Is It Bad to Hold a Dog on Its Back? Facts to Check

Holding a dog on its back, commonly known as the “alpha roll,” has long been a controversial topic among dog owners and trainers. 

Some argue that it is an effective method for establishing dominance and controlling a dog’s behavior, while others believe it to be an outdated and potentially harmful practice.

In this article, we will delve into the concept of holding a dog on its back, explore the underlying reasons behind this behavior, and provide insights into the potential consequences and alternative training approaches.

Understanding Canine Behavior 

To comprehend the implications of holding a dog on its back, we must first understand the natural behaviors and instincts of our canine companions. 

Dogs are social animals that rely on hierarchies and body language to communicate and establish their roles within a group. 

In a dog’s world, an alpha position is typically attained through non-confrontational means, such as body posturing, vocalizations, and mutual respect.

The Alpha Roll Myth 

The idea of the alpha roll originates from studies conducted on captive wolf packs in the mid-20th century. 

These studies suggested that the alpha wolf would forcefully assert its dominance by rolling subordinate pack members onto their backs. 

However, further research has since debunked this concept, revealing that the behavior observed in captive wolf packs does not reflect the natural behaviors of wild wolf populations.

Holding a Dog on Its Back

Contrary to popular belief, holding a dog on its back can have adverse effects on their physical and emotional well-being. Forcing a dog into a submissive position can lead to feelings of fear, anxiety, and even aggression. 

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Additionally, dogs have sensitive anatomical structures, such as their necks and spines, which can be susceptible to injury or discomfort when placed in unnatural positions.

Positive Training Metho

Modern dog training emphasizes positive reinforcement techniques that focus on rewarding desired behaviors rather than using force or intimidation. 

By utilizing treats, praise, and play, we can shape a dog’s behavior in a positive and respectful manner. Positive training methods not only create a stronger bond between dog and owner but also promote a safe and nurturing environment for learning and growth.

Alternative Approaches 

Instead of resorting to dominance-based techniques, there are alternative approaches that can be used to address behavioral issues or establish a healthy relationship with your dog. These include:

Proper socialization: Exposing your dog to various environments, people, and animals from an early age helps them develop confidence and appropriate behavior.

Obedience training: Teaching your dog basic commands, such as “sit,” “stay,” and “come,” using positive reinforcement can effectively manage their behavior and ensure their safety.

Professional guidance: Consulting with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist can provide valuable insights and personalized advice tailored to your specific situation.


In conclusion, holding a dog on its back, commonly referred to as the alpha roll, is an outdated and potentially harmful practice. 

Modern dog training methods promote positive reinforcement and respect for our canine companions, fostering a healthy and trusting relationship. 

Understanding a dog’s natural behavior and using alternative training approaches will not only result in better behavior outcomes but also create a safe and nurturing environment for our beloved pets. 

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Remember, building a strong bond with your dog is based on trust, love, and understanding.