A simple way to start this post is to say that I think those that believe alpha dominance is required for the role of being a canine guardian are completely out of touch with dogs. There is no question in my mind that the quality of the relationship and respect you show to your dog and the respect they have for you based on your past behavior and their experience with you means everything in your ability to get the most from your dog.
For some who are ignorant of the true nature of the relationship one can have with a dog based on respect, a narcissistic and self centered view where bullying and abuse are how you control behavior, or that somehow height and position actually determine their role in the household is archaic. Dogs have developed relationship skills that we have so much more ability to elicit good and desirable behavior when it comes to our requirements based on the quality of our relationship, that I can’t help but shake my head in disgust at someone who thinks medieval ideas and their perceived way of the wolf is the only way. In fact, even leadership in wolf packs requires the respect of the pack for the leader and vice versa.
People can be incredibly naive about the true perspective of their dog. So many times I see people make judgements based on human standards or a complete misunderstanding of what they believe to be normal behavior for a dog. My dogs, for example, can get on top and play above me and still understand that I am the one who is in charge. Yes in play, position is a part of the fame, but even then a confident dog can easily and voluntarily play from the bottom, on their back by choice, knowing their role is by choice. I have the respect of my dogs. This is obvious in how they treat me and how they treat other people in their lives.
There will never be any question of who in my house defines what behavior is allowed and what is not and there will never be any question of who controls when and how circumstances unfold. This relationship and the behavior that I expect from my dogs and the behavior they know I want from them has been been defined for them clearly and consistently and the behavior I expect has been trained and rewarded to build their confidence and desire to produce behavior that makes me happy.
And they know that I will do everything I can to protect them and that I will always be there to guide them and reassure them when they seek that guidance. When they look at me and expect a positive acknowledgement. A smile, a positive consequence for doing as I desire. There is nothing better than seeing your dog look for this reassurance and reinforcement from us and there is nothing better from their perspective than getting that positive reassurance and reward for doing something right, something they know you desire.
I have no doubt that the quality of the relationship and respect mean everything and that rolling your dog and dominating them, or bullying them mean far less. And your dog loving to roll on its back for you to bite and play, to wrestle with them and to Iove them; there is nothing sweeter.