What exactly is the Alpha Roll?
It just pains me to write these words yet it’s a discussion worth having…still.
I am now in my now 36th year of coaching people about body language and energy and how to teach their dogs to be happy members of their families. There was a period of time when I was getting way too many calls about aggressive 9-12 month old puppies. It didn’t matter the breed. From Yorkies to Great Danes people were beginning to fear that their puppy was going to bite them or already has.
It took me about a 6 months to make the connection. After inquiring about the training methods used since puppyhood, most were using the classic and antiquated method, ‘the alpha roll’. I kept asking myself why now, all of a sudden, this onslaught of pups around the same age becoming aggressive with their owners? Alas, the light went off in my head. The classic book by Monks of New Skeet came out “The Art of Raising a Puppy”. In this book, people were taught to do the alpha roll with pups the minute they came home and in every room in the house, to establish dominance. Unfortunately, people are still doing it today and why I feel it’s important to write about it.
UGH! It’s one thing for a dog to do that to another dog and almost always as a last resort, it’s yet another thing for humans to do this to a dog and worse to use it as a training tool with puppies. What happens when humans try to imitate dog behavior or better to say imitate aggressive dog behavior is that it will backfire nearly 100% of the time. The reason for this is that we don’t really understand how it’s used in dog to dog interactions and being used as a training tool only makes the puppy more reactive. Dogs don’t actually do an alpha roll. The dog on the bottom actually throws himself on the ground and the other dog stands over him. A reactive puppy is more likely to become aggressive. One can do just about anything to a puppy but when the puppy begins to grow up she will not tolerate this continued behavior and begin to fight back, first by grabbing your hand. If the behavior continues they have no choice but to defend themselves. This results in the pup becoming aggressive. An abused puppy will become fearful. A fearful puppy becomes an aggressive adult dog.
Learning appropriate leadership skills without force will create a willing and compliant partnership that will last a lifetime.