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I am having an email exchange with someone about alpha rolling your dog. It is not something that I do or believe in using but the person I am having the conversation with does believe in using “the roll” as a training method in some cases, and has done so with great success (his words). I am curious to know if anyone else still use the alpha roll as a training method?? Or have used in the past and what made you stop using it?

I am also curious to know if anyone knows why the Monks of New Skete expressed regret at having included the alpha roll technique in their book. It is because they no longer believed in the method or rather because 'untrained' people were attempting it willy-nilly and it was not giving the desired results?
 

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The Italian One
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Not sure why the Monks backed away from this and a few other of their teachings other than to say that newer more gentle ways that actually worked better came to light. We all learn and grow, maybe that's what happened for them?

I do not use the "alpha roll" myself.
 

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I would never us it on any of my dogs.. Nor does the training facility I work at advocate it.. And I work/train with some very experienced trainers..


I'd be curious as to what great success this person has had and under what conditions they thought a dog deserved to be rolled??
 

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The old pro "alpha roll" teachings were based upon (misinterpreted) studies of wolf behavior. It was cutting edge at the time, but has since been discredited by futher studies showing that indeed wolves don't go around rolling one another. And a greater understanding of canine behavior amongst both dogs and wolves, and people realizing that while dogs and wolves share many characteristics, a dog is NOT a funny looking wolf and, most importantly, it is not so stupid to think humans are really funny looking wolves or dogs and therefore we don't need to try to communicate to our dogs like we're members of the same species.

I have used the alpha roll exactly once. When an upity, full of himself 2yo male decided to issue an all out challenge and launched at me. I had no leash, and ended up catching him mid air, doing a hip roll and body slaming him to the ground, and then holding him there while choking him and sitting on him until he gave in. This was a very extreme case and in that case the dog initiated the confrontation (which is the only case in which a higher ranking wolf would roll a lower ranking one). It happened once, and he got the message and we never had another problem.

I would never initiate such a confrontation with a dog, and I certainly wouldn't go around rolling a dog just for the heck of it in order to show the dog I'm boss. It's inappropriate, cruel, a good way to get yourself bit, and an excellent way to teach your dog to distrust and fear you. There are much better, gentler and, most importantly, easily understood by the dog, ways to establish leadership.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
That is my feeling too. I would never do that to any of my dogs it seems cruel. But from what he is telling me they have used "this method with tremendous success in dealing with dog aggression". I fail to see the connection between alpha rolling your dog and dog aggression..
 

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I will confess that I've alpha rolled one of my dogs, one time. Sasha was extremely food/toy aggressive when I got her, and really decided to take it out on my parent's old dog (a female). Sasha would attack Scootie without any warning growl or provocation (Scootie would just be walking past a doorway, eyes averted), grabbing her neck and shaking to kill.

After having witnessed and broken up one such incident, the second time she tried it, I grabbed Sasha mid-leap and did pretty much what Chris described above. I scared the pee of out that dog. That TOTALLY ended any aggression issues Sasha had around other dogs. It was like it finally clicked in her head that I would NOT tolerate that behavior.

I have never done it since and would never do it again unless it was a life-or-limb situation where I was protecting myself or another animal.

ETA: I re-read Chris' post and I didn't sit on her or choke her, just had her by the scruff and slammed her hard to the floor on her back. I let her up when she got the hint.
 

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Originally Posted By: DinoBlueThat is my feeling too. I would never do that to any of my dogs it seems cruel. But from what he is telling me they have used "this method with tremendous success in dealing with dog aggression". I fail to see the connection between alpha rolling your dog and dog aggression..
Well, any sufficiently horrible consequence can extinguish a behavior. Dog goes off on another dog and gets rolled, beaten senseless or any number of things and it may well learn NOT to go off on the other dog.

Any behavior change is due to the dog experiencing a significant physical and mental trauma at the hands of his trainer, and wanting to avoid that again. It's not the roll itself that solved the problem, it's not some mystical way to communicate with the dog in dog language... it's just a really bad thing the dog wants to avoid again.

