Pack dominance issues
We have two GSDs; one is a seven year old female, the other a two year old male. The female was with us for about five years before we got the male. Both are from the pound, so we don't have any back story on either. The female is very affectionate, good protector, etc. The male, as befits his age, is more energetic and playful, but also affectionate, brave, a good protector, etc. We have had the male about 15 months and everything was great until about a month ago.
Our problem is one that I believe is basically a dominance issue over which of the two will be the alpha. The female always has been, but the male is starting to make moves into taking over the role. The female is resisting this, demanding more attention and affection from the family, and is finding many ingenious ways to mess with the male. I accepted this as just the transition they will go through; being much larger, younger, and stronger, the male will eventually become the aplha. The trouble is that this competition for aplha status has begun to result in negative behavior. They are both becoming resistant to taking commands that they jumped to obey just a few months ago (they will still obey, but it is not instant, sometimes two or three repetitions are required where one was always enough before); the male and female actually got into a fight over food (this has NEVER happened before), and we have to keep a very close watch on them while they are outside because the female has been caught trying to dig under the property fence. Neither shows any aggression towards the family members and both remain affectionate and protective of the humans in the house. Neither sees the other as a threat to any of the people in the house, but both seem to want exclusive attention, rather than the sort of group affection, games, etc., that has previously seemed perfectly OK to both of them.
Is this all natural? And how long should it take these two to hash it out and establish the new pecking order? Is there anything as owners we can do to speed up or smooth out this process?