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The Alpha Training System

The Lifestyle Canine Communication System is the engine room of Alpha Dog Training.

This overview of the system was written back in 1998 and shows how much thought and clear purpose there was behind these newly focused ideals. The formalisation of the system created a new category of obedience training that is now, 10+ years later being used by others in the industry as a generic term to describe services they offer.

Working under high distraction

At Alpha Dog Training we are proud to have put "Lifestyle" obedience on the map!

"Lifestyle Canine Communication System"

The training system that influences everything we do within Alpha!

From the very early days of Alpha Dog Training (1996) we decided to embark on a journey that would take us away from traditional approaches to dog training. We needed to change the focus from dog obedience training to the more practical concept of "canine communication".

When we first started Alpha Dog Training, we also implemented a lot of new training methods and ideas that were only in their infancy and all working towards developing a more practical and effective way of training dogs for the general public. Since those early days, the 'Lifestyle' aspect of the training system has remained constant, but many changes throughout the classes, with the use of training equipment and the training methods in general, have actually changed the focus on the system as a whole. Our training system is based on the development of simple, common sense training methods and ideals that any dog owner can use to improve their relationship with their dog. The obedience training and problem solving methods within the system are ultimately just a means to this end.

The main focus on the Obedience Training within the system has now shifted to encompass the much broader effect that training has on the relationship (bond) between owners and their dogs. The focus is now on Communication, based on better/clearer understanding of our dogs and their needs within the environment in which they live. This Communication not only accounts for all the benefits of having a well trained dog, but in actual fact, it is also the recognition of all the things that we haven't specifically trained for but will come naturally if the training is done with the dog and not against the dog. Our individual training system is aimed at helping you to learn more about your own dog, and dogs in general. The actual training skills that you and your dog learn should be viewed as a new language that is used to develop a bond and understanding that extends far beyond any of the exercises ever taught.

The Alpha Dog Training Canine Communication System is basically taking into account all the facets that can affect the acquisition of skills and overall understanding needed to have a safe, happy and responsive dog in our society. The Canine Communication Course was introduced at intermediate level to help handlers understand some simple ways in which to use their dog's obedience skills in real time scenarios and to hopefully plant the seed of application into their approach to training and practice in general.

To take this Communication concept a bit further, we should take a bit of time to watch and understand how dogs communicate with each other. If you have ever seen documentaries on wild dogs, wolves or other canids, you would have noticed that they are always communicating to each other, regardless of the type of interaction that is taking place within the pack. Sometimes many of the signals are so subtle and at others the message is loud and clear, but it is always there when two or more canids are together. It should also be understood that members of a wild pack also have to learn these communication skills and as the pups become older and a more integral part of the group, the complexity of their involvement in group activities will be reflected in their individual abilities to communicate their position and cooperate within the pack.

How does this understanding relate to our dogs in their domestic home situation?
A domestic dog is still very much a 'pack' animal and needs the stimulation and interaction from other members of its family unit to help it develop the social skills and manners needed to fit into today's society. The obedience skills learned at training can be seen as taking the place of the complex communication system in normal dog to dog interactions. Rather than getting down on all fours and barking and growling at your dog, we use our obedience commands to help our pets to learn the human/dog 'pack' rules and to develop the type of relationship that can be based on understanding and respect. Using your obedience skills to constantly interact with your dog is creating an environment where the communication should be both practical and consistent, making the co existence within your family unit a very natural and comfortable situation for both people and dogs.

The 'Lifestyle' part of our system name refers to the fact that all obedience training should be aimed at educating dog owners on how best to help their beloved pets assimilate into their individual family unit ('pack'). You will notice that virtually all the training in your obedience classes is done on an individual basis even though you are working within a group environment. With the development of the Random Formation, Random Command, Random Release and Random Practice principles, we have managed to create a training environment and atmosphere that empowers each handler to learn to recognise their own dog's individual needs and abilities even though they are working amongst a larger group. This gives each handler the freedom to work their own dog according to these individual needs and abilities in a manner that will be relevant to not only the training centre, but home, work or anywhere else the dog accompanies them.

All this freedom to work your own dog to its own level within each class is a major factor in the whole 'Lifestyle' training system. One of the ideals that formed the foundation of all our training development was: "The way you train is the way you react". It made perfect sense to us that if you could work individually with your dog during classes, the resultant understanding and recognition of its needs and abilities would easily transfer across to any situation in which the dog was present, at home or elsewhere. In effect, the system is designed to suit the individual rather than the other way around. Rather than march everyone around doing all the same exercises at the same time, in unrealistic straight line formations that amount to no more than just following the leader, the Random Training principles allow handlers to find their own space and incorporate relevant variations appropriate to their dog's individual needs.

If you are having problems with your dog at home or elsewhere, the class structures allow you to seek advice from your trainers on how best to marry the skills learned at training with the applications needed to deal with your particular situation. To add to the 'Lifestyle' component of the training system, many exercises within the classes are put into various real time dog handling skills such as 'meet and greet' or 'going walkabout', where your dog's obedience and socialisation are combined to form a useful application that can be used in many circumstances. Along with this application of skills also comes an understanding of your own dog's likely response to given situations and perhaps a broader understanding of how other dogs are likely to react when in similar situations. Random Training creates an environment where the different situations are endless and require you to understand and work with your dog much the same as what would be needed away from the training centre. Rigid formations are totally unrealistic in relation to how you interact with your dog in the home environment.

The separate 'Socialisation Class' that follows each obedience class is in fact an extension of the skills taught in the Random Training formats. The difference here is that we introduce a variety of distractions that are likely to resemble those that would be encountered in the dog's daily/weekly routine (lawn mowers, power tools, push bikes, roller bladers, etc). Once again handlers are taught to recognise their own dog's individual needs when it comes to being confronted with various noisy or moving distractions and to make allowances as to how close the dog should be to the action. Understanding how your dog will respond to its obedience commands under distraction is a valuable knowledge that can prevent many a tense situation away from the training centre. In this case, Fore warned is Fore armed - if you know what stresses or excites your dog, you can take appropriate action to turn the situation into a positive learning experience, rather than just another uncontrollable incident that adds to the dog's problem or nervous behaviour.

The summary below hopefully explains our focus on the greater 'communication' aspect of training and not just the obedience skills, which on their own amount to no more than tricks without real meaning or purpose.
  • To have an obedient dog requires more than just standard or routine obedience training!!!
  • "Lifestyle Canine Communication System" has been developed to suit the individual dog/handler situation, as opposed to having to fit into rigid or specialised routines aimed at specific or competitive purposes.
  • 'Life experience' for your dog is a random and ongoing process, far beyond the boundaries of any routine and far exceeding the skills required for any specialised training activity.
  • Obedience skills should be viewed as a means of clear communication and understanding between you and your dog, the result of which will be a bond and responsiveness that extends beyond the many specific exercises ever taught.
  • An obedient dog is one that is willing to work through distraction whilst under your immediate/physical control and is also attentive and responsive when it's not.
  • The trust and understanding that results from this close relationship creates a quality of life that should be experienced at both ends of the lead.

This is what training a companion dog is all about:
Living with... and understanding your dog!

As you can see with this overview, Alpha's ideals have been completely focused from the very beginning. Take a look around the rest of the website and visit The Alpha Canine Group website to learn more about our total dedication to training development and service delivery.