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.