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Alpha Roll Is NOT A Dominance Signal

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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.

Is the alpha roll a dominance signal?

The hovering over, the alpha rolling, are not dominance signals. They are not part of dominance aggression. Wolves don’t do them. Wild dogs do not do them. So again it’s the wrong individual expressing dominance trying to control the situation, and then that wrong individual is doing it the wrong way. So it is even MORE likely to be simply interpreted as an attack by a human. And that results in all sorts of other issues and problems and relationship issues and so on. So it’s most definitely not a good idea.


What does hovering dog behavior mean?

There seem to be a lot of debate across the board on whether certain posturing is a dominance display or not. Trainers who follow a very strict alpha pack theory, quote Schenkel 1947, however in his work he finds that standing over or hovering only occurred in peaceful times, he did not consider it a dominance signal.

While observing wolves, David Mech also concluded that this was not a dominance signal. The argument is that original studies that published about dominance hierarchies studied wolves in captivity and we finally have the technology and the means to study them in the wild. When the wolves were studied in captivity, they were forced to be in groups with wolves not from their pack. They were not studied in their natural habitat. The other concern is how much can we understand about dogs by comparing them to wolves?