Dominance & Pack Behavior in Dogs: Is Being the Alpha Fact or Myth?

When you invite a dog into your home, teach him that you are leader. Dogs want to know who is in charge. If they don’t know who the boss is, they will take the job.

Do you know whose the boss in your family?
Wolves and dogs are alike.What is Pack Behavior?

Like humans, dogs have families. For dogs, these families are called packs. In a pack there is always one leader and several followers. The leader is the dog who makes the rules and watches out for others in the pack. When a dog lives in your house, your family becomes his family, or ‘pack’.

It is important that you let your dog know who the leader is. If he doesn’t know, he will try to become the leader. It’s an instinct (he’s born with it) to try to be a leader. When this happens, a dog may be pushy and not follow the rules. By teaching the dog obedience and giving him things to do, he will realize that a human is the leader and he will follow, instead of lead.

“I’m the boss!”Can you tell who the boss is here?

Signs that your dog is trying out for the job of boss:

  • Jumping up on you
  • Jumping on the couch
  • Grabbing food from your hand
  • Stealing food from the table
  • Pushing you down
  • Running out open doors
  • Growling while eating
  • Barking at you
  • Biting at your clothes

If your dog is doing these things, then it’s time for you to become the boss.

How to be the Leader

Becoming your dog’s boss or leader does not mean you will be pushy or bossy. It means that you will make the rules and your dog will learn follow them. Your job is to make the rules clear enough for your dog to understand.

Getting up on the table is not where dogs should be, no matter how funny it is. Jumping on the couch is only cute if you allow your dog to do that. Some people like that, some don’t. Rules must be clear to your dog. If you can’t make up your mind and you let your dog on your bed sometimes, but not other times, he will be confused.

Poor manners should not be ignored.

Always Be Consistent

Being consistent means doing something the same way over and over again. Make your rules and stick to them. Everyone in the family needs to know the rules and help your dog to remember them. This is called ‘being consistent’.

If your dog is not allowed on the couch on Monday, then he should not be allowed on the couch on Tuesday, Wednesday, or any other day. Try not to confuse your dog by changing the rules from day to day.

Make the Rules

Sit down with your whole family and decide what the rules of the house will be for your dog. Everyone must agree so that your dog will get the same rules from everyone. Here is a sample list of rules. Yours may be different.

  • No jumping on people
  • No begging at the table
  • Dog is allowed on the children’s beds
  • Dog is not allowed on living room couch
  • Must sit before receiving food
  • Must sit to say hello to company

Once your have your list, decide what words you will use to teach your dog. You can use the teaching words from this website (Obedience pages) or make up your own, but everyone in the family must use the same words, all the time. For instance, when your dog tries to take a cookie from the table, do you want to say, “No” or “Don’t Touch”? It’s up to you.

Make up your rules and then decide how you are going explain or teach them to your dog. We usually explain rules to dogs by showing them what we mean. Check out the obedience pages for all kinds of great commands to use when teaching your dog the rules.