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Pack Theory - some thoughts

Discussion in 'Dogs - all breeds / types' started by nern, Sep 22, 2005.

  1. nern

    nern New Member

    A previous post got me thinking about this......

    In the past I have spent some time trying to figure out which of my dogs was "alpha" without success. Currently, I'm not convinced that either of my dogs is "alpha" nor am I convinced that they view me as "alpha" in the same way they would view a dog.

    Besides, if there is only one "alpha" and my dogs do see me as such why would it be neccessary to try to figure out which dog is alpha and treat them as such? What about status seeking dogs, alpha wannabe's? How can you be sure that you are not just reinforcing a pushy dog? If dogs really see us as part of their pack and view us as alpha, there would be no need for a second alpha.

    My dogs go out the door in which ever order they get down the stairs first. If the door is shut, both exit the door at the same time. My dogs eat together often exchanging bites from each of the bowls or taking turns grabbing a mouthful out of a same bowl. When I feed them something of higher value (canned food or people food) than their usual kibble I feed them a few feet apart from one another with no problems. If one finishes first the other waits patiently for the dog left eating to walk away before going to the empty bowl to double check for leftover tidbits.
    Both dogs lay on beds together, the couch and often share a dog bed and both dogs get attention and most other things at the same time for the most part. They only get high value chews/bones under supervision and seem to be respectful of each other during these times. For instance, Sebastian guards his chews with his life and Natalie keeps her distance from his space. Natalie does not resource guard but Sebastian still keeps his distance anyway. If Natalie leaves her chew unattended Sebastian snatches it, Natalie then watches him closely for a chance to snatch it back but never just attempts to take things from his possession.
    However, while camping a couple weeks ago my dogs got into their first fight ever over a stuffed kong which ended in Natalie having a fat bloody lip (no harm done to Sebastian) but still walking away from the fight with the kong. I'm positive that the fight would have never occured had either of the dogs had the kong in their immediate possession (or had I been paying better attention). It was Sebastian's kong but he was distracted and left it unattended, Natalie thought it was up for grabs and went for it but when Sebastian realized he tried to grab it before she could and....FIGHT!
    Sebastian fought for it, Natalie took it anyway.....was it because she is "alpha"? I doubt it. Its more likely because she is far larger and stronger which gives her an immediate advantage to any resource if she really wants it.

    Point of this post being that I guess I don't really understand how "pack/dominance theory" fits into my household or many other households for that matter. I also don't think its always so easy to tell which dog is trully an alpha dog. Once source says there is only one alpha (the human), another suggests enforcing an alpha dog. Another that hierarchies are constantly changing depending on the importance of the specific source at a specific time to an individual dog. And yet another states that there is no hierarchy between opposite sexes but a separate one for males and females and that a true alpha is not pushy or aggressive. I guess there are several schools of thought on this.

    What are your thoughts on this theory based on your own households?
  2. DeLaUK

    DeLaUK New Member

    My personal feelings are this, the human is very often not the alpha...although the human often thinks he/she is but forget the humans for a minute.

    The pack theory is 'based' on wild dogs (most animals for that matter have some sort of social order) but domestic dogs and having dogs live within the household you have to keep in mind their enviroment and human influence. Yes, in the wild you will see a pack of dogs, there will be an alpha male and most of the time will be an alpha female (Ive watched some good documentaries on this....there isnt always an alpha female).
    If you have a couple of dogs and you are happy with the way they behave then I wouldnt worry about which is the alpha.

    So, what makes you think that they dont see you in the alpha position? Being the alpha doesnt mean they do everything tell them to do but there are a few things that as humans we do in general that can build up our status to tehm, we are the ones that 'allow' them to eat (we put their food down), we are the ones that will welcome their affection...they want to be with us, but at our say-so, if were busy or sometimes just need some 'alone time' we discourage them from crowding us, we push them away or down off the couch or bed, these things alone to a dog that does not have an innate drive to be the alpha could well be enough to let them know that you are the alpha. It doesnt mean they wont ever challenge you but they will do that in the wild.

