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How Can I Be A Pack Leader Or Alpha Dog

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Dr. James C. Ha, Ph.D., CAAB is a professor of applied animal behavior at the University of WA and a certified applied animal behavior with over 30 years of experience in animal behavior teaching, research, consulting, and expert witness services.

How can I be a pack leader or the alpha dog?

A lot of people think they need to be the alpha dog or the alpha member of the pack or the pack leader. And it is really inappropriate. First, it is very few breeds of dogs that consider humans to be a dog. To be a part of the pack.

Then the other issue that we tend to see when we talked about this is that people cannot exhibit pack leadership the right way anyway. And so the whole pack leadership thing is not a real factor it’s not a proper way to interact with your dog. Except for maybe a very few breeds these ancient breeds.


Is the term “alpha” applicable in pack roles? 

When looking at literature regarding wolf hierarchies, we found that modern biologists do not refer to wolves as the “Alpha” or “Pack Leader,” instead they use phrases like “mating male,” “mating female,” or “mating pair.” We now know that wolf packs are more like families rather than a military hierarchy. Plus we are usually not competing for the dog’s resources with our dogs (definitely not for mating!).

Instead of trying to be the “alpha” dog in your house, teach your dog to not worry about things, that you will take care of them and he just needs to focus on being himself. We are a family!

Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, CDBC reminds us that “We are not dogs!” therefore we should not try to act like dogs – we have built a human/dog relationship that has outlasted the test of time!