LEARNING YOUR DOG’S ALPHA
By Ed Tasca
If there is one thing that unites many here in Ajijic, it is dog-ownership and understanding dog behavior. Even those without dogs seem to have a certain natural affection for our furry companions, and an equal curiosity about how dogs think.
Now, one of the things canine experts say about dogs is that they don’t think the same way humans do. Nothing new here. If men and women don’t understand one another, how do we expect a Neapolitan Mastiff, for example, to figure out why he’s wearing booties. A dog, experts argue, is only capable of interpreting human behavior through the eyes of a dog, lensed with a primitive reasoning capacity that doesn’t include the logic behind sleeping in separate quarters or passing up fungus-fuzzy chicken bones in the street.
This means that dogs of every breed depend on humans to understand them and not vice versa. Even more so, they expect us to set rules and level instructions so that they understand what we expect from them, even when they appear certain Norsemen are about to storm your front gate.
So in the interests of helping you manage mysterious canine behavior, remain good dog-owning neighbors and train your four-footed pals to stick to sober, amiable sociability, experts unanimously agree on the following advice:
Neuter or spay your dog. Not only is this good for their health, but it will also reduce hormonal dominance levels, and your pet’s interest in running off with the rooster next door.
1.Stop roughhousing and playing tug-of-war with your dog. When your dog wins, he thinks he is stronger than you; and stronger dogs place themselves higher in the social hierarchy of the family. That means he could take it upon himself to redecorate your home.
2.Do not reward your dog if it hasn’t earned a reward. If your dog approaches you and demands to be petted, make him sit or fetch or roll over, or, if he’s one of the smarter breeds, help with your tax-filing (Warning: always double-check any dog’s math, no matter how smart he is).
3.Only issue commands you intend to enforce. In the pack, the alpha dog is never ignored. So, if you experience insubordination from Barney or Bugger or Daisy, your dog must be put in its place. Require him to scratch into the dirt “cooperative behavior is key to pack survival” ten times, or until he forgets what he’s doing.
4.You must always be perceived as the leader. This means you need to be the first one to walk through doors, to eat, and to choose which movie you’ll be watching. If your alpha dog is pulling on the leash or walking out in front of you-- you need to step instantly and confidently in front and assume your leadership position (unless of course you spot a gang of thugs up ahead).
5.Do not let your dog eat at the table with you, and never let it bark with its mouth full.
6.Do not let your dog sleep on the bed with you. It isn’t healthy. And the animal will certainly disturb your sleep, even if it’s using a reading light.
7.When your dog does something right, praise him by saying, “Good dog!” and then by making physical contact. Patting and stroking work well. However, according to the experts, kissing, nuzzling and dancing together will almost always lead to relationship misunderstandings.
8.If you need a little time to yourself and you have a Mexican dog, sit your dog in the car where it will be happy to listen to the radio.
9.Do not treat the animal cruelly, and that includes never dressing your dog up like Lady Gaga.
And finally, if your dog exhibits bad or violently aggressive behavior, correct this immediately and demonstratively. If this unwanted behavior continues, put on your fedora, drape your overcoat elegantly over your shoulders without entering the sleeves and inform your dog that you are the Capo di tutti capi (boss of all bosses), and that the whack on the nose is not personal, it’s business. This works every time.