The Alpha Roll, A Dog Training Fail



Honestly, it sounds like bad sushi. In reality it’s simply bad dog training.

An alpha roll is dog-directed human aggression. It’s when a person tackles, knocks over, or picks up and slams a dog to the ground, pinning him there. Variations include the human showing his teeth, growling, and / or putting his face next to the dog’s. I was once instructed to bite my dog’s neck. She looked at my like I was an idiot, which I was.

Do not do this. Period.

It is dangerous to the dog. Depending on the force used it can strain joints and break bones. It is also dangerous to the person doing it. If you’re lucky the dog will simply think you’re stupid (as mine did back in the day). More than likely, though, your dog will try to defend himself. They do that with their teeth. Your arm and hands are good targets. If you go for the face-near-face version of the move, then it’s your face that could end up bloodied.

Plus, alpha rolls are ineffective. They do not teach your dog that what he just did was wrong. Anger-driven attacks are random and emotional. Effective punishment is consistent, immediate, and measured (Think: video games and red light cameras). Even the noblest attempts at punishment-based or balanced dog training have gaping holes and terrible side effects. At best alpha rolls teach your dog that you are weird. At worst they teach him that you are dangerous and unpredictable, not to be trusted.

Alpha rolls turn us into buffoons. Actually, it’s the trainers who convince us to do them that turn us into buffoons. Question the trainer who has you yell “baaaa” at your dog or pin him to the ground while growling. If it feels ridiculous to do those things, trust me, you look ridiculous doing them. Just don’t. And, if the trainer’s answer is that momma dogs discipline their puppies that way, fire them on the spot. Mamma dogs also eat their puppies’ poop. Case closed. You’re a human being. Not a dog.

What was your dog doing that led you to become a cartoon version of yourself and alpha roll him? Now ask yourself this: what should your dog have been doing instead? That’s real dog training.  Did the dog growl over a toy? Okay, not nice. Let’s teach him to bring the toy to you. I can show you how. It’s totally doable. No need to burden yourself with that dominant dog training nonsense. Just train. You’re smart enough, I promise. Is your dog ignoring you, running away from you, stealing things, eating poop (I think we covered that one), or generally being unruly? Leave the rolls on the sushi cart. Now. Train. Your. Dog.  What do you want him to do? Look at you? Run to you? Fetch your things? Quit the shit show and settle down? Those are all trainable tasks. You can do it with easy (yes easy) positive reinforcement methods.

I like my clients. I want you to look smart. I want you to discover how smart your dog is, too. More than anything I want you and your dog to have a happy, peaceful, and safe life together. Your dog deserves that. And you certainly do.

Michael Baugh teaches dog training in Houston TX. He specializes in the use of positive reinforcement techniques to help aggressive and fearful dogs. No actual sushi was harmed in the making of this blog.

The One Thing Your Dog Needs to Know for Hurricane Season

Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA

It’s the one thing all of our dogs need to know for hurricane season – where to poop and pee.

But, wait. Don’t all our dogs already know where to potty? Yes, maybe. And, maybe not.

Most of our dogs know pretty well where to do their business near our home on a sunny or mildly inclement day. Things can get a bit iffy, though, if the weather is really bad (some of us already know that). And lots of dogs forget potty training altogether if they are staying in a different home or (worst case) in a hurricane shelter. It’s up to us to teach them specific potty instructions that will hold up under lots of circumstances.

The core of potty training remains the same:

  • Praise and treats for going in the right spot. We need to be there to pull this off. Practice in lots of places and in all kinds of weather. Pro tip: teach your dog to walk with you under an umbrella. This is so important for puppies, but it can be taught at any age (we can show you how).
  • Supervise your dog inside.
  • Safely confine the dog when you can’t supervise. These last two points are extra important if you are staying at a family member’s or friend’s house, in a hotel, or at a shelter.

And here’s a hurricane hack for folks who already have dogs who are sensitive to pooping and peeing in the rain. You can actually purchase a box of grass and teach your dog to do his business there – maybe in the garage or under a patio. All the same rules of potty training apply. But, remember, you’ll want to practice this now not in the throes of a storm. It may take a few weeks to nail it.

  • Guide your dog to the spot
  • Wait for the poop or pee
  • Praise and treat
  • Pro tip: Gather a bit of pee from your dog (you can use a saucer for this). Put it on the sod in the box. The scent will attract him to go there again.


  • Fresh Patch is one brand of grass sod in a box









Build excitement around going potty in the designated spot with a special cue. I use “let’s go potty” or “go outside go potty.” That’s always a sure bet for my dogs. If they hear that cue and go out to poop and pee, they are getting a treat for it. This is video of Stella and Stewie peeing outside during a Hurricane Harvey downpour (so proud of those two).

Related resource: Teaching Your Dog Behavioral Flexibility.

Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA specializes in aggressive dog training. He lives in and works as a dog trainer in Houston, TX