About the 5-letter word "*lpha" - Page 2 - German Shepherd Dog Forums
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-11-2012, 07:36 AM
Crowned Member
Sunflowers's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 9,024
Originally Posted by Jag View Post
We may not 'speak dog', but they DO expect things to happen according to their understanding of how things should work! They will not give us respect because we give them respect. That's putting human thoughts and emotions onto a dog...which they aren't capable of doing.

Grim is an 'alpha male'. He absolutely needs to know that *I* am in charge now, and what I say goes. No matter how he feels about himself or his status. Yes, I agree in fair, consistent leadership. However, this isn't because I feel that if I show him respect he will give it back. It's because that's how an alpha behaves. Due to the fact that he's EXTREMELY stubborn and resistant to how *I* want things to be, I cannot waver from my stance that what I say goes. If I do, then he will attempt to take over that 'alpha' position... and the result would not be good. Where you normally don't 'get the finger' until the dog's older, I've been getting it off and on from the beginning. Building a bond and relationship with him is important, because he has to know that I have control of things and I am competent to take that alpha spot. In our dog pack, though, he still asserts his dominance. With those he isn't bonded to or does not know... he asserts his dominance and expects it will not be questioned. The respect you give your dog is in your mind, IMO.. not the dog's. The respect that you get from your dog isn't respect for being kind to him, it's respect for being the alpha. If calling it something else makes people feel better, that's OK. Canine nature hasn't changed, though. They don't respect those that they don't feel are in a higher position than them, and to get there you have to prove that you're in that position. That means controlling resources, taking care of things that an alpha would take care of, and squashing any attempt by the dog to take over that position. For some dogs, this isn't too difficult, because they aren't the alpha to begin with. For others, it takes more... including correction of behaviors that are unacceptable to make it crystal clear who is in charge of the 'pack'. It's also not limited to actions you take. IMO, it's also about the air you put out. Lack confidence, lack authority... and the dog will 'smell' that and react accordingly to fill that 'void' that it senses. JMO

You really should write a book for dog owners, Jag.
Sunflowers is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-11-2012, 07:56 AM
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Jenkintown,Pa.
Posts: 15,199
i don't think in most cases we have do anything special
to be alpha, leader of the pack, in charge. i think through
training, socializing, caring, taking care of the dog, spending
time together and feeding your automatically "top dog".
doggiedad is offline  
post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-13-2012, 05:31 PM
New Member
Benevolence's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 16

Basically Mech (who coined the term) says that 'alpha' is an incorrect phrase, originating from studying of captive wolves creating a hierarchy that doesn't occur in nature, and was never correct to start with. It's talked about more in page 53 of his book "Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, Conservation".
Benevolence is offline  
post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-13-2012, 05:49 PM
Crowned Member
Lilie's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: South Texas
Posts: 12,391
Alpha is just a word. It holds no magical powers.

A true Alpha dog doesn't have to keep reminding the pack who is the leader. He/she rarely shows any aggression.

Hondo Von Dopplet L Bauernhof "Hondo"- GSD
Lilie's Tug McGraw "Tug" - Golden Retriever
Maggie - Mini Dachshund (Rescue)
Lonestar Pivo - Texas Blue Lacy
Ashe - Barn Cat
Katie / APHA
Lilie is offline  
post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-13-2012, 09:53 PM Thread Starter
Master Member
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: IA
Posts: 701
Originally Posted by Benevolence View Post

Basically Mech (who coined the term) says that 'alpha' is an incorrect phrase, originating from studying of captive wolves creating a hierarchy that doesn't occur in nature, and was never correct to start with. It's talked about more in page 53 of his book "Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, Conservation".
This is a new one. Very interesting. However, again, we are not in nature, they are domesticated and are not in a wolf pack. So, in that sense, we certainly could use the word alpha, take it as our word since it is not theirs? Or would you beg to differ in that logic?

Lauri, I do get what you are saying, I agree that we do not need to be alpha to have a successful relationship; we cannot speak dog; but those certain working dogs who are clearly #2 in the handler/dog relationship, how would you define that? We cannot speak dog, but we can certainly express what we want and can tell what they want from a number of ways. Could it really be that we cannot speak dog, but dogs can understand humans?

