping places to reproduction.

Alpha is not about force, aversives, bullying, or dominance.

Here’s a video by Dave Mech (pronounced Meech), the renowned wolf research biologist who coined the wolf “Alpha” reference in his 1970 book The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species, where he discusses how the term is woefully outdated because of subsequent research that proved their original Alpha concept was an unfortunate result of non-optimal study subjects.

It would be much like observing humans in a prison and extrapolating from that that all humans sleep with shivs under the pillows and use cigarettes as currency:

Being the pack leader is about being a parent and not a bully. It’s not about rolling your dog, kicking your dog, poking your dog with a snake-like sound, using shock, pinch or choke collars on them, or using any other aversive tool.

If someone tells you that to be the Alpha in your pack you need to dominate by force or cause pain to your dog, it’s not a position based in behavioral science but is simply their choice.

If you want to be the leader of your pack then be your dog’s parent.

Teach them, guide them, love them, play with them, redirect unwanted behaviors, and control access to resources.  In short, be everything they’re instinctively expecting out of a parent and nothing they’re not.

Not only is this proven behavioral science, it’s just good plain old common sense.

 

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