Anyone out there still thinking the old alpha-rolling-your-big-Rottie-technique is a good one?
In the latest issue of Applied Animal Behavior Science, a new study reveals that aggressive training methods result in an aggressive pet. According to the study’s author, using “confrontational” methods such as the stare-down, growling at the dog, physical punishment, and alpha rolling not only do not correct the problem behavior, they can make aggression worse.
This is not news to most veterinary professionals, I would venture to say. Granted there are some old-school types out there who still use force and intimidation in their clinics, but most of them are retired due to age or, quite possibly, injury. It is a daily occurrence for me to walk into an exam room and be greeted with a growling dog trying to stare me down. Rather than stare or growl back, I simply get a muzzle (we sometimes euphemistically call it a “party hat” if the owner seems shocked at Buddy’s behavior) and tell the owner I will be using it. If they protest, which doesn’t happen all that often, they are welcome to leave.
I will never forget the vision of an owner, a man in his 40s, rolling around on the exam room floor trying to pin his Akita and thus demonstrate (unsolicited) for me his highly successful alpha-rolling technique. As they laid there nose to muzzle, I could only plead with him to stop before he lost his nose. Needless to say this did nothing to increase the dog’s docility and he was in fact a major handful. I observed one other ill-advised person attempt this on a submissive pit bull and end up with a face full of urine for his efforts.
To date, I haven’t seen anyone try any of this on a cat.