I am not saying anything about alpha roll, corrections, aggression, or forced compulsion, that is now how I really define alpha. I define it in the way that doggiedad summed up very clearly. However, I do think that some canines require those heavy tactics, it certainly does work for most if not all, otherwise where would CM be? But since it is out of my jurisdiction to speak about that, I will leave the rest of my argument on the side. What I am trying to get at is, even though many people say "don't think alpha!" what else is there to think? Let your dog control you, let your dog fend for itself? A real "top dog", "leader", "alpha", "head", would never let that happen, and what relationship would you have if you did not control your dog, with everything that you do every day? Obedience, shutzh, agility, feeding, crating, walking, socializing, every thing.
jae is offline  
post #16 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-13-2012, 11:20 PM
Crowned Member
Chicagocanine's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 6,508
I don't like the term for a few reasons. One, "alpha" tends to go hand in hand with "dominate" and "dominate" tends to be connected with using intimidation and aggressive methods in order to achieve "dominance" in your "pack" which are IMO unnecessary and can cause more harm than good.
It's also connected to the old inaccurate studies done on packs of unrelated captive wolves (which have since been debunked even by the people who originally did them.) It often involves acting like they assume an "alpha dog" would act which, our dogs usually do not think of us as an "alpha dog" as they know we are not a dog. You would probably not want your dog to think you're another dog, really, so why try to act like one?

Also the fact is that dogs are not wolves and they don't have the same social structure. Even though they are closely related, dogs evolved in the presence of people and don't have the same social situations as wolves, leading to changes to social structure.
In most wolf packs the "alphas" are usually simply the parents and the rest of the pack consists of various ages of their offspring (with some exceptions). They are not "alpha" because they are stronger, fought their way to the top or beat all the other wolves down; they are simply alpha because they are the parents.
More recent research which has been done (now that people are realizing that the "alpha wolf" model is incorrect) shows that dog social structure is more complex, it's quite different than wolves and not a strict hierarchy like that-- not to mention the fact that a dog "pack" is not usually a group of parents and offspring in most cases.

You don't have to "be alpha" or let your dog walk all over you. That is a false argument.
It is possible to train your dog, teach them to listen to you, and to "respect" you without "acting alpha".

To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.

Jubal/Tesla (Beauceron) 3/14/14
Bianca HIC CGC TT (GSD) 4/24/04-10/23/12

Last edited by Chicagocanine; 11-13-2012 at 11:23 PM.
Chicagocanine is offline  
post #17 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-14-2012, 10:46 AM
Senior Member
RowdyDogs's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Posts: 458
In my opinion, "alpha" is just a word, but it is very hard to divorce it from its old connotations of compulsion and dominance-based training. I informally help a lot of people with their dogs (just basic obedience stuff) and I used to use "alpha" to describe the relationship I wanted them to have with their dogs, but in almost everyone I worked with (none what I'd call a serious dog person), it seemed to put them in an adversarial mindset. So trying to be alpha they'd focus on "showing the dog who is boss," rather than a more positive leadership.

It also seems to make many people think that the dog should never express an opinion, which I think is unrealistic. If my dog isn't feeling well or is scared or in pain and doesn't like something, I want him to express that in an appropriate manner. I still expect obedience as sometimes I have to put my dogs through things they don't like for their own good (sitting still for vaccinations/blood draws being the obvious example), but I think it's okay for them to express their discomfort through body language. However, some people seem to think "alpha" means "unquestioning obedience without expressing fear or discomfort" which I believe is unrealistic at best and can create a reactive dog by shutting down all those warning "back off/slow down/I'm terrified" signs until the dog gets over threshold and snaps. (again, not saying that anyone in this thread thinks that--I'm talking about less experienced dog owners)

So while I know to plenty of serious dog people "alpha" tends to have a gentler tone to it, I think that to a lot of people (myself included, because of the trainer I used to take my dog to as a teen and her aggressive methods--I grew up with the idea that to be alpha you did have to bully your dog) it can bring up some very harsh connotations. To me, "leader" is very different than "alpha," and my experience (anecdotal, obviously!) shows me that it seems to be the same for many people. It's subtle and probably not that important, but I've rid my dog-training vocabulary of the word because of those things.
RowdyDogs is offline  
post #18 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-14-2012, 11:06 AM
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Mont Co, PA
Posts: 5,661
Great post Lauri!
gsdraven is offline  
post #19 of 19 (permalink) Old 11-14-2012, 12:33 PM
Crowned Member
wolfy dog's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 6,263
When I am called for help as a trainer I always secretly smile when the owner proudly tells me, she is the "Alpha". I have stopped explaining what a true Alpha dog is since they don't want to hear it. Why was it they needed help?
I once had a beautiful true Alpha dog; never picked a fight, didn't put up with nonsense either, just raised all the pups and foster dogs that entered the household. He was a tremendous assistant in the puppy classes. I wish he would be still here so he could assist me, without having to solve, WD's hormonal craziness sometimes.
The cool thing was that he never lost his status in our group of dogs, even as a very old and weak dog. When he died, the other 2 went on a 3 month anorexia spree that was hard to manage.
I wish how to pick / recognize a pup from the litter with that status. Anyone?
wolfy dog is offline  
Sponsored Links

Quick Reply

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the German Shepherd Dog Forums forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome