Friday, November 5, 2010

Alpha Rolling A Dominant, Aggressive Dog Is A BAD Idea

A call came today about a four month old Pit Bull who has been developing food aggression to his owners over food since he was eight weeks of age.  The behavior is escalating.  His owner called around and was referred to a Pit Bull rescue group for advice.  According to the dog's owner, she was instructed by someone at the rescue group to grab the dog, flip him on his back and hold him down until he submits to this treatment, known as an alpha roll. 

There are several reasons this is an incredibly stupid idea.

Number one:  It is extremely dangerous to the person doing the rolling.  If the dog is already aggressive and dominant, he is going to fight as if his life depends on it to right himself--and that could include biting the roller.  The rollers face in this position is very close to the dog's teeth.  If the person trying to do the roll is not of incredible strength, agility and coordination--and if that person lacks experience, has any fear, or hesitates for a split second, the dog is going to somehow free himself.  In the best scenario, the dominant and aggressive dog will escape from this treatment and will satisfy himself knowing that he is truly the dominant one.  In the worst case, the dog will bite the human and do terrible damage.

Number two: The handler is not calm and not in control.  The dog will experience the whole process as if the roller is going to kill him.  He will fight for his life.  The roller must also fight for his or her life, literally.  There is nothing calm about the handler at this point.  And because it has become a contest between two opponents, there is nothing controlled about this situation.

Number three:  If the conflicts and problems with a dog have become so severe, the dog and the owner need to be evaluated by a professional.  Most aggression problems develop slowly over time and are the result of inexperience on the owner's part.  In other words, most aggression problems are caused by the owner.  Sometimes, however, the dog has been badly wired from birth.  Dogs, like people, can have mental problems.  If this is the case, the dog needs to be put down.

Keep the situation safe for both dog and human.  Do not attempt alpha rolls.

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