Fear of consequences can be a very good motivator for changing behavior. But it's not the gentlest way to do it, most often isn't the best way to do it, and it doesn't deal with the underlying cause of the behavior. Treating the symptoms alone isn't reliable or going to hold up over time and any situation.
 

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I know, Chris. I just used that as a stop-gap measure to get her issues under control so that I *could* use gentler methods. After that incident, I used a lot of positive redirection to sort out her problems. Today she is great, friendly, and isn't afraid to properly correct a dog for inappropriate behavior.
 

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Originally Posted By: pinkanml

ETA: I re-read Chris' post and I didn't sit on her or choke her, just had her by the scruff and slammed her hard to the floor on her back. I let her up when she got the hint.
Just to clarify, I didn't choke him to the point where he couldn't breath or anything like that that some trainers will advocate for "dealing with dominant dogs". It was more a good, two hand hold on his neck to try to imobilize his head because he was still fighting, thrashing, snarling and trying to bite.. and that was the only way to keep myself out of the ER. As it was, my mom who was visiting at the time and saw the whole thing go down had already grabbed the cordless phone and was ready to dial 911. As soon as he got the hint and quit acting like an #&$*%, I let him up.
 

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Originally Posted By: pinkanmlI know, Chris. I just used that as a stop-gap measure to get her issues under control so that I *could* use gentler methods. After that incident, I used a lot of positive redirection to sort out her problems. Today she is great, friendly, and isn't afraid to properly correct a dog for inappropriate behavior.
Sorry, my post ended up after yours but I was responding to DinoBlue's comments of what the trainer was using as his justification for rolling dogs. It wasn't directed at you.
 

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Originally Posted By: pinkanmlWow, that really sounds intense! Glad you didn't get hurt!
It was. Though my mom certainly did overreact.
And I never thought I'd end up putting years of Hapkido training to use in that particular way... to hip throw my own dog.

It was a very good learning experience though. He's one of the relatively rare dogs who will try to move up the ranks if given a chance, and I was inexperienced enough at the time that he got some mixed signals from me that made him think the opportunity was there, and a few chances to give it a try.

I've since learned much better was of teaching respect, trust and leadership that keep things crystal clear to the dog, eliminate any confusion or perceived chances for the dog to advance in rank, without ever getting into arguments with the dog or having to resport to such extreme physical measures.
 

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Quote:I fail to see the connection between alpha rolling your dog and dog aggression..
Me either..

A while back I was out at a pet store and this gentlemen came in and was alpha rolling his dog because it was dog aggressive.. Well, needless to say he rolled that dog several times in the course of his visit and the behavior never stopped..
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thank you Chris (I was hoping you would answer). I find this very interesting. So in this instance this trainier is saying that he will use it in dealing with strange dogs if he thinks it is needed. He does aggree that this is not a method that should be used by the general public because it is unsafe done the wrong way. But even in dealing with an older gsd that has dominance issues there must be other just as effective ways to deal with that? And safer..

I have seen dogs on the SchH field that have been given a correction they did not understand go after the handler and have seen how that been dealt with and there has been NO rolling of dogs.
 

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The best written article explaining how the alpha roll does not make sense in my opinion is written by Lou Castle. MRL posted it a while back. Here it is... http://www.loucastle.com/dominance.htm .

The best part of it is...

"If you watch some dogs at play, for example at a dog park or the zoo, or watch the Discovery Channel. Use a Video Camera (or record the TV) so you can play it back several times. You'll see what at first looks like an alpha roll but when you examine if carefully it's not even close. When dogs do this, the dominant dog doesn't force the submissive dog to do anything. It's the submissive dog who's doing all the work. The dominant dog puts his foot up on the submissive dog's shoulder or back and the submissive dog rolls himself under the dominant dog.

