Alpha Rolling or “pinning” has many advocates but as many who are totally opposed to it. It involves rolling the Dog on its back and pinning its head to the floor by holding its neck.
Many say it does nothing as a corrective punishment and is NOT as some (including me) believe, copying how Dogs act naturally.
All the opinions in this post are mine alone. I am NOT recommending anyone to try any of the techniques. Alpha rolling is a training tool for seriously bad behaviour and if you are not totally sure of how your Dog will react it can be extremely dangerous.
Well, that’s out of the way! I don’t want anyone to get hurt and my Dog training is based on what I have found to work and everyone should get proper, qualified, advice if they are ever in any doubt about correct training methods.
Why Not to Alpha Roll
Many believe that the only time Dogs Alpha Roll each other is when they are actually trying to kill each other. They believe it is the way they try to pin another animal to basically get at its throat. It is also commonly believed that if you do it to your Dog it will think, naturally, that you are trying to kill it. It is further believed that if you have a submissive Dog you will make it even more timid and if you have a very dominant Dog it will become more dominant.
It is also (correctly) pointed out how close you are to the Dogs Jaw, and if it decided to attack or bite you it would most likely be successful.
Alpha rolling is seen by many as something that simply does not occur in the wild as an act of asserting dominance. They believe it is simply not done and if we alpha roll our Dogs we are simply putting the fear of God in to them.
Why You Should Alpha Roll
Personally I don’t believe the above. I have performed it and I did not see a look of abject terror in my little bone munchers eyes. I saw her in an act of total submission, knowing she had been very naughty and surprised at how quickly and severely she had been told off.
It did not have any negative effects on her behaviour, quite the opposite. She behaved better in lots of ways as she was well and truly told who is the dominant one. I believe Alpha Rolling does assert your authority and confirms you as the dominant one unlike what many others believe.
Alpha Rolling stops the bad behaviour instantly. It puts your Dog straight in to a submissive position and dissipates instantly the pent up aggression and energy that has led to the bad behaviour.
I believe it is copying what Dogs do naturally. A lot of the controversy over this technique is concerned with if Wolves perform it in the wild. I am not concerned with Wolves, I am concerned with my Dogs! When playing they quite often go in to submissive positions. They are just playing, but if things get rough or one of them bites a little too hard they will put the other Dog in to the submissive position. This is the difference. Putting the Dog in the position is a quick way of asserting authority and correcting very bad behaviour.
Alpha Rolling – How to do it
Alpha rolling is a serious issue and MUST be done correctly. It is best first used on young Dogs as trying to do it for the first time on a large adult Dog will be near to impossible.
Pinning is used primarily if your Dog is showing acts of aggression to other animals or when it has done something extremely BAD. It must be performed immediately, it will not know why you are doing it if you wait until after the unwanted behaviour has occurred.
- Grab the scruff of your Dogs neck and pull( without hurting or using excessive force) downwards so your dog becomes submissive and lies on its side.
- Put your hand on the side of its neck and keep its head pinned to the floor
- Keep eye contact for as long as possible
- Ensure you have told the Dog off whilst performing the actions, it needs to know it has been bad
- Loom over the Dog making it submit and know it has done wrong
- Keep the Dog there until it has totally calmed down
Many see this as arcane and outdated, believing hands on punishment should never be performed. It is often cited that you are actually making your Dog believe you are trying to kill it. I disagree. I have performed “pinning” on only a few occasions and it has always worked instantly.
Faye was once very bad and completely hyper, I performed the Alpha roll and she was instantly subdued. She calmed down instantly and knew she had been very BAD indeed! She went straight in to a submissive roll, breaking eye contact with me after a while and when I let her go she stayed in the submissive position voluntarily for a little while. When she finally got up and eventually came over to me in a calm manner I gave her a fuss and that was it. It is important to reaffirm friendship after you perform any form of punishment. You do not want a scared Dog.
Faye is by nature a very dominant boisterous Dog and it is for this type of Dog that I believe the method to be most effective on. She was not overly scared, she just knew that she was getting told off in a very serious manner. I asserted by role as the leader and it made her very well behaved.
I would NOT perform it on Daisy, who is a very shy, gentle girl. I believe it would have a negative inpact as she would be scared of the overt aggression. It is all about common sense and knowing the nature of your Dog.
As stated earlier I am not recommending anyone do this as I don’t want to be responsible if anything goes wrong or, at worst, you get bitten. I do not know the nature of your Dog or how it will react, or even if you can perform it correctly.
What I would like to know is do you Alpha Roll?
Do you think it should be performed or do you think (ike many others) that it is cruel, outdated and you are making your Dog think you are trying to kill it?
May the Doggie Force be with you all.
