The Alpha Roll is a way to punish your dog after he has done something wrong. You roll the dog onto his back and hold him there until he completely submits. The alpha roll is intended to show your dog that you are the ‘Alpha Dog’ or “Leader of the Pack’ and that he must submit to your authority.
Many people have seen this move on The Dog Whisperer and have been subjected to it in Obedience clubs across the globe. But does it really work? Is it a good way to punish your dog?
There are three common things that happen to dogs that are frequently subjected to the alpha roll.
Scenario 1: So your dog does something that really upsets you and you grab him and throw him down on his back and try to hold him there. Understandably, he puts up a fight because he does not like the way he is being treated. He tries desperately to get up but you hold him down. Finally, you tire out and let him loose and the dog takes off.
What just happened?
Well, first of all, you did the alpha roll wrong. While you were pinning your dog down, his energy was building up and up and up and never got to that point where the only thing he could do to release it was to let go.
So, before your dog relaxed, and while his energy level was soaring, you released him, and most likely he bolted as far as he could away from you. He most likely took that energy with him and tried to find something else to get into.
Or being, terrified of what you just did to him, he’s probably running back and forth, or shaking somewhere and has created as much space as he can between you and him.
What did the dog learn? Well, for one thing, he learned not to trust you. And for another, you helped him to build up his nervous energy to the point where he’s now anxious and will most likely find something else to get into. Good job.
Scenario 2: Your timing is wrong. Your dog did something you don’t like and you call him over to you. He comes running to you as fast as his paws can carry him. Once he gets to you, you throw him onto the ground and hold him there.
What just happened?
You punished your dog for coming to you! Your timing was all wrong! Don’t be surprised if you dog thinks twice about coming to you when you call him. In fact, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t come to you at all.
Scenario 3: You have executed the alpha roll perfectly. Your timing is right and you’ve waited until the dog has completely submitted.
What just happened?
Well, you’ve taught your dog that you’re a power hungry bully who will kick his butt and hold him down if he so much as thinks about doing anything that you don’t want him to do. You will notice that dogs who have been subjected to the alpha roll begin to lost that spark in their eyes. Life is no longer fun or interesting to them. Sure, they are the most obedient dogs ever.
They will listen to your every word because they are scared of what the consequences could be if they don’t. The don’t live lives full of joy, hope, and that playful giddiness that makes dogs so magnificent. They lead lives of fear, knowing that any move they make could quickly become a very uncomfortable situation for them.
These dogs have been turned into robots. They show almost no emotion. They don’t play with other dogs or people. They might play with their human if their owner initiates it, but it’s out of a sense of duty.
I have seen this time and time again with dogs that have been punished with the alpha roll. And I think it’s sad. There’s no reason as to why you should ever use an alpha roll on your dog. I don’t care what the situation is.
With that being said, I don’t necessarily fault the owners who have used the alpha roll on their dogs. I fault the dog trainers that have been encouraging dog owners to use this ridiculous act because they’re too lazy too teach people how to train their dogs.
The alpha roll isn’t a training tool. It’s abuse. Imagine how you would feel if you were minding your own business one day and someone tackled you and held you down while you were trying very hard to get away. How would you start to view the person who did that to you?
There’s a better, safer and more gentle way to work with dogs. And it’s called Dog Training.
Training a dog doesn’t happen over night. It takes time. It requires work and consistency. If you want your dog to stop jumping up on people, then train him to sit still and greet people nicely when they come to the door. If you want your dog to stop digging in your garden, then give him another area to dig in, like a sandbox. If you want your dog to stop begging at the dinner table, then train him to lay in his spot until you are finished eating.
The problem of punishing your dog when he’s done something wrong, is that he doesn’t know what he did wrong. He doesn’t know what he’s supposed to be doing. He’s only responding and acting on his natural canine instincts to do what canines do. They bark. They beg. They jump up when they greet people. This is perfectly normal canine behavior.
If we are going to allow this amazing creature to live with us, then we owe it to them to be patient with them and to show them what our boundaries are in a way that is loving and kind.
As the old saying goes, you can’t do better until you know better. Why should we expect dogs to behave in a way that goes against their natural canine instincts if we haven’t taught them otherwise?
So instead of bullying your dog with the malicious, out-dated, and downright ridiculous alpha roll, show him what it is that you would like him to do instead. Teach him self-discipline and be patient when training.
Don’t be an alpha dog. Be a leader.