Contributed by: erik Saturday, January 23 2016 @ 11:58 am EST
ESTABLISHING RESPECT R E S P E C T AND WHO IS THE ALPHA IN THE HOME
Any breed of dog who enters your home for the first time is faced with a number of base decisions. He needs to be made comfortable but must understand that he is there because of you and not the other way around. Rescue animals have no way to convey their fears, their triggers from prior events in their history, their reactions to certain stimulus or events, their hang-ups or even the way they are the happiest. As the owner and alpha, you must recognize these issues and take control of the situation to help your dog understand what’s happening. This is the only way that the dog can assimilate into your home and pack successfully. Your new dog must be made to feel at home but at the same time he must quickly know who is in charge and what the rules are for living there.
First your pet must be allowed to examine the home. Obviously if the dog is not housebroken, un-neutered or not spayed or has been living outside, the exploration must be accompanied by you or a member of the family so as to avoid accidents day one. If your rescue is a GSD he will quickly decide who he owns rather than who owns him or her. GSD’s tend to bond to a family but quite frequently have favorite people. It is best to have everyone as their favorite but you need to accept if the dog is more apt to come to any one individual. If he wishes to sleep with any one person, or in the hallway between rooms, he is simply doing what comes naturally. Although he may like the cool floor to sleep on, he is really forming a strategy that protects the family.
GSD’s are instinctively going to protect pack members and not just the one they love the most. There are many GSD’s who will become overly protective which is a training issue discussed later in this article. In order to make certain that all behaviors including protectiveness are controlled there must be an alpha in the home. Mom and Dad as well as all of the kids need to take that responsibility but typically adult GSD’s may have issues taking certain commands at certain times from young children. It is not recommended that the youngest be the trainer but making sure the dog understand that the child is to be respected is essential in gaining overall control of the animal. Training and repeated reinforcement of the rules of the home by mom and day (and older kids teenagers) will make the dog understand the rules that much quicker.
In the case of a new dog we recommend crate training at first until you know all there is to know about the dog prior to allowing him free access to the home when you are gone or asleep.
GSD’s need an alpha because most do not wish to be in charge. GSD’s like to work and work can be paying ball, running around with you under some form of control, leashing walking, obedience or skill training and basically anything that positively occupies their time and allows them to interact with you or other family members is the best form of control. Exercise both physical and mental, is a critical element in having a happy GSD. GSD’s who are not challenged, not worked, not loved, ignored or left to amuse themselves can be a nightmare because they can eat your couch, destroy your home, hurt themselves through stress related mutilation like skin licking or nail biting or they can also become aggressive to get the attention they need.
If you have decided on getting a GSD then you have to take these things into account before you get the dog. If you don’t have the time, don’t get the dog until you do.
To gain your dog’s respect you need to be able to have him recognize your alpha condition to him or to her. If you lean over the dog and ask it so very politely to do something, the dog may recognize that as weakness and not only fail to respond but ignore the order and take matters into his own hands. If you are not in charge they will be. Having an out of control GSD is like having a loaded gun with no idea when it is going to fire or at whom. GSD don’t need harsh treatment to command respect, nor do they enjoy hearing a commanding type deep voice 24/7, but rather a calm yet commanding demeanor combined with an erect posture/stance, eye contact and a proper appropriate command for an action will win the day each time. Rewarding good behavior by a pet or a treat forms this bond and gets the point across considerably faster than without it. In obedience training all family members will learn the proper way to establish themselves as the alpha without being mean or harsh. With all breeds of dogs you always get a better result with a positive attitude, reward oriented interaction and with treats or positive reinforcement when your dog is learning to adapt to you or to a new family.
It takes most rescues 3-5 days to feel they are at home and about 3 weeks to see their true personality come out. Usually they feel they are on thin ice and act accordingly in dealing with a change in venue; but soon after they feel confident they are home they will push the envelope. It is important to establish rules and respect prior to that time so that the transition from just being somewhere to calling your family his own is as seamless as possible.
Respect and Alpha come from a consistent approach to controlling the dog. It is made possible by having rules and being assertive enough to expect a certain result and being consistent in achieving that result through behavior modification and conditioning. The dog doesn’t typically come into your home speaking your language nor understanding commands. He needs to be shown what to do. Don’t expect results without teaching the dog what you want him to do. Obedience training with help show you how to achieve these results, but it is only through your ability to get the desired result will the animal and your family start to understand one another. A happy home is where everyone is on the same page.