Alpha Dog Behavior


"Alpha dog behavior is an important determinant of how your dog will behave and interact with members of your family and other dogs or pets in the household. The key to managing this behavior is to make it clear that members of your family are the pack leaders and that your dog is next in line. In multi-dog or pet households, dog social pack behavior needs a clearly established hierarchy."

Overview: Alpha Dog Pack Behavior Problems

Your dog will view you and each member of the family as a member of his pack. It's important that you hold the "alpha dog behavior" position and that each family member are viewed as holding a higher position than your dog.

You as the owner have some natural advantages since you are bigger and control activities your dog desires such as feeding times, treats, play and when he or she can go outside.

Here are some ways to make sure you hold that spot:

  • Never tolerate growling from your dog. That is a sign of alpha dog behavior. Firmly tell your dog "No!"

  • Don't let your dog sleep in your bed. The bed is a dominant spot. Your dog should sleep in a doggie bed on the floor beside your bed.

  • Don't let your dog walk through the door in front of you. You should go first and then give him permission to come in.

  • If your dog is always leaning on you, putting his paw on you, etc., he is not being affectionate. That is a display of alpha dog behavior. You need to be the one to initiate touch.

  • If your dog behaves aggressively toward you or other family members, talk to your vet or an animal behaviorist. Don't allow the behavior to continue. The longer it goes on, the harder it will be to correct.

  • Teaching your dog basic commands (sit, stay, come here, lie down) reinforces the fact that you are in charge. If you have difficulty training your dog, consider taking him to an obedience class. One approach is to require some type of behavior prior to feeding or providing a treat such as sitting or staying.

Dog Social Pack Behavior

In dog social pack behavior dogs need to form a social hierarchy with each one knowing its place in the pack. This becomes particularly clear when you already have a dog and you bring home a new puppy. The temptation is to over support the puppy which causes confusion in terms of how the "pack" (your family and your dogs) view each other.

The best thing to do is to support the dog that is most dominant in the household which is a dog that is not too old or young and in great health. You can reinforce the dominance of the alpha or top dog by feeding this dog first, putting on this dog's leash first, providing treats first etc. If dogs are of equal age, then favor the one that is most dominant, not the weakest. Favoring the weakness because this pet is the "underdog" is the worst thing you can do since it is exactly counter to the natural behavior of your dogs.

Watch dog social pack behavior behavior carefully. If growling and snapping becomes deep biting it is possible that the two dogs will never get along and therefore should be kept separated.

If both dogs are continually anxious, nervous or fearful you could consider using medication, either natural or prescription to see if it helps.


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