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Is the "alpha roll" ever appropriate in the grooming shop?

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  • Is the "alpha roll" ever appropriate in the grooming shop?

    I am working as an apprentice under a groomer who has been grooming for 15 years. She is a fabulous stylist and a perfectionist at her work. I have learned a great deal from her and respect her talent. However, when a dog gets "out of hand" she picks the dog up and puts in on its back with her hand around the dog's neck. She does this until the dog looks away from her. I had never witnessed anything like this before I started working with her. She calls this the "alpha roll." When I looked the term up, it appears to be an archaic training method. To me, this was a horrifying thing to witness, and my instincts tell me to help the dog, but this is my employer and she does this on a regular basis, and has been working in this field for so long. Is this technique ever appropriate in the grooming shop? She reprimands me if I don't do this when a dog tries to bite while having his nails trimmed. She actually took a dog off of my table once and did this to him. The dog had tried to bite me after I accidently quicked his nail, to me this seemed like a natural response to pain. Am I misunderstanding something?

  • #2

    Hi Miranda & welcome to one of the BEST learning tools on the planet!

    In my opinion, you don't have enough experience to do the alpha roll on a dog. It's too risky. And for your boss to reprimand you for not doing this is unbelieveable! I wouldn't do it.

    I saw your other thread & you could start learning to groom right away, or you could stay a bather until whenever . It's all about how fast you want to learn.

    I have a lot of dog experience in general. I started out working as a vet assistant to a vet tech, to a breeding/show kennel employee, to a bather, to a groomer. I don't remember ever - (I call it "pinning") pinning a dog who didn't belong to me. Even then it is so rare a thing.

    Hope this helps.
    I'd think others will have lots to say on this.



    • #3
      I have, on occasion, turned a dog over when it is being aggressive. Never in anger though. Just calmly turn the dog onto its back for a few seconds until it looks away. Then stand it back up and continue where I left off. Why does this sound so horrifying to you? I had a little shihtzu that would try to bite whenever I trimmed her face. I did this and she calmed down immediately. She didn't get upset at all. She just stood their calmly and let me trim her face.


      • #4

        I OCCASIONALLY use this technique, but mostly on puppies who are being really aggressive and have not been groomed more than a couple of times. It really is effective if it is used appropriately. I would NEVER use it on a dog who is fear biting or one that is too big for me to handle very easily.


        • #5
          I've done it on occassion. As long as it isn't in anger, I don't really think it is wrong. I won't ever do it infront of a customer though because I'm sure it looks much worse than it is. Any time I've done an alpha roll it has been on a puppy who is misbehaving, so they learn right off the bat what is allowed and what isn't. I don't think I would do it on an adult though, because well, it would be too hard on bigger dogs, and who knows the history of where these dogs have come from, and I don't want to get myself hurt.


          • #6
            I worked at a place that spanked dogs and did alpha rolls. I have also worked with people who yelled at dogs. I do none of this. I have tried to learn the positive at places and not the negative.


            • #7
              These were adult dogs, who were regular customers. And it was horrifying to me because the dogs "offenses" where ones that could, in my opinion, be easily remedied by using a muzzle or regaining the dogs trust. What is most horrifying are the noises these dogs make when it is happening. These are not the normal noises you hear from a dog being groomed who is just whiny and not like what is being done. These are loud, continuous cries from an animal who is afraid of what is about to happen to him. I read that after the people who originally suggested this training actually retracted the encouragement of the practice. After continued study they found that dogs physically force another dog onto its back only as they are about to kill them. In play, when we see a dog go to it's back when another dog challenges it, they are willingly falling onto their own back, not being physically held there by the other dog.


              • #8
                Well, I've heard it called a "Puppy slam," and that was not what I felt was appropriate----the puppy was rolled on its side or back VERY fast. Then held down. I wont do this.

                Then I've heard of "Dominant down," which I have done, but on rare occasion, and only with puppies. I have a method that has worked much better for me that I learned from my first grooming employer.

                When the dog is acting up while on the grooming table or in the tub, I take my hand (right handed here) and cover the dog's face while pushing down on the bridge of the nose. I hold it down, but do not obstruct their nostrils or just above their nostrils. Then I look into the dog's eyes until it looks away. This has worked VERY well for me more than once.

                I used a "dominant down" recently on a puppy in the tub. I just picked him up, layed him on his side and held him there until he calmed down. It didn't work for him, but it gave me a breather, lol.

                The dominant down or 'alpha roll' can be used inappropriately, but as far as using it "appropriately," there are arguments for and against it, and so this is just another opinion of many.

                To me, the most important thing about this issue is not that your boss is doing it as much as if she's doing it calmly, or in anger and frustration.