Good post. I think alpha rolling is a perfectly legitimate training technique, in some cases. I agree that trying to physically assert dominance over an already submissive or shy dog could have negative long term effects and counteract their already gentle nature. The thing to think about when considering the merits of alpha rolling is dogs thrive in a well formed hierarchy, and if we want them to co-exist in our world we need to be top dog. My fiancee and I adopted a puppy, which we named Winston, with a bit of a hard-luck story almost two years ago and he had a very dominant personality combined with aggressive tendencies towards anyone but us. So we needed to step in and remind him that he’s not the “pack leader” and we won’t tolerate behavior like that. We didn’t need to always roll him on his back, a pinch of the neck or a forced stare down would often suffice.
Another thing to ask yourself when considering alpha rolling is “Am I in control?”. This goes for both in control of the dog and in control of yourself. I don’t think any self-trained dog owner/handler should attempt to assert dominance over a wild or red-zone dog. Also you have to be in the right state of mind when getting in your dog’s face. If you punish or dominate your dog in anger, the dog will feel the anger and the technique will probably not have the desired effect.
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Hi Mike H, thanks for a very constructive comment.
You are absoutely right that you need to assert your status, especially with dominant Dogs.
State of mind is very important, it is very important to be as calm as possible when correcting your Dog. Training is so much more effective when you are calm..
I believe done correctly and when applied properly, Alpha Rolling can be an incredibly constructive tool. Beyond correcting negative behavior, when used properly, Alpha Rolling can actually build the relationship between human and dog. Dog learns his behavior is inappropriate AND that he is safe with his human, while in a completely submissive pose.
I have two VERY small dogs, with whom this would not be appropriate, especially since they are pretty well behaved. Before I knew much about Alpha Rolling or dogs in general, I got my puppy Louis. I thought it would be cute to train him to be comfortable on his back and to gently roll him over for belly rubs and kissed.
Now, if I move my hands toward him in just the right way, the tail is waggin’ and he rolls right over. This even works if I am trying to discipline him if he has done something VERY bad. His mind immediately switches speeds and he goes straight to calm submissive, belly rub receiving mode. Its not QUITE alpha rolling, but he certainly knows who is in charge when he rolls over.
My other dog is a rescue who was terrified of people when I got her. I would have NEVER Alpha Rolled her and honestly, she has never gotten that out of hand. But she copies her older brother now and rolls over for tummy rubs almost constantly. Ha!
Hilary, that’s great. Our more submissive Dog, Daisy, is a rescue as well. As you say there is no need to do it with more gentle Dogs.
I like your technique and it really is amazing how quickly it dissipates that energy and they become totally calm.
All the best and thanks for a great comment.
Hmmm very interesting post – I was never even aware of this “alpha roll”
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Good post. Very informative. I havent really thought of how it was named until I read your post. I do Alpha Roll on my dogs. But not on all of them. I have three by the way. I think it is a legitimage way of training your dog. I think the most important factor to consider is the type of relationship you have with your dog and of course your dog’s personality. I even have one dog that (I think) does an alpha roll on me when we are playing! (he does it with his paws).
Taris, it is a technique that works very well but you must be sure of what you are doing.
Swarovski, sounds like one strong Dog! Glad that you think it is a good training technique, it is a very strong way of asserting correct behaviour.
I have an Australian Shepherd and REGARDLESS of how I assert my authority, he just doesn’t listen. 2 Obedience trainers have refunded our money because they have failed to train him and I not sure if this Alpha Roll will work, this dog is freaking aggressive and unresponsive!
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Hi Organic Designer, as stated in my post I am not recommending anyone to try it, especially with an agressive Dog. I don’t want to be responsible for anyone getting bitten.
It must be performed with total confidence and you must be sure your Dog would never try to bite you.
Why not look for a new trainer? There must be good trainers who will take him on.
Also one of the most important things is to completely tire the Dog out. I bet he is full of energy. Try a massive, and I mean massive walk and then see how responsive he is. I am sure it will help. Dogs quickly become naughty when they have extra energy.
I hope this has been of some help and wecome to The Three Dog Blog.
Thanks for the welcome, yeah, this dog is a damn hand full, haha. I’m going to tired him out and report back to you on his condition…. if he doesn’t tire me out first
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Organic Designer, hope a big long walk works some wonders. A tired Dog really does make for a happy owner!
Let me know how it goes.
Organic Designer – So sorry to hear about your training issues. I think you need to find the right trainer. I know that my agility trainer could handle it.
I alpha roll … I am the Alpha Bitch and I’m proud of it.
When Trooper was a puppy he growled at daddy and daddy rolled him over, said no, and was above him in dominance. We’ve even “bit” (not hard) our dogs on the nose as punishment.
Even now that Trooper is so big I alpha roll him when he tries to attack other dogs … which has happened a couple of time snow … when he’s being possessive of his food and me. The last time I did it, I got him on the ground and on his back and one of the trainers brought her dog to stand over him. it was great!