    In a pack in the wild the alpha doesnt necessarily intervene in 2 subordinates getting into a fight or squabble....it does depend on what that particular alpha dog sees as important, does he care if 2 subordinates are fighting over a few scraps of food...not if his belly is full.

    The only time I ever do the 'petting the alpha first', 'feeding the alpha first' etc is if there is a risk of the alpha becoming aggressive with the other dogs but the majority of dogs, the dominance is very subtle and is very clear in each dogs mind were its place is within 'the pack' so it never becomes an issue....its there but as humans we dont see it.

    What can happen with an outwardly alpha mindset is when you 'push' the alpha away, the alpha knows his place and so does the subordinate, it can build up frustration in the alpha and fear in the subordinate....or worse give teh subordinate a false sense of security, its confidence may temporarily heighten and at some point there will be a fight....the subordinate will lose because he doesnt have what it takes in his mind....at least not until for some reason, usually health or age are a factor and then there could be a change in status.

    Most of the alpha attitdue is in the mind but size can (not always) make a difference when a fight breaks out.

    just my opinion.
  3. DeLaUK

    DeLaUK New Member

    Forgot to mention....what I said at the beginning about humans often not being the alpha....to clarify, what Ive found in so many cases is people who believe they are the alpha very often are not....people who dont see themselves as the alpha very often are...at aleast in the dogs mind.

    Heres a typical example, I had a conversation with a couple a few months back, they have a Rhodesian Rdgeback, male, about 14 months old at the time. The woman was upset because 'shes not as much fun for the dog as her husband is, the dog didnt like her and the dog was scared of her' although shes never hurt the dog , the dog sees the husband and goes into 'psycho mode' running jumping playing, wresting and growling at each on the floor....the wife walks in and the playtime stops, the dog (Nik) comes to her, tail and ears down but friendly, muzzling her hand....they thought that Nik 'likes' the husband and didnt like the wife, they both felt that he had a bond with the dog and she didnt....I asked them both, what does Nik do when husband calls him....he starts running away or goes crazy or just stays were he is if he doesnt want to play....okay, so what does Nik do when wife calls him, well he always comes to me but hes scared of me.....I told them not to confuse fear with respect, Nik came to the wife every time she called him....no hesitation, he had respect for her....as for the husband....I told him hes just the littermate. :)
    She already was in the alpha position but had no idea.
  4. winnie

    winnie New Member

    Nern, i totally agree with you, my four dogs are the same way, i feed them all in the same room in a row and no problems, they sleep on top of eachother on the couches, i can leave bones out and they never fight, they all share. I dont think one of my dogs is more alpha then the other and if one is then i dont notice it.

    My dogs truly love eachother and get along great. in almost 2 years with 3 dogs i have not had a single fight, and now i have four dogs and still no fights, so i guess im doing something right...lol. I also have 3 girls and i have heard many people say dont get the same sex dog they might fight, but agian i havnt had that problem.
  5. Jamiya

    Jamiya New Member

    I think I have read that a lot of the studies about the "alpha" dogs were done with a pack of dogs (or wolves) in captivity. It has since been shown that in the wild, the pack will behave differently. Sticking a pack of wolves in a fenced enclosure is NOT natural and they do not behave naturally as a result! David Mech has an excellent book out with REAL research on wolves in the wild and accurate information.

    I have also read that with dogs - and especially female dogs - the heirarchy is very dependent on situation. There may be one dog who is "alpha" when eating, a different one when playing, and so forth.

    Nala is sort of the alpha in our house, but only because Bonnie doesn't care! Nala is pushy, so she goes out the door first. I feed her first because I can put her food down and Bonnie will leave it alone and follow me to her spot to eat. I tie Nala because she will go and grab Bonnie's food and attempt to guard both meals, but Bonnie stays where you put the food down, eats it, and then wanders off. She never tries to steal Nala's food.

