Alpha Roll: Is It OK To Force A Dog Onto Its Side As A Correction?

Alpha Roll: Is It OK To Force A Dog Onto Its Side As A Correction?

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Sam Basso
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So, what’s the deal with the Alpha Roll? Is it a good idea to forceably roll a dog onto its back or side, and pin it there, as a correction?

When friendly dogs greet, some will roll onto their backs and expose their necks and bellies. When puppies feel threatened, or submissive dogs feel threatened, they will sometimes roll onto their backs and expose their necks and bellies. When dogs are playing, they will sometimes do what appears to be a killing bite, and pin a playmate on the ground. But, when they are fighting, dogs resist being pinned to the ground by the neck and will fight back furiously, because that means their life is in danger.

The so-called Alpha Roll was developed as a way of mimicking how wolves interact. The theory came out of seeing how dominant wolves stand over submissive wolves, most often in a confrontational greeting. It then became popularized in the US, primarily by the Monks of New Skete, in their classic, The Art Of Raising A Puppy. They showed how to do scruff shakes, Alpha Rolls, facial jowl grabs, and such. And it became all the rage in the dog training community. However, when they re-wrote the book, they disavowed the technique, and told their readers not to do it.

Why was that?

Because it was ineffective, and it could set up an explosive counterattack by the dog.

Then, we had the comeback of the Alpha Roll as a result of the Dog Whisperer TV show, with Cesar Millan. He started that stuff up again. And people started copying it.

I have met a number of people who were severely injured by their dogs using this technique. Another version of this is the “dominance down”, making the dog do a Down command. I have seen someone bitten doing this. Down isn’t a correction. It is an obedience command for putting a dog in a stationary position. I never correct a dog with a Down or Sit command. I also don’t do “stare downs” with a dog, glaring at them with the intent of making them know I’m upset and hoping they will look away submissively. I don’t scream at a dog, either. I’m not stupid. I don’t challenge dogs to fights.

Alpha Rolls, and other such nonsense, are not a good training methods. Don’t do it.

Face it. Your dog isn’t trained, your dog has issues, and you are not qualified to fix what is going on. So, do the logical thing and hire a good dog behaviorist to work out the problems.

If you are hard headed cheapskate, then go ahead and try the Alpha Roll or this other gibberish. Then, tell everyone at the hospital what an idiot you were for doing what you were told was an ineffective, dangerous technique.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.

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