Rocco Costa, of the Canine Castle in Marblehead, is a well-known dog behaviorist and trainer servicing the north shore area of Massachusetts. He was kind enough to come to Dingo’s on a Saturday to lecture our “human pack” on dominance behaviors and pack management skills. Below is an excerpt from one of Rocco’s handouts:
For dominant or aggressive dogs start training slowly since a sudden display of alpha behavior will think that you are challenging him and may take a hostile course of action. Without understanding how alphas behave can lead to dangerous consequences to assert dominance over an alpha dog. It’s important to get to know your dog since training really depends on both the dog and owner as to what will and will not work for them. Techniques used for one dog might work really well but for another it might be useless. The only universal training trick that works is learning to read your dog.
Dogs flourish knowing they have a dependable, consistent leader but if you don’t provide that leadership the dog will assume the position as alpha. Your dog is constantly looking for cues and guidance to who’s in charge. It’s key to use alpha behavior and communication to signal pack position in your home for your dog. This is because dogs are genetically programmed to fill this void in leadership which can cause stress to your dog since he/she thinks they are responsible to lead his/her pack in a human environment which is beyond its mental capabilities. Stress can be shown through a range of excessive barking or even to lethal aggression. Here are some cues to take to reinforce your alpha position to your dog below:
-Your dog should understand that they depend on you so no free feeding. Feed them once or twice a day and take the food away after 20-30 minutes.
-Treats must be earned. Require a simple trick every time your dog received any treats.
-Leaders eat first. It’s important that you sit down, eat your food, and then give your dog its food.
-When going through any opening like a door or gate, you go first. Leaders go first, so command your dog to sit or wait.
-Leaders control territory. If he’s sitting in your favorite chair or in the middle of your bed, you have to make your dog move. It’s your territory and you have to let them know that. Command or nudge him/her so he/she moves leading them off your territory. Keep it non-confrontational.
– Avoid giving a command you can’t enforce. When you give a command, enforce it.
-Leaders are winners. Don’t play any game you can’t win since they will think that they are in charge for winning the game over time. However, “don’t rough-house a pushy dog. If you do play games with toys, make sure you, not the dog, determine when the game is over. End the game before the dog is tired of it. Put the toy out of reach then, don’t leave it with the dog or on the floor.”
-It’s important to show your dog love and attention but don’t be a push-over for the dogs who demand it constantly. “If a pushy dog keeps asking for something, time after time (play ball or keep petting me), refuse. Place the toy out of reach and ignore requests. The same goes for pets who demand constant petting. Ignore the requests.”
-Maintain your alpha stance with direct eye contact, standing tall over your dog, standing shoulders back, chin out and had back.
-Speak in a commanding, calm, and confident tone
-showing your teeth helps
– Leaders are understanding and kind. They know dogs aren’t human. Your dog will not understand that you just had a bad day or what mood you are in but will react to it.
-Leaders will never hit. Creating fear and a sense of being cornered is a recipe for disaster. If you find yourself being angry, take a break.
-Be consistent. Consistency is everything to a dog and they thrive on rules, repetition and consistency and ritual. Keep it simple and don’t add unnecessary words in your commands.
For more information, or to get in touch with Rocco directly to schedule a training consultation, contact him via text: 781-718-4749
Wag more. Bark less. Dingo’s Dogsitting.