Basic Training for Dog and Baby - Alpha and Dominance

Alpha and Dominance

The first order of business is to talk about the words Alpha and dominance. These two words have been overused, and improperly instituted over the past years in relation to dog training. In positive dog training circles, these words are considered, wash your mouth out with soap, swear words. So what is the deal with Alpha and dominance?  

Having read several books on dog behavior and training I began to get a glimpse into dog behavior and pack mentality. Many studies were done on the pack behaviors of wolves, there may be some parallels to a pack of dogs and a pack of wolves however, most of these studies were done on captive wolves, and humans are not included in the pack order. I learned in a wolf pack there is usually an Alpha male, an Alpha female, several Beta's and one or two Omega's. The Alpha male is the overall leader, the Alpha Female is the second in command but in charge of all the female pack members. The Beta's are what I call wannabes. They challenge the Alpha's on a regular basis to help keep pack order. Poor Omega's are usually the scape goat and sometimes get thrown out of a wolf pack.  

An Alpha wolf shows dominance with a subtle attitude and the nuance of body posturing rituals, not by brute force or violence. The alpha wolves lead with as little as a dirty look or frozen posture and the pack responds in kind. If there were frequent violent conflicts in a wolf pack it would be so stressful for the subordinates that pack cooperation for the hunt would be compromised. Not to mention, if wolves used violence as the form of domination injuries would occur also compromising the hunt. Individual survival depends on the pack’s ability to hunt as a group.  

I only really understood what alpha, dominance, and submission meant to canines (with other canines, not people) by watching my 5 dogs interact. I have witnessed first hand TRUE dog communication, and the real hierarchy determined by the individual dogs personality. I consider living with my 5 dogs a gift, yes I said a gift (minus the dog hair of course). My first hand experience living with a pack of dogs has enhanced my understanding of dog behavior and communication ten fold. 

So many misconceptions about Alpha and dominance are out there. In my opinion alpha and dominance theorys have no place in the relationship between, us humans, and our canine companions. Being the human, in the canine/human relationship, is actually about, making your dog feel secure in your presence, kindness, and being consistent is absolutely key.