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Alpha dog – Explaining the canine hierarchy

Alpha dog – Explaining the canine hierarchy
Alpha dog

We all know that dogs descended from wolves a long time ago. This means that dogs, just like wolves are pack animals. And what does every pack have? A leader, an alpha. So does that mean that among dogs there is a setup hierarchy? If yes, who is the alpha dog and how do we recognize them?

Well, we for sure know that there is some kind of hierarchy among stray dogs. They live on the streets so it’s important for them to have a pack and a leader. But what about house dogs?

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According to many dog behavior experts, domesticated dogs show the same “pack” mentality. They are actually the happiest when they have a social pack structure. This is because it’s simply in their blood.

Basically, it’s natural for some dogs to be leaders, alpha dogs, and for others to be followers. And of course, the leaders have the urge to be in charge and the followers want to be told what to do.

Alpha dog – Canine hierarchy

Let’s first explain how the dog (wolf) hierarchy works. Basically, there are three positions. We have the alpha dog, which is the leader. Then, there are betas, which are subservient to the alphas. And lastly, we have the omegas. They are at the bottom of the pack, subservient to both betas and alphas.

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Alpha from puppyhood

This might sound funny to some, but it’s the truth. Alpha dogs are born! We know this by observing puppies when they are nursing from their mother.

If you pay closer attention you’ll notice that more dominant puppies will get more milk while submissive dogs have to learn to wait.

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It’s exactly this first struggle for food and survival that is primal and has a continued impact on dogs for life.

Experts claim that you simply can’t untrain an alpha, beta, or omega dog to be anything but an alpha, beta or omega dog. It’s hardwired in their brain and you can’t change that!

Alpha dog chart
Alpha dogs are the ultimate pack leaders

How to know your dog is an alpha

There are several traits that will tell you whether or not your dog is an alpha dog:

  • Pushes its way to be first in or out of doorways
  • Claims the best resting area
  • Doesn’t pay much attention to other dogs
  • Displays jealous behaviors when you give other dogs attention
  • Mounts other dogs

On the other hand we have submissive dogs which display the following behavior:

  • Follows behind other dogs
  • Gives up their toys or place when another dog claims them
  • Does not sustain eye contact with dogs or humans
  • Refuse to approach other dogs
  • Submissively urinate when excited

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Multiple alpha dogs under one roof

If you have more than one dog you might be wondering “Is it possible for two dogs living under one roof to be alpha dogs?” and the answer is yes! It’s actually possible for two alpha dogs to live under one roof. However, at some point one dog will establish dominance.

What will happen is that your dogs will perform a number of ritualized instinctual behaviors. These include fixing eye contact, posturing, physically dominating by climbing, and squabbles over food and resources. This will go on until one of the dogs establishes dominance over the other.

You are the alpha dog

Now, everything stated above is a fact. However, you should also know that with your dog or dogs you are the alpha! You are the one who brings them food, you’re taking them on walks, you’re leading them, so you are the pack leader.

Some dogs won’t accept your role as the leader and will try and establish dominance. But you have to stay strong and show them who the real alpha is.

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You will do that by being strict and setting up certain rules:

  • The first and most important step to establishing dominance is to feed your dogs on a schedule instead of free-feeding or when they request food
  • Next, during tug-of-war, never not let your dog end up with the rope or ball when you are finished. Either keep the toy to yourself or teach them to “drop it” on your command.
  • This one might seem a bit strict, but if your dog is in your way, instruct them to move verbally or with a gentle nudge. Don’t step over them
  • And lastly, before going outside, make your dog sit calmly by the door. And make sure you always exit first!