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I read in few places that if a puppy has an access to high places like the sofa, bed or being on our knees, it leads him to feel his the "alpha", and therefore be less obedient.

Does this theory have any evidence?

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No, that is a myth. Today science says that packs are more like family and the parents are the naturally leaders of the puppies. For more information read this article.

The important part for your question is this:

Let’s look at the myths[..]:

  • Dogs who jump up on people think they are the alpha.
  • If you let your dog sleep on the furniture he will think he is the pack leader.
  • Don’t let your dog sleep at the top of the stairs as he will be higher than you in the pack structure.

All of these are similar. If a dog is growling at you when you ask him to get down from the sofa, you have a guarding problem, not a ‘dominance’ problem. Most dogs like warm, comfy places and if these are at a premium for him, the dog is more likely to guard them.

If you allow your dog to behave like this you are rewarding unpleasant behaviour, so you will get more of it. If you stop the dog going on the furniture, you will stop the behaviour - you haven’t just made yourself more ‘dominant’ you have just stopped allowing the behaviour to happen and how you teach that will affect your dog’s future behaviour. If you want your dog to sit with you on the sofa, or sleep on the bed that is fine- it is your home, your dog and your choice, just ensure that your dog has proper manners around everything, e.g. waiting to be asked to get on the sofa and getting off when asked.

If you don’t want your dog to share the furniture with you, do ensure that he has a very comfortable, draught free bed of his own so that he doesn’t covet yours.

I personally often refer to dog owners as alphas to remind them that they have to make rules for the dogs and if they won't make them, the dogs will do whatever they want. But I would never say that if you don't have a special rule, your dog will be the leader. Important is, that you have rules, and that you are consistent that your dog plays by your rules, no matter which ones. Dogs have different personalities and some dogs are very strong and like to make up own rules very much. To ensure that those dogs obey you in every situation it may helpful to make more rules to train obeying you, but that is not important for every dog. At the end the second to the last paragraph is worth to mention again:

If you stop the dog going on the furniture, you will stop the behaviour - you haven’t just made yourself more ‘dominant’ you have just stopped allowing the behaviour to happen and how you teach that will affect your dog’s future behaviour. If you want your dog to sit with you on the sofa, or sleep on the bed that is fine- it is your home, your dog and your choice, just ensure that your dog has proper manners around everything, e.g. waiting to be asked to get on the sofa and getting off when asked.

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  • Thanks! about the last sentence: "just ensure that your dog has proper manners around everything, e.g. waiting to be asked to get on the sofa and getting off when asked." Do you have any method to have him act like this? or you mean that I have to train him for every task specifically? – Assaf Shouval Dec 17 '17 at 15:15
  • Yes, you have to train him for every task specifically. If you are consistent, the dog may learn to judge you and adapt his behavior to other situations. But you should not build on it. – Haras Brummi Dec 17 '17 at 17:12

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