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.
When do dogs and wolves display dominance?
There are populations of wolves that live in places with very limited food. And when they get food, it has to be shared out very carefully, and you see dominance. There are other places where the food is unlimited. It is not a limiting resource, and you do not need dominance because there is plenty of food for everybody. It relates to our pet dogs, only when there are limited resources to fight over. That there has to be a decision who gets the access to the food first, and who gets access to the food second.
What is the difference between dog and wolf dominance?
In the past, the wolf pack structure and dominance patterns have been incorrectly applied to dogs. The social structure in dogs and wolves is very different. Wolf packs have one alpha, who is a leader and follow a very linear dominance order. This ensures successful hunts and that the strongest remain strong to protect the pack. Dogs, on the other hand, don’t have that structure. One member may act dominantly to get to the food first but will defer to another about where to walk or sleep. Every situation can have a different “alpha.” Dogs gravitate to other friendly dogs and are usually not looking for a strong leader for protection.