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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Alpha dogs are made, not born

Posted Thursday, September 3, 2009, at 6:41 PM

I'm not a fan of this Michael Vick person. Why should I be? What if those dogs he had been putting into fights had been my friends?

Dogs are trained how to act by humans. When dogs are vicious, it's humans who made them that way.

But humans sometimes train their dogs to do bad things without realizing it. A lot of times, it's because they mistake us for little humans.

I've managed to con my human into believing that I want to snuggle up to him. Actually, I'm just trying to get up on the couch so I can claim high ground. It's my alpha instinct. I shove my head under his hand trying to get him to pay attention to me.

My human has caught on, somewhat. He read up on how dogs think and I've had to make some adjustments. I wait until I'm invited up on the couch or bed now instead of going up there on my own.

My human's roommate had to set me straight the other day. I decided to make a fort out of her pillows while she was at work. They're all nice and piled up, so I don't really move them around. I kind of burrow my way between them.

I did that late at night a few days ago. She was going to bed but I didn't want to move, so I growled at her.

She set me straight, quick. She did not hit me. Neither my human nor his roommate have ever hit me. She scolded me with a stern voice and I listened.

Dogs aren't little people. We need authority even more than your children. But we also respect authority and as long as you're consistent with us, we'll do what you want.

And if there's behavior you wouldn't find acceptable from a big dog, don't let a little dog like me do it, either. You may think it's cute when a little dog jumps up and down, but he's not playing. He's trying to put himself on you just like a big dog who stands up and tries to put his front paws on your chest. If you wouldn't let the big dog do it, don't let the little one do it, either.

Sometimes, the little dog forgets he's little and tries to do big dog things. I kind of forget sometimes when I'm taking my human for a walk. Sometimes, I see a big dog and I forget for a second I'm little. A firm tug from him on my leash will snap me back real quick.

"Oh, right," I think. "That's a Great Dane. I'm a Rat Terrier. My bad."

But behaviors are learned, either through training or through a human's actions. Even pit bulls aren't 100-percent bad when they're born. But more people tend to train them bad and this is when you get problems. A pit bull can be a good dog as long as you train it right.

Michael Vick, obviously, trained his dogs in the worst way. Those dogs weren't naturally bad but they were trained bad. The ones who survived can be untrained and I'd bet they would like that. It's not a dog's natural instinct to be the alpha, despite that saying. Alpha dogs only become alpha dogs when it's clear there's no leader for the pack.

I'm a good dog because I have good humans who act as my alpha for me. I hope other dogs can consider themselves lucky in the same way.



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