Of course, I also got bit pretty badly by Timber when I tried to roll him a month or so ago. But that was my fault – if you don’t do it right (and don’t have enough room to do it right) it can be dangerous.
Castocreations, I think you are right, there must be a good trainer out there who could handle an unruly Dog.
Sounds like you know exacty what is involved when you alpha roll.
I am also glad you shared how dangerous it can be if not performed in the correct manner or in the right surroundings.
“Alpha Bitch”, Iove it!
I think dogs get the message from an alpha roll as long as it’s done right and at the right time. It works for my dog when his excitement level has escalated to an inappropriate level during play, like when he’s nipping at people running by – totally unacceptable behavior. I do use the alpha roll. There are also other instances where I put him in a stay position on his side to calm him down. I see this different from the “roll” because he hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong, but just needs to chill out.
But, the problem I see with me doing the alpha roll is I tend to do it once I’ve lost my temper, and then I’m doing it out of aggression myself! Obviously this is not the right message to send my dog and could scare him or hurt him. I’m using myself as an example because I know there are many people who are the same way and who repeatedly use the alpha roll incorrectly. For example, I shouldn’t be letting my dog get to the point where he’d nip at someone in the first place, even if he is just playing. He should be leashed and told no or to stay. Unwanted behavior can be caught and corrected long before an alpha roll is needed.
Lindsay, thanks for a very genuine and honest reply. Controlling our own temperament is definitely a part of successful Dog training. I am sure everyone has tried some form of correction when their emotions are stopping them from getting a much more positive result.
I know what you mean about scaring the Dog when you are angry. We have to be so careful with Daisy (the rescue). She reacts so strongly to the slightest hint of aggression and it is easy to forget soemtimes how delicate her nature still is.
Thanks for a great and honest comment.
My wifes an alpha bitch… she bites too haha. I’m working on finding a new trainer as we speak, i just don’t have the time anymore with him. He gonna have to learn or get sent to a farm.
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Organic Designer, hope you can get a good trainer.
Don’t send him to the farm! I’m sure with the right trainer you can work out the probems.
Excellent post! Thank you! I have a hyper shiba inu pup who tries to dominate me, biting and scratching. Now that I know how to correctly implement the alpha roll, I’m hoping it’ll help before his biting escalates and he becomes an obnoxious adolescent.
I have a minpin chiwawa who is very fun dominate to all her dog friends and usually listens, but she has started to bark more often, now that we live at my parents. There dog is so bad and barks all the time and is rubbing off on my Kleo, I finally tried this alpha roll gentle, she was upset but quickly was happy gave me cuddles and started playing again. Thanks for the info I think she knows not to bark inside now.
Thanks i found your article very interesting, my 4 month old Westie (Woody) has just misbehaved quite badly, so i felt the need to alpha roll him, i performed the roll calmly and correctly and within 20 seconds he was totally submissive, i then gave him a belly rub as he likes this, i then let him be for a while, he is now laying next to me on his side being a bit grumpy, what should I do now, leave him to stew a little or make friends or will this show weakness as Westies do have a little attitude i m a bit confused as what to do next ?????
Thank you for a reasoned article. I have worked with dogs for more than 30 years as a companion dog owner and instructor for basic obedience. I didn’t like the alpha roll and didn’t do it and I didn’t understand it either. I decided to alpha roll my new puppy at the suggestion of the breeder who advised that it would make it easier to potty train the dog. When I roll him it is never in the context of a correction or training, it is something that I’ve done, casually, with him every few days initially, and now every other week or so. It is done, and continues to be done, without angst or any verbal communication from me and I hold him down with my hand on his chest, not his neck, until he relaxes. I have tried reading up on others choices and reasons for alpha rolls and if they do them and why, but have found them to be so varied in their perceptions of what an alpha roll is and how it is done and why that I have come to the conclusion that there is too much wrong information about them to be of much use to anyone. I would not want to use the alpha roll as a correction for a dog, especially in proximity to other dogs or people; or with any dog that I was unaware of their drives, or history. At this time I see it as information for the dog about dominance by me that doesn’t have to be forced by me, simply done, objectively and calmly, without threat or punishment. As the puppy grows larger I will continue to convey this “information” by lifting his front legs off the ground with my hand under his chest and holding him that way until he relaxes. My perception of the alpha roll has changed because of this experience. Potty training was a relaxed and happy success and it remains to be seen about its effect on future training. I don’t like to discard any techniques for training and managing dogs since dogs are all different, as are their handlers, but I wasn’t sure if there was a value in using it as a correction; your article, though, has given me reason to reconsider. Since the dog is now familiar with the action and that it is not a threat or punishment to him, only a “statement of fact” (I’m the boss, not you) he may respond better to it as a correction as an adolescent pup. I will have to try this and see.