                Tammy in Utah
                Groomers Helper Affiliate


                • #9
                  This can be a very effective tool to use only when needed and not to be an abused practice.This isn't something an untrained person should be doing either.I never use this method on a puppy as there are other less assertive methods to build trust and compliance.I usually reserve this practice to those small little stinkers who are allowed to run the household by their owners and whom mother nature didn't bestow a real alfa dog status.
                  Last edited by Doggone; 05-09-07, 03:16 PM. Reason: wrong choice of word/meaning


                  • #10
                    I think Tammy summed it up best in saying something to the effect of "Your boss doing it or not doing it is not the concern to me so much as the attitude she is doing it with"

                    If she is angry and frustrated and grabbing dogs throwing them to the ground and pinning them down to vent her own anger that is bad. On the other hand, there are many ways of training and handling dogs and for years this was an accepted method. Here is a question for you. Is it working? hehe

                    For myself. I would not ever grab a big dog that I didnt know and wrestle it down. I dont feel as a groomer its my place, nor is it my prefered method. Not to mention it can be dangerous. I have however used the method with puppies of rolling them onto their side and holding them there until they give in and have had incredible day/night results with it. It is always done without anger or frustration. Once they calm down they get a nice massage and soothing words and ears rubbed then *I* roll them up gently. I actually learned this method yrs ago in a puppy kindnergarden class. I was then shown it again in grooming school.


                    • #11
                      NO, NO, NO...NO!

                      Dogs acknowledge other dogs as Alpha, they acknowledge family as "Head of the House", groomers as someone to respect. But, I have seen and heard too many times of dogs turning on someone it especially happens when SOMEONE tries to put theirself on the dogs level and tries to assume of force themself as the Alpha.


                      • #12
                        I don't do it. I'm sure it has it's place, but I wouldn't do it to anyone's dog because we don't speak dog. If we're telling that dog, "Hey, bub, I'm alpha here" (or trying to for that matter), he may be telling us, "Bring it on, sweetheart, I'm gonna have your for lunch!!" You never know when it's gonna backfire on you and the dog isn't in the mood for backing down. I don't think all dogs can be dominated, and I don't want to find those ones by placing my arm/hands/face within biting distance. Plus, if it comes right down to it, I'm not cut out for a toe to toe (or canine to human tooth, lol) battle with a dog wanting to truly prove who's alpha.
                        No Fur, No Paws, No Service.


                        • #13
                          Harry, my only employer did it.

                          Harry, being a man could do that alpha thing. I have only turned pups on their backs. I find lately having the feet slightly off the table helps. I also read here and tried holding a pup by the scruff of the neck completely off the table and firmly saying NO! It worked last time I did it. I also notice my lil Sophie maltie poo became trusting around her eyes and is now very good once her baby sister arrived and they sit on the table and in tub together. The baby, daisy was always good from her first groom, but she had Sophie right there for moral support. N.ow we have groomers helper. BTW Harry was my boss back in the 70s and showed Standard Schnauzers and one of his, Charley tried to dominate Harry to no avail. He hated to be mocked by Harry. He was only safe at dog shows, but I never got near him at the shop.No he never alpha dogged him as an adult...puppy, I don't know, but probably. I have seen Cesar do it. I think he is amazing and anything he does with a dog seems good to me. He saves dogs everyone else has given up on.


                          • #14
                            Personally, I don't think the alpha roll has it's place in the grooming shop at least with adult dogs.

                            I have rolled very fresh puppies on their backs while cradling them in my opposite arm and told them no and shhhhhh lor AHH Ahh and hold them until they calm down and that has worked.

                            To take a dog that hardly knows you and you don't see everyday and put this kind of challenge to it is dangerous in my opions.

                            If you can not safely and humanely handle a dog and get it groomed without doing that then I would send it elsewhere.

                            I do this to my own dog in a playful way but he's knows I won't hurt him and it's not a challenge but he was the worst puppy in the world to roll over when he went to puppy class he would snarl and growl and curl his lip for five minutes it seemed like and now he thinks it's the greatest thing. It's amusing now because they used to have us switch puppies in the class and everyone would cringe when they got Sonny because he was so fresh about it, if they could only see what a big marshmallow he is now when I put him between my legs and cradle him and rub him and love on him. I guess it wasn't really an alpha roll cause we didn't pin them just rolled them on their backs and held them til they stopped fussing.

                            You never know what kind of trauma that dog may have suffered that could be intensified by this action.

                            There was one groomer/bather who did this constantly at the last shop I worked at.


                            • #15
                              No, it is never appropriate!

                              It's an incredibly risky thing to do to a strange dog, and not something I will ever again do to any of my own dogs, having ruined two dogs with that "Alpha wolf" cr*p. What you may gain momentarily in behaviour you will lose overall in any kind of trust or relationship with the dog.

                              Imagine your shock and horror if you were at the beauty salon with a hairdresser who did not speak your language, who suddenly pinned you to the ground threatening you!

                              If your boss is reprimanding you for not doing alpha rolls, I would personally be looking for another job.