    They have fought over a stuffed Kong before. It was the same sort of thing as Nern's situation - both Kongs were empty and one went to investigate the other and the next thing I knew there were snarling dogs everywhere.

    Chomper is definitely low man on the totem pole, though. Bonnie growls at him if he gets in her face when she is cuddling with me. She has also warned him away from a bone she was chewing on. He's a puppy so I don't think he quite knows all the "rules" yet. Nala fought with him over a "special" bone I left out by mistake. And Nala snapped at him when he tried to get in on a licking peanut butter off my knife thing, but she allows Bonnie to share with her.

    When I pet one dog, the others will come running for petting as well and I pet them all. Nala is more pushy about it, but that's just her personality.

    I think the whole "alpha" thing is totally overdone most of the time. Sure, there are dogs that are "more alpha" than others and some that prefer to never lead, but it's all fluid.

    Someone asked me at the adoption event last weekend if Chomper is "dominant." I stumbled around and didn't really answer her, because I was confused. The things that went through my head were: he approaches other dogs with his tail up but relaxed, I have seen him go belly up when things get rough but not very often, he fought Nala for the "special" bone, he has reacted to a couple specific dogs but played nicely with countless others. Is he dominant? Errrr....?? :0011:

    If anyone asks me that again, I will be prepared with the answer of "he's kind of a middle-of-the-road guy and it depends on the situation."
  6. nern

    nern New Member

    Thanks for all of your thoughts! I figured it would be an interesting discussion.

    Thats not really what I meant. I just mean that I don't think they see me in the same way they see another dog. In other words, IMO they are well aware that I am not a dog.

    winnie: That is great to hear!

    I completely agree.

    Has anyone read Coopingers book "Dogs: A startling new understanding of canine origin, behavior, and evolution"?
    This book really opened my mind. I found it especially interesting that many of the village dogs he studied did NOT form packs at all.
  7. DeLaUK

    DeLaUK New Member

    Sorry....I think that maybe that came out wrong, its just a respect thing.

    I do think that too much is put into all the thinking sometimes, years ago no-one ever thought about pack mentality or dog psychologoy but then someone wrote about it once, others picked up on it, gave it a fancy name and then it was marketed and people make a bunch of money off their opinions, studies etc.
    How did we ever manage over the last few hundred years to get along with dogs in society. :D

    When I was about 10 years old I had a little dog, Snoopy, I took him everywhere with me, everywhere I was allowed to take him, he slept on my bed, he would run out of the house at 4pm every day and wait by the gate for me to come home from school.
    There was a dog that hung around near were I lived, Buster, Buster was about 3 times bigger than Snoopy and they had got into a couple of fights, Snoopy always coming off the worst, my usual reaction was to try and get my dog away...and then cry, one day I just 'lost it' I saw Buster hurling towards us in the street and before he got to Snoopy I screamed at him and ran at him....Buster never bothered Snoopy again. I didnt know it at the time but what I did was let Buster know that I was in charge....not him, I never hit him, never kicked him, never caused him any physical injury but whenever I walked near him he would cautiously approach me, ears and tail down with a slight wag...so...the mindset back when I was 10 years old...."I showed that dog he couldnt mess with my dog"....today and in 'doggie psychology' in one easy move I gained the Busters 'respect' and elevated myself to an 'alpha status'.

