Who’s the alpha?

A statement I often get told or asked about, is that people think their dog is the alpha and they want to turn the tables and become alpha in the relationship.

The thing is… you already are! Think about it…

What decisions does your dog get to make on a daily basis?

Does your dog get to choose or decide on their access to:

  • what they eat and when
  • quality of water
  • when they are walked
  • where they are walked
  • who they interact with
  • where they sleep
  • where they eat

I could go on forever about all the things we control in our dogs environment and without realising it, we are already ‘alpha’ to our dogs. We don’t need to be aggressive, or do dominance rolls or anything awful like that to ‘become alpha’.

I’ve noticed through the interactions and dynamics of my two dogs that usually the ‘alpha’ dog is the more confident and reserved dog. Which also translates to the human world.

Have you ever noticed that loudest person in the room is generally the most insecure, they are being loud and obnoxious to appease and cover their own anxieties and insecurities.

Take my dogs for instance… Holly, my black lab. Most people would assume she’s ‘confident’.

On walks she is at the end of the leash, she is forward and reactive towards other dogs. At home, she butts her head in to your hand and lap, demanding attention and pushes my other dog Franklin out of the way when it comes to food and water.

But the thing is, she’s not confident, and she’s not an alpha. She insecure, she’s anxious and not comfortable in her own skin. The way she copes with that is to go to the other end of the spectrum. She doesn’t feel safe so she tries to act as if she’s all tough.

Franklin on the other hand, is the alpha between the two, he puts up with Holly’s rudeness because he allows it, but let me tell you when he wants something, he won’t hesitate to ‘dominate’ Holly. And when i say dominate, I mean he makes sure he gets what he wants.

A classic example of this was last evening; Holly was asleep on the couch, unfortunately for her, she was in the spot that Franklin wanted.

He didn’t roll her over, he didn’t growl. He climbed up onto the couch, found the spot he wanted and literally sat on her, forcing her to move. He didn’t need to be aggressive to say to her – thats my spot!

And it’s the same with us, we don’t need to be aggressive to say – that’s not acceptable.

What does it come down to? Lack of confidence and education! 

When your dog is forward on the leash and/or reactive or pushy. They aren’t being ‘alpha’, they aren’t trying to ‘dominate’ you. They are ill-mannered and insecure.  They are fearful, they are in ‘fight and flight’ mode and not making clear, rational decisions.

It’s up to us to guide them, to help them, to give them frameworks to feel secure and understand there are other behavioural options in those situations.

So next time someone thinks their dog is ‘alpha’ or ‘confident’, I hope they reconsider using these outdated terms and realise there is far more going on than simply being ‘alpha’ or ‘dominant’.

Do you have a difficult dog that you think is ‘alpha’?

Comments 1

  1. Hi Millie,
    This is Sarge to a T. He pulls and is excited to be outdoors when on the lead. We think. Looking at his behaviour through the lense of his discomfort is a new perspective. Looking forward to working with you on some solutions!

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