And so when you do the alpha roll thing you're doing something that's completely foreign to the dog, rather than something he's familiar with. You're showing him that you're bigger and stronger than him, but he already knows that. It's the action of a bully, not a fair and just leader."


Spend some time with your dogs and see if this is not true.
 

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Never read the article by Lou Castle but I can so relate to the quote you just posted! I see this behavior all the time between my Dalton & Scooby. I even have pictures of the two boys doing this. Dalton is the dominate dog and Scooby the submissive. I have never once seen Dalton “roll” Scooby. Scooby will lie down in front of Dalton and roll over, Dalton just stands there in his very macho - proud stance.
 

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I have never used it, mainly because I am not comfortable with it, nor am I comfortable working with dogs that are aggressive or pushy enough to possibly need it (assuming alpha rolling helps aggression, which I really don't think it does). It's one of those things I just choose not to get into.

The only incident I've ever had with my dogs was a few weeks ago, my dogs were playing with Deirdre's Samson. My dog Coke and Samson love to play, but sometimes Coke just gets too worked up after a while. Neither dog was biting, but they were both sort of pushing on each other and barking. My DH grabbed Coke's hips and pulled him away. He had a little time out too cool off and that was that. They started playing again and were fine. I suppose that would be an instance where an alpha roller might have alpha rolled one or both of the dogs.

Personally, I do my best to avoid or redirect situations that get out of control. I've never really tested my dogs for food aggression because they eat out of their own bowls at the same time in their crates (doors open). The often share kongs, nylabones, or investigate each other's bowls and there haven't been any problems. In situations like above, now I know what signs to watch for when Coke is getting too hyper and we can have him chill out a bit before returning to play, rather than letting the situation escalate to the point where an alpha roll is needed.

That, and I really don't feel like I have to "prove" anything to my dogs. If they can't respect me and enjoy my presence based on our training and activities together, than there's probably something *I* have done wrong.

Now if my dog ever went after another person, yes I would do something drastic, but I don't think that's the same as using an alpha roll for training.

ETA: I just read the quote and I totally agree. Coke rolls all the time, but HE rolls for Kenya. It *looks* vicious, but HE is the one rolling. She never forces him and she always lets him get back up.

 

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Originally Posted By: pinkanml

I have never done it since and would never do it again unless it was a life-or-limb situation where I was protecting myself or another animal.
I did something like that recently, but I'm not sure that alpha rolls aplies here. It was more the case of a very weak nerved dog, excited after fence-fight with another dog that lounged at my face when I touched him. I grabbed him by the scruff and held him firmly against the floor, but it was more because the dog kept trying to bite me, so to hold him that way until he showed me submissive signals was not a matter of training, it was a matter of health and self-preservation.
 

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^^ I think in those situations, it's justified. I wouldn't really call that an alpha roll, more like "get OFF me!".

When I volunteered at the shelter a lot, this lab mix jumped on my back as I turned to steer him back towards the shelter. He started biting my neck and then lunged again, biting my rib cage, hips, thigh, ankles. Then he grabbed onto my upper arm and pulled so hard it felt like he was gnawing my arm apart. I could not get him off me since he was basically my size so I just went limp until he let go. He had seen my DH walking another shelter dog in the distance and must've gone all reactive on me. DH kept coming closer with his dog and my dog kept biting. Finally DH realized what was happening and came to peel him off of me. When I went over the incident with the behaviorist, she said I would have been justified in rolling the dog. She's a more traditional trainer. However he was too big, I never had the chance to block him and roll him since he came at me from behind originally. Luckily it was winter so I was wearing layers. There were many puncture marks and very deep bruising on my left arm (took months to heel), but the punctures were more like scrapes with deep bruises, no tissue torn off. After the adrenaline rush, the next few days I felt very sick, exhausted, and depressed. If I had an opportunity to push him off and roll him I would have, but he just kept lunging and pulling at me so hard, trying to fight back just escalated it.
 
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