Alpha Theory

Alpha Theory – Truth or Friction?

Does the Alpha Theory in dog training portray truth or f-r-i-c-t-i-o-n among dog trainers and handlers?

No, it is not fiction… Amelia has been around the dog world a long time and has experienced various methods of training dogs, including the Alpha Theory.  Way back when, dominating dogs was always taught in obedience classes.  If you didn’t dominate your dog, then you were not considered the leader of the pack. Unfortunately for us dogs, this form of training has been made popular once again…

We’re not naming names but you know who I mean. Amelia detested this method and so did her dogs that she wanted to show in obedience.  In fact, her Miniature Poodle acted out and just shut down…no show time for her if it wasn’t going to be fun and games. She even tugged at a judge’s pant leg when he came up from behind her, getting into her zone. No, she didn’t bite him…just gave him a warning. She was way too smart for that…

Thankfully, for my sake, positive reinforcement training gained popularity and Amelia became a student and then a teacher of this fun method which reinforced the bond between the dog and the handler. As she taught AKC Star Puppy and Canine Good Citizen classes to raise funds for the Frostburg Dog Park, she was able to see the smiles on the handlers and the tails wag on the dogs in her classes because it was no longer about dominance but about benevolent leadership.

Amelia had the pleasure of meeting Roman Gottfried, founder of Holistic Training™ and owner of Roman’s on a Blab recently. Other trainers participated in the discussion of how dogs learn.  Heck, they even talked about the amygdala’s role in whether the dog can think once they are over the threshold…humans refer to this as “overwhelm” when they are learning a new task. The discussion went deep and kept me interested.

You can watch the blab here:

So let me bring you some highlights from this almost 2-hour-long discussion. You may want to know what kind of handler  your human is so here are 4 handler distinctions as revealed by Roman Gottfried.

Authoritative Handler: Are both responsive and demanding; they are firm, but they discipline with love and affection, rather than power, and they are likely to explain rules and expectations to their Dogs instead of simply asserting them.

Authoritarian Handlers: Are also highly demanding, but they are not less responsive; authoritarian handlers tend to be strict disciplinarians, frequently relying on physical punishment and the withdrawal of affection to shape their dog’s behavior.

Indulgent Handlers: Are responsive, but not especially demanding; they have few expectations of their dog and impose little discipline.

Disengaged Handlers: Are neither responsive nor demanding. They are neither responsive nor neglectful or unaware of the dog’s needs for affection and discipline.

As a dog groomer in an early chapter of her life, Amelia would see the results of the way dogs were handled in the household. The dogs that were easy to groom lived in authoritative homes where they understood the rules and led happy lives. The nasty, angry dogs were frustrated by their authoritarian handlers using the Alpha Theory. Some of those dogs were overly submissive. The little bullies came from a lifestyle of indulgent behavior on the part of their handlers who were trying to appease them. The sad, lifeless dogs came from disengaged handler homes where they were just a “dog” rather than a member of the family.

So where does your pet parent fit into these distinctions? Hopefully, you are living in an authoritative household where you are happy and loved.

If you want to learn more from Roman, connect with him on his Blab channel and subscribe to his blabs.  You can find out more by going to his website: Roman’s I love his mission statement: Teach Owners to Become Your Dog’s Best Trainer – Reach your Dog’s Full Potential™

We hope that you found this information useful and will share it with others…

Living in the moment,


Pet Companion to animal lover Amelia

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