Alpha Dog Theory Debunked?
There are many theories about what causes dominance or leadership qualities in dogs. Some say it’s genetic, some say it’s training, but there is no consensus among experts. There are two main theories: alpha wolf theory and dominance hierarchy theory. Alpha Wolf Theory says that wolves have always been leaders because they were the first to develop such traits and others followed them later (or not at all). Domination Hierarchy Theory says that the human race developed these characteristics over time through socialization and experience.
In other words, alpha wolf theory states that wolves have always been leaders because they were the first to develop such traits and others followed them later (or not at all). Dominance hierarchy theory states that the human race developed these characteristics over time through socialization and experience. Alpha dog theory claims that dogs evolved from wolves, but then changed their form due to selective breeding.
According to this theory, dogs don’t have any natural leadership abilities. They just learned them through socialization and experience.
Which one is correct? Which one is wrong? Is it possible that both theories are right? If so, which ones are true and which ones aren’t? Can you prove either one of them wrong? What does it mean when alpha wolf theory is refuted by dominance hierarchy theory? How can I tell if my dog shows dominance or submission tendencies towards me? What does it mean if my dog tries to be the alpha dog?
Without getting into too much detail, the answer to all of these questions is yes. Yes, it is very possible that both theories are right. It’s also possible that only one of them is right. But before we get into the details, let’s take a closer look at each theory.
What Is Alpha Wolf Theory?
One of the most popular theories about dog behavior is called the alpha wolf theory. It states that dogs want to be the alpha, or leader of their pack. Some dogs try to dominate their owners, and some try to submit to them. If you want your dog to behave and play well with others, then you must establish yourself as the alpha dog.
If you’re familiar with wolf packs in nature, you might already know that they don’t always have a single leader. Sometimes, there is more than one leader and they all work together to hunt, raise pups, and protect the territory.
If this is true for wild wolf packs, then why do we keep trying to implement the “alpha wolf theory”?
What Is Dominance Hierarchy Theory?
A newer theory about dog behavior is called dominance hierarchy theory. This one is a little bit different from the alpha wolf theory. The key difference is that not every animal tries to dominate others. Instead, they try to avoid conflict by following a fixed social order, otherwise known as a dominance hierarchy.
The exact social order is different for every family, but there are some universal trends. The most experienced dog tends to be dominant over most others. The parents tend to be dominant over the children and teenagers.
The adults tend to be dominant over the puppies and adolescents. There tends to be a food chain within the family, with the strongest being on top.
How Alpha Wolf Theory and Dominance Hierarchy Theory Interact
So, how do the alpha wolf theory and dominance hierarchy theory interact?
It’s all about where you look for answers. Some people believe that both theories are right, while others believe that only one of them is right. Let’s take a look at both scenarios.
If Both Theories Are Right…
It is possible that both the alpha wolf theory and dominance hierarchy theory are right. This is because social rank and leadership are two different things.
The only time where the alpha theory makes sense is when there is a single leader. In all other situations, animals tend to follow a fixed social order without conflict. This means that even if your dog thinks he’s the alpha, if you establish yourself as a higher rank than him, he’ll obey you anyway.
If You Pick The Right Theory…
There is a good chance that you’ve already implemented the right theory into your life with your dog.
Do you have a family hierarchy? Do you tend to be dominant over others in the family?
If you answered yes to these questions, then you’ve already chosen the dominance hierarchy theory. This means that you don’t have to do anything differently. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing.
If You Need To Pick The “Right” Theory…
If you’ve already implemented the dominance hierarchy theory, then you don’t really need to change anything. However, if you’ve implemented the alpha wolf theory, then you need to implement the dominance hierarchy theory instead. Keep reading to learn how to do this.
It’s important to remember that you cannot do this overnight. It will take time and effort on your part. You should expect some resistance from your dog at first.
However, with time and effort, you should see major changes in your dog’s behavior.
Steps to Switching From the Alpha Wolf Theory to the Dominance Hierarchy Theory
While this is a long process, it is definitely worth sticking with it. Just remember that your patience will be rewarded! Here are the steps to go through to change your dog’s mindset from “leader of the pack” to “lower-ranking member of the family”.
Step 1: Teach your dog basic obedience.
Teaching your dog basic obedience is a great starting point for several reasons. First of all, it shows your dog that you are in control. When your dog knows that you are in control, then he or she will be less likely to try to be the leader.
Second of all, it will help calm your dog down, which will come in handy later.
Step 2: Be aware of the natural dominance of certain body parts.
Many animals have a dominance over certain parts of their body. Humans have dominance over their arms and can freely move them as they wish. Fish, on the other hand, have dominance over their entire bodies.
This means that fish cannot control where they move, but rather are controlled by water currents.
Dogs also have “regions of dominance” just like humans. These are the head, chest, and abdomen. You want to make sure that you, as the alpha, have dominance over these regions.
This will reinforce in your dog’s mind who the alpha is. You can do this through physical contact such as poking and prodding. You can also do this through verbal commands such as pushing your dog away from you when he or she jumps on you or saying “no” when your dog tries to lick you in the face.
Step 3: Alpha roll!
The “alpha roll” is a process where you physically turn your dog on his or her back and hold them down for about 30 seconds. This is to show physical dominance. Only do this if you are confident that you can do it without getting bit, though.
Also, don’t overdo it. One good session every week or two should be enough.
Step 4: Feed your dog like a king or queen.
Dogs naturally want to be fed by the people in their pack and would prefer to be as close as possible to their food source. This is why many dogs tend to guard their food when eat. In order to reinforce the fact that you are the alpha, you should do the opposite of what your dog wants.
This means you should feed your dog away from the food bowl, such as on a table. This also means that you should only feed your dog once every few days, rather than every day. Be sure to only give it as much as it can eat in 3 or 4 minutes though. Never let your dog finish its food, because that would be letting him or her win.
You want to make sure that everyone in your house follows these steps so that there is no confusion with your dog as to who the boss is.
Step 5: Maintain your dominance.
Once you have gone through these steps, your dog will understand that you are the alpha in the family pack. However, you will need to maintain this by occasionally going through steps 2 through 4. If you don’t then your dog may start gaining more confidence and try to overstep his or her bounds as the alpha.
This is when your dog may begin to disobey you. Maintaining dominance over your dog is required so that your dog doesn’t get too big for his or her britches. This is important because the whole point of this plan is to prevent your dog from biting someone and having to put it down. So, be sure to stay on top of things so that your dog doesn’t try to pull any stunts to try to gain more power.
I hope this helps! And good luck, my friend.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Training dogs and training humans: Symbolic interaction and dog training (JB Greenebaum – Anthrozoös, 2010 – Taylor & Francis)
- Further diagnosis and treatment of canine dominance aggression (J Grognet, T Parker – The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 1992 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Canine dominance-associated aggression: concepts, incidence, and treatment in a private behavior practice (DB Cameron – Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 1997 – Elsevier)