    Another interesting situation, my daughters dog BJ (Ive mentioned her in here a couple of times), dog to dog aggression, human aggression but never a problem with the cats.
    BJ was hand raised (found in a trash can at about a day old), I tried to have her around other dogs in her first few weeks of life but she was attacked at about 4 weeks old by my friends Mastiff, not attacked, just bitten on the head, lost a tooth and had a couple of punctuers so she stayed away from the dogs but spent most of her time with my friends 2 cats....a year later, she was 'top dog' (I had 4-5 dogs), none of them messed with her, they wouldnt even eat if she was in the same room....the cats...different story, she would back off if the cats went to her food bowl....shed rip a dog apart for doing that, if she was laying on the bed and the cats jumped up, one cat in particular, if she stared at BJ, BJ would get off the bed then lay next to the bed and keep looking at the cat, when the cat moved BJ would get back up. She had learned at an early age (I believe) what was or wasnt acceptable behaviour, she had been swatted many times by frinds cats when they were playing and BJ had got a little rough, got hissed at and nailed usually on the nose and she would go off looking well and truly reprimanded. She knew the difference between cats, dogs and people but I would say that the cats (particularly Angel) was in the 'alpha position'.

    Marketing and money has people from all walks of life with varying experiences on bahaviour, training etc convincing others that 'this is the only way to do it', I have yet to see anything new in the dog world that people havent been doing for years.
    Ive read about NILIF, its not a new idea its just that someone put a name to it and made a financial killing on it. Bite Inhibition, hunters and retreivers have been using that method for as long as there have been dogs trained to retreive the kill....my personal thoughts on that is 'my dogs dont bite me'....period, I give dogs a little more credit in learning the difference between a hard bite and a soft bite in the first few weeks of life with the dam, the theory on ...if the dog has an accident and it reacts to being handled by biting that it wont bite as hard....Ive had quite a few people tell me as Im moving the dog from the back seat of a car onto a stretcher or geurney that the dog has been trained in bite inhibition so I dont need to worry about being bitten....Ive yet to see that theory actually work, I stupidly gave some of these people the benfit of the doubt and only through my reflexes being quick could have lost or seriously endangered many body parts by now.

    Im always interested in reading other methods of training, behavioural, conditioning etc and 9 times out of 10 they are methods that have been used for decades, different methods work for different dog, not all dogs can be trained with food, not all dogs can be trained with strictly positive re-inforcement....the only 'new' method that I really have been impressed with (and again, its not new but it has been perfected and given a name ) is the T-Touch method....this works with every dog when its done right....as does the 'respect based' method.

    just my 2 cents worth :)
  8. yogi

    yogi New Member

    alpha or not to alpha

    unfortunately I disagree. Not always will there be an alpha in a group of 2 or more dogs thus you may be looking for something that does not exist. To say though that humans do not or cannot take this role leads me to believe many here have either had their dogs from a young period of time where they were reared together or were fortunate to have taken in a dog that was not an alpha therefore posed no threat to the existing dog. I am the alpha here and as one who has 10 with all but one being introduced as adult dogs the pecking order that was attempted had to be short lived to avoid the physical confrontations that are common. I am a breeder and also rescue and part of the routine with the new ones was to immediately correct the behavior so that all was addressed with me. I have trainer friends that have stated the same to me that introducing adult dogs more often will show signs of alpha status and it is important to set rules into effect quickly and by doing so you will become the alpha in the eyes of the dogs.
  9. Jamiya

