Is your dog overly pushy to other dogs? Perhaps defensive around their food bowl? These could be signs of alpha dog behavior and this can be problematical if you don’t know how to deal with it. Today we will discuss how to recognize and to stop alpha dog behavior before it becomes a problem at home. First, what does ‘alpha dog’ actually mean?
Alpha dog meaning
Dogs follow a pack structure. Every pack is going to have an Alpha, or leader, as well as a Beta, who is ‘second in line’ for leadership. There are also Omegas, which are the most submissive of the bunch and who never challenge the leader. As you are reading this, we expect that you do NOT have an Omega and are currently seeing some dominant behaviors in your dog. Let’s go into some examples.
What is an Alpha dog?
Alpha dogs are dogs which wish to be dominant in their pack structure, which in this case is your family. Some examples of Alpha dog behavior are as follows:
- Aggressive response to eye contact – Eye contact is considered an act of challenge with dogs. You will notice that when a dog acts submissive it lies on its belly and looks away, baring it’s throat. A dog that becomes more aggressive when eye contact is made is showing definite signs of Alpha behavior.
- May attempt to ‘herd’ children or smaller animals-
- Possessive of food or toys – Alpha dogs may be overly possessive of food or toys, sometimes growling or snapping if you attempt to touch it.
- ‘Humping’ behavior – If your dog is mounting or ‘humping’ legs or other animals then this is another sign that your dog is likely an Alpha.
Alpha dogs can be male or female
Just because your dog is female does not mean that she is not an alpha. Alpha female dog characteristics are much the same as males. They will be very territorial, will consider eye contact a challenge, and may mount against other dogs. This is common to every pack, there is a dominant male and a dominant female. So, what can you do to discourage Alpha behavior if your pet is exhibiting this? Let’s discuss.
Dealing with Alpha dogs
An Alpha dog, by definition, is going to attempt to be the dominant personality of the pack. If your dog is a Beta there will be some aggression, or you may notice that they try to ‘hog your attention’ whenever other people or animals are nearby. So, what can you do to deal with an Alpha or Beta dog? Some examples here may help:
- Define clear boundaries and stick to them – You need to be very assertive with an Alpha dog. Pet fencing can help to set boundaries. Also lots of training is good, so that you can exercise authority over your dog many times a day. This is important to establish yourself as the pack leader so you will want to get used to it.
- Be very calm but very assertive with the dog – Never lose your temper with an Alpha dog. Be very calm and give commands in a firm tone. In this way you will appear to be a strong leader and less likely to be ‘challenged’ by the dog.
“Other dogs come to the Alpha for attention.”
- Ignore the alpha when it comes to affection – If you try to make your dog more cuddly then you are actually showing a weakness. In a pack, other dogs come to the Alpha for attention and the Alpha’s are usually very solitary. If you ignore the dog and make them come to you then you will be asserting your leadership in the process. Anything else will send a mixed-message to the dog that makes you appear weak, so don’t force the issue of attention. .
- Always eat first – In a pack the leader is the one who always eats first. To enforce your position, eat meals such as lunch or dinner BEFORE feeding the dog. After you have finished your meal then you can feed them. This way your dog will see you behaving like the pack leader and will be less likely to give you trouble.
Alpha dogs need a strong role in the pack
One last consideration is that your Alpha dog is going to need some sort of ‘job’. You can have them carry things when walking, for instance. Get a doggy-pack at your local pet store and you can put treats and such inside to help for when you are training them. You might want to consider going beyond the basic commands like ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ and giving your Alpha dog extra training. This will help to assert your dominance and will also act as a means of getting your dog to fill they are fulfilling a role in the pack. With Alpha dogs this is very important, so if your dog is showing Alpha behavior then you will need to be patient and understand that more training is going to be required than with an Omega type dog. Don’t think of it as a chore, however. If you have an Alpha dog it can be a lot of fun, as your dog learns more complex tricks like finding things or watching people. Just realize that you will need to invest time in teaching these.
Some final words
While it can be taxing, raising an Alpha dog can be very rewarding if you are willing to invest the time. Alpha dogs are great about guarding your home and family and can learn all kinds of amazing tricks if you are willing to teach them. Just remember to be assertive and to not attempt to force affection. Always eat first and give your dog something to do. As long as you keep them busy then the Alpha-behaviors should dwindle down to minimal levels. You just need to be calm and show them who is the boss!