Puppy Advise-Does she think she is Alpha? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-14-2011, 07:53 PM Thread Starter
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Puppy Advise-Does she think she is Alpha?

I am a first time GSD owner and just need some advise from people who know this breed.
Do they assume that you are not the alpha if you let them sleep with you on the bed or let them get on the couch?

If they are "head intolerant" meaning they dont let strangers pet them on the top of the head is that another sign that they think they are large and in charge?

My puppy is 4 months today and didnt want the vet to pet her head and didnt cooperate on getting her teeth checked or a rectal temprature....he told me that he thinks that she thinks she is alpha and needs more training. We are doing the puppy classes at the local pet store and I am going to start taking her to puppy day care. She does listen to the adults and minds very well.
Thanks so much for any advise.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-14-2011, 08:12 PM
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The whole "alpha" theory is outdated. Even the guy that came up with the theory says it's wrong.

So, she didn't like a stranger that smelled of other animals fears and illnesses to touch her. That is NOT uncommon. First, petting on top of the head is a dominant position. Unfortunately, not all vets are great at reading body language or understanding what their body language is saying.

Vet offices SMELL funny! Vets SMELL funny! Did he walk right in and just get to business? Did he do anything to win her trust? He reeked of other animals. Their fear, their illness, and just other animals.

When Jax was a baby, I took her in at least once every couple of weeks to get weighed, walk around and then left. The receptionist talked to her, she got acclimated to the smells without anything strange happening to her. Try doing that. It works for many people.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-14-2011, 08:16 PM
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As a general rule (and I'm sure there are exceptions) vets are not animal behaviorists. I would not take what a vet said about my dog as truth.

A lot of dogs do not want a stranger's hand going over their head. This is a mildly threatening move, and it's perfectly normal for a dog to avoid the contact when it is presented in this manner. A person who works with dogs as often as a vet does ought to know that it is not a great way to pet a dog who may already be a little stressed out from being in an unfamiliar situation.

It does sound like you need to work on increasing your pup's tolerance for being handled. Did you bring treats in to the vet with you? A treat can go a long way towards making the exam a more pleasurable experience. I'm sure a lot of other people can chime in here with more advice on how to make a vet visit easier on your dog.

Be careful how much stock you put into the whole alpha concept. I know a great many people believe in it, and that's fine if it works for them. I didn't find it helpful to think of my dogs in this way though, constantly feeling like I was being challenged for my authority. It made me much more punishment-oriented in my training techniques, and I think this goes a long was toward weakening our bonds with our dogs. Once I set aside the idea that my dogs wanted to be in charge, and viewed their behaviors through a different lens (they were just being dogs who needed to have the right motivation to behave the way I wanted them to) their training became much less stressful for me and for them.

Classes are great, keep going to them. If you don't feel like they are working, don't be afraid to find a new trainer who uses different methods. Every dog responds differently to a training method, so what worked for my dogs might not work for yours. Don't ever use a training technique if it makes you uncomfortable or upset.

Do a little bit of research on a concept called Nothing In Life Is Free. This is more of a way of living with your dog to help her learn impulse control and how to earn rights and privileges. This is how my husband and I raised our dogs and I feel like it helped us avoid many of the behavioral issues that so many other people face with their puppies.

Good luck!

Leah
Niko: American Showline GSD 5 years old
Rosa: American Muppet Dog (GSD/Border Collie mix) 5 years old
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-14-2011, 09:26 PM
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A 4 month old puppy is learning its environment and some have more 'pushy' personalities than others. They aren't all the same. I never believed in allowing dogs on furniture, but many do and that's fine. It may be that attitude that helps me maintain the hierarchy between dog and human. I am sure to get many arguments on that. The fact that your dog resists being handled by strangers means he is normal. How much do babies like being handled by doctors? Any vet should know that petting a strange dog on the head is a mistake. They are coming over the top with their hand and that is a threatening gesture. A strange dog should be approached in a squatting position with the hand patting/rubbing the chest or under the chin. That is much less threatening. As for NILIF, I don't believe in it.
I use treats to train my dog only until she learns what I am teaching. After that she does it because she knows how. She gets treats whenever I feel like giving them and it is a pleasant surprise for her. That's just my way, I am sure you will hear many better ones.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-14-2011, 09:34 PM
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Just for the record, NILIF is NOT based on training with treats. It's based on the dog having to EARN rights, dinner, etc to teach them that indeed...nothing in life is free.

My dog sleeps on my bed, on the ottoman, on me at times...she knows I'm human and she's a dog. Never had a problem with her thinking otherwise. And she IS the dominant dog in the household.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-14-2011, 09:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jax08 View Post
Just for the record, NILIF is NOT based on training with treats. It's based on the dog having to EARN rights, dinner, etc to teach them that indeed...nothing in life is free.

My dog sleeps on my bed, on the ottoman, on me at times...she knows I'm human and she's a dog. Never had a problem with her thinking otherwise. And she IS the dominant dog in the household.
NILIF is having to do something to get treats, rights, dinner.
My dog gets treats, rights, dinner without having to perform for them.
I am duly chastised. Thank you for the clarification.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-14-2011, 09:40 PM
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Funny, I don't like being patted on top of the head or getting my teeth cleaned either. And I SURE wouldn't like the whole rectal temperature thing. It's amazing what we expect dogs to put up with and never complain.


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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-14-2011, 09:41 PM
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Quote:
It does sound like you need to work on increasing your pup's tolerance for being handled.
This MAYBE an issue. Not not info to tell. Sounds like you're doing the right things. Your vet has no business thinking he should be "alpha" or be able to dominate your dog, but your dog should allow the vet to do his job. He has no business making a comment like that because HE can't pet YOUR dog - that's silly. Some stuff you have to blow off. You just need to interpret your dogs behavior under the circumstances. If you feel tolerance was low, it's an easy thing to work on at 4 months.

Ava has always been indifferent to adults trying to pet her. No fear, no negative reaction but she'll turn her head away from 90% of new encounters - ears up and smiling the whole time. To me, it's a good solid GSD trait. Our dogs should not be expected to readily accept an immediate top of the head pet from someone new or not very familiar, especially in an unfamiliar setting. Ava will accept any new kid though - bear hug, grab her face, doesn't matter she adores all kids. With her I believe this is good temperament 1st, and heavily controlled and consistent interaction with young kids from very early on 2nd.

Sounds like you have a good dog and you're doing the right stuff. Just be watchful and use common sense. I trust my vet for health issues, behavioral opinions like this not so much.

Steve

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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-14-2011, 09:41 PM
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Originally Posted by PaddyD View Post
NILIF is having to do something to get treats, rights, dinner.
My dog gets treats, rights, dinner without having to perform for them.
I am duly chastised. Thank you for the clarification.
No. NILIF is not all about having to do something to get a treat. And again...save your snarkiness for someone else because I certainly didn't take an attitude with you.

NILIF is earning their rights. That "treat" may be a toy, attention, their dinner, the right to be on the couch...it doesn't mean they have to dance for a milk bone.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-14-2011, 09:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Jax08 View Post
No. NILIF is not all about having to do something to get a treat. And again...save your snarkiness for someone else because I certainly didn't take an attitude with you.

NILIF is earning their rights. That "treat" may be a toy, attention, their dinner, the right to be on the couch...it doesn't mean they have to dance for a milk bone.
If NOTHING in life is free then they have to perform somehow to get anything. I only get a snarky attitude when I am corrected incorrectly.
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