    Jamiya New Member

    What sort of rules, Yogi?
  10. DeLaUK

    DeLaUK New Member

    Re: alpha or not to alpha

    Im not sure what you disagree with. If it was something I said....??
    If the owner has alpha status then any other dogs are subordinates but there can, and often is some kind of pecking order depending on the dogs personality i.e. what is important to that particular dog, and it can change....however it is possible that one or more of the other dogs may be wired to be an alpha....that dog will probably never challenge you but will make its position clear within the other dogs, this was the case with BJ, I left the human element out of it to make the point that its not necessarily a dog that can have an alpha position, to have the cat in an 'alpha position' is not so common but the dog was predominantly socialized/raised with cats in her first 2 months rather than dogs.
    I agree with what you say about bringing in adult dogs and setting the rules, the only young puppy Ive had at home in years is BJ (but we were in the process of moving so her first couple of months were spent with my daughter and living at my friends house, I was staying somewhere else trying to get the new place sorted so I couldnt supervise everything she did), my other dogs...I think the youngest I brought home was about 18 months old, Ive never had a problem bringing them in, sure theres been the occasional growl and a little tension, usually about a week after the new one gets there, but its diffused quickly and usually by me.
    The problem that people have too often is when they are fully aware of the fact that they themselves are the alpha they then believe that all their dogs will now get along and there wont be any challenges among them but I can tell you from years of working in hospitals and helping put these dogs back together that this is not the case, the owners...the usual story is something like "the dogs have lived together for 3 years and theyve never done this before...."so then I ask them a couple of questions and it almost always turns out that dog A has been trying for the last 2 years to 'beat up' dog B but the owner usually doesnt leave them together completely unsupervised....and this time they were in an hurry, forgot to close one dog in and now dog B has been well and truly put in his place by dog A who is naturally wired.. always has been to be an alpha....just because the owner is in the alpha position does not mean that the alpha drive disappears....the potential will always be there for dog A to make a move....in most cases it never comes down to a life or death fight, its sorted out really fast with a little specific eye contact, body language, maybe a low growl, dogs understand dog behaviour much better than we ever will, we have a habit of interferring though and can make situations much worse than they need to be.
    What I do...the way I 'see it' and my understanding of it.... dont get me wrong....this is all just my opinion....Im not arrogant enough to say 'I know best' and that Im right but I can say this works for me and has done for many years....and theres always new things to learn, I like to listen to other people ideas of the 'dog mind' and as we say in training...theres nothing quite as humbling as a dog....just when you think youve done a great job in whatever capacity your working in its gauranteed each and every dog will at some point... A. knock you back down to earth with a slam and B. teach you something new. Ive learned more from the dogs Ive worked with than any book Ive ever read.
  11. yogi

    yogi New Member

    alpha status quo is

    obtained when one and only one takes the position and defends it against the others who challenge. When I am not around or around the aggression is no longer an issue. The 3 that I brought in and for first few months asseted themselves as an alpha no longer challenge each other nor even attempt to. Humans can thru the same procedure obtain alpha status. This is no myth or theory but fact. These 3 now in most cases roll over and expose themselves to me and with each other they run and play together where originally there was instant posturing with none willing to give. You need to exert a show of dominance in these cases. It is not to say that some humans may feel they are alpha when they are not but it is never safe to assume either that there ever was an alpha unless you actually see it. In the case of some here that have multiple dogs there appears to be no alpha therefore there is no concern but for those that do have alpha situations where neither or none are succombimg you need to take that role to avoid serious issues not to mention injuries. Mine were 5, 6 and 11 when I took them in. These are not young dogs but adult and very serious when it came to their alpha status. These dogs now if anything will get upset with each other but once I tell them NO, they all back away. There has also been no more fighting amongst them since I was able to instill where the alpha status is. Even when I am not here, family has watched and the dogs show no aggression of alpha status toward each other. It took several months but as I stated, to assume you cannot be the alpha is a myth. This is a normal role that in some cases people must take for the sake of owning multiple dogs. It is not a matter of whether one wants to or not. But if you are not willing than best that you do not have two alpha's. Unless you have the time for their pecking order to establish and the money for the vet bills to cover the damage caused by the fighting. Male of Female makes no difference. One of the 3 is female and she was just as much the alpha as the 2 others that were male and had no problems attacking in one of them to exert dominance.
    It is nice when we do not have to take this role but the fact is humans can and do when needed. If you need better example, watch a video on the "horse whisperer" technique. It covers the concept of alpha status and replacing the stallion with a human as the horse needs to turn to. The drawback with humans doing this is the dogs do look to you for protection and guidance as they would in normal pack structure.
  12. nern

    nern New Member

    Actually, I was suprised that Sebastian got along so well with Natalie. I had Natalie first (since she was 7wks old). Sebastian was 6yrs old when he came to live with me, Natalie was 2yrs old by then. They had met several times prior to this outside of the house which probably helped a lot.
    But part of the reason Sebastian lost his previous home was because he became very aggressive with the other dog in the house. He would jump up and bite the other dog in the face and the other dog would just back into a corner looking scared out of his mind but would never try to defend himeself. Now keep in mind that Sebastian is a 6 1/2 lb. toy poodle, the other dog was a 70 lb. husky mix! To this day he still tries to go after that dog when he sees him.

    BTW, I'm sure my dogs think I'm relevant but I am limited in how much I can properly communicate with them via "dog language" simply because I am not a dog. For example....I don't have hackles to raise, I can't move my ears forward and backward, ect. No matter how good we become at "speaking" to our dogs, we will never be as good or as clear as they are with each other.
  13. nern

    nern New Member

    Yep, it was'nt all that long ago that I discovered clicker training is not a new method. :mrgreen:
  14. DeLaUK

    DeLaUK New Member

    :D I think the first time I ever saw clicker training was when I was a kid, it was a kids show (in UK) and was in black and white so its going back a bit. The guy was using the clicker to train a cat though not a dog.
  15. Jas

    Jas New Member

    Great post Vanessa, I think there is often too much emphasis on "alpha" and people's mixed conceptions of what alpha is. People often mistake reading their dogs behaviour and mislabel submissive acts or unruly behaviour as dominance. I feel a true leader can sometimes give off the most subtle notions without needing to exhibit any type of typical "alpha" behaviour. For instance my 13 year old, bless her heart she passed away not very long ago, all she would need to do is give "the look" or curl a lip to a rambunctious puppy or a cheeky adult lol and that was all that was needed to humble the culprit. After that they would be licking her mouth, ears down etc. She was the matriarch but definitely not the "strongest" or most assertive one in our pack. Age, I believe, does play a factor and I also believe there leaders for different things. I know which of my dogs would take the lead on a hunting chase, which is the most successful at luring the other dogs off their bed so she can steal their spot (and hog it) and which dog is the most protective should a threat be perceived. Should I label one of these behaviours alone as alpha - I would be mislabeling the dog. My dogs could care less who is first to eat, exit, be pet as long as they are on the receiving end ;-)
  16. goob

    goob New Member

    I've read the same, and seen it in our dogs as well (we have 5 dogs, 4 females, 1 male, and they're ran in two groups as several are dog aggressive). One dog may lay down the line on a certain issue, and let the others walk all over them in another situation. It just depends on how valuable a given thing is to the particular dog. In our house, we run the little dogs (1 f dog aggressive Dachshund, 1 m Chi, 1 f Cocker) together Haley (f dog aggressive APBT) seperate, and Goo (f dog aggressive APBT) can be out with either bunch in most supervised situations. Goo is definitely the "alpha" amongst the little dogs in that they generally respect her, and when they DO put her over the edge, she puts them in their place quickly and with little force, simply her warning is enough to make them realize they have royally screwed up. Haley would really like to be Queen Bee, but she's one of those pushy, never enough dogs, and Goo won't take that, then when she does correct Haley, Hale usually retaliates, and a fight is in order unless we intervene immediately.

    Amongst the little dogs, it's nearly impossible to pick a definitive alpha at all times, they switch around all the time, though each does have certain situations in which they're more likely to draw the line and correct the others for inappropriate behavior.

    It should also be noted for our dogs that the bully breeds do not have the same "pack rules" as other dogs, if something triggers one of them to fight, they will, whether they're top dog or bottom of the heap. And even human heirarchy doesn't factor into it much, once they've decided that they'd like to scrap with another dog, all other thoughts seem to fly straight out the window. It always makes me nervous to hear people talking about how their APBTs would NEVER hurt another dog because they're so submissive, even the most submissive ones can still turn on (the phrase often used to describe the point where the lightbulb clicks on and an APBT realizes they're a fighting dog, often resulting in dog aggression being displayed forevermore) and cause plenty of damage if owned by someone in denial as to the breed's capabilities. Granted, for all that, I have no fear at all of wading into a knock down drag out fight involving either of them, whereas when the little dogs get into the slightest scuffle, it's either a shoe'd, pants'd leg that pushes them apart, or some other non-living object, as they're biting anythnig that moves.

    For these reasons (Haley's refusal to accept that she's NOT queen bee, plus her dictatorship when allowed to take top rank), and the fact that several of them are dog aggressive and won't hesitate to jump into the slightest scrap that gets started, we run on this simple rule for Haley (and the others, though they haven't really needed it)... all of the dogs are MINE, and harming, aggravating, or bullying them will earn her a correction from ME. Every so often, she'll get a bug up her bum and cause trouble anyway (see above comment about inborn breed traits overpowering all else at times), but for the most part, she knows that I'm ALWAYS watching and will catch her and correct her (usually just a verbal correction is sufficient, if not, by physically removing her and crating her for a bit). I do NOT trust her alone with any of the other dogs for more than about a minute, but she's able to hang out with Goo and sometimes Annie (dachshund) with few issues most of the time (they all 3 sleep in my bed at night) Before Haley, we had to do very little with regards to the dogs' rank, they all respected Goo, and swapped at will amongst each other in the lower ranks.
  17. coppersmom

    coppersmom New Member

    That's all really interesting. I've often wondered who was running things around here too...

    Now I have learned a phrase for Zoey--"resource guarding". I bet if I google that phrase it will have her picture lol. I really think she is the alpha, but Brie sometimes postures and strutts around all puffed up. And sometimes Zoey will back down to her. But not when it comes to treats.
  18. Shineillusion

    Shineillusion New Member

    Comparing dog packs to horse herds isn't a valid comparison. The dog pack will have an alpha male, but herds of horses are not run by a stallion. A senior mare is the one calling the shots, as has been so readily pointed out by Monty Roberts. His observations of wild horses, their communications, and especially how the senior mare metes out discipline in the herd is truely insightful.

    The stallion has one primary job; to breed mares. His only other function is to drive off any other stallion who might be trying to do his one primary job. He doesn't allow other adult male horses in his harem. On the other hand, dog packs will have several adult males, with only the alpha runnning the show.

    As for humans attaining alpha status; I guess I think that depends on your definition of alpha. We don't speak their language, and it's difficult for them to understand ours. I don't have ears that move, and I don't have a tail at all. So while I can use certain body language cues, I can't use all of them. And dogs, being dogs, read body language better than they use verbal language. I can condition my dogs to respond in certain ways to specific verbal cues, but they can't put words together to form understanding of new combinations.

    For example, I can teach my dog "NO" and I can teach my dog "SIT", but if I want him to understand "NO SIT", I have to teach that as a specific command. I can't just start saying "NO SIT" and expect him to put the two together and understand that I'm telling him not to sit. Dogs don't think that way.

    I can assume the role of benevolent dictator, or "SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED", but I'm not sure the dog sees that in the same light as he would an alpha male. After all, the alpha male has the right to say "You must, or I will hurt you" while we humans usually don't operate that way. And if we do start behaving in that way the neighbors usually end up calling the SPCA and accuse us of animal abuse.

    In all honesty, I don't see myself as alpha, because I don't micromanage every aspect of my dogs behavior to the extent an alpha male would in a pack situation. I do see myself as "SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED" in those instances where I feel the need to take control. And the dogs see me that way too. But does that make me alpha in the eyes of the dog? I honestly don't know. The only ones who do know are the dogs. And they aren't talking.
  19. nern

    nern New Member

    That is exactly the point I was trying to make. :y_the_best:

    Excellent post! :-k

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