German Shepherds Forum banner

1 - 20 of 39 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,027 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Dogs are pack animals and they need to establish their hierarchies in a pack. I've come across dogs that are top dogs (alphas), submissive dogs and dogs that are okay with being in the middle.

There's this one dog that I know (I won't state the breed) he's generally bigger than any other dogs (and he knows it), and whenever there's a new dog coming, he has to 'greet' them by showing off his alphaness. How? He will bark or push the other dog until the other dog submits by cowering their head or rolls on their belly, then he walks away. But he is NEVER aggressive, he just likes to assert dominance. With dog that challenges him, he will bark until the other dog backs down. And... He pees on other dogs too... Even tried to pee on mine.

Also there's this one female GSD/Wolf hybrid who is definitely a top dog, and the owner said 'She was very aggressive before she was spayed.'

I'm just wondering, is Top Dog a personality that a dog was born with (biological) or is it something that is shaped situationally/something that the dog is accustomed to?

What are your thoughts?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,780 Posts
Oh sure, start a HUGE argument LOL! People differ greatly in their beliefs on this subject, due to environment and experience...I'm inclined to hear them before offering my opinion on this one...
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
7,121 Posts
I think that first dog you spoke of sounds more like an insecure bully - I'll get you before you get me.I think of a true alpha as being always cool and calm and a natural leader.Just my opinion,can't back it up:)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,845 Posts
The 'alpha dog' is a myth!

Google told me so... https://www.google.ca/search?q=the+...ome..69i57.19131j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8


There! That'll REALLY get the fur flying!!:grin2:

My answer to these people is that yes, some of the conclusions drawn about wolf behaviour by watching captive wolves were wrong...BUT!!!

There is a definite 'pecking' order in all animals that live in groups. Dogs, lions, chimpanzees, even humans have their natural leaders, and those that are more comfortable being followers. Leerburg has a good description of the behaviour of dogs establishing rank in a dog park: Leerburg | Dog Parks: Why They Are A Bad Idea

Soo...let the discussion begin!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
330 Posts
A few different perspectives on dominance hierarchy among dogs offered below. The studies are interesting.

I think confidence is partly inherent, partly nurtured. You probably can’t create a top dog out of nothing, but terrible events or people could probably turn a top dog into something less.

I think Beau is a beta dog. High ranking, maybe, but not the top.

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/08/wolves-cooperate-dogs-submit-study-suggests

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4556277/

https://academic.oup.com/beheco/article/28/4/1004/3743771
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,027 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
I just read some of you guys' link suggestions. One of the points I'd like to make is that I disagree that domesticated dogs don't need social hierarchy. Based on my knowledge and research (albeit, not expansive), some animals DO need to establish social hierarchy in order to work, especially pack animals.

One of you are of the opinion that alphas are supposed to be the calmest one. Perhaps they are. But what does another gotta do IF she wants to climb up the social ladder? Probably acts the way this particular dog acts.

I asked the owner if there ever was a dog that can top over his dog, he said there was only one. A dane (bigger than him) who exhibited more intense dominant behaviour.

I was just particularly interested in this dog's behaviour. Because all the people and dogs who know this dog seem to know that he is definitely the alpha when he's around. One if the dog owners told me, 'Yeah he peed on my dog once and my dog didn't do anything.' thus it means that dog knows the other dog is the top dog. But I repeat, he is NEVER aggressive, highly obedient to his owner. If another dog challenges him like I said he will bark and 'get into position,' but in the 1 year I've known this dog, he NEVER charges. Which I think is partly because of the owners' training.

This dog is the only dog my dog will submit to. My dog will walk around minding his own business and then that dog comes and 'pushes' my dog, and he just rolls on his belly until he goes away. Or he will run back to me immediately.

Or maybe it's an adult trying to teach puppies a lesson? That dog is an adult and mine is a pup so to speak.

One of the reasons too that I find this dog intriguing is the fact that he asserts dominance so intensely but it NEVER escalates. If this dog IS indeed fearful or insecure, I think he would've acted like any other idiot insecure dogs by trying to assert dominance by being aggressive/charging/attacking.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,027 Posts
Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Also, one of my thoughts is also primary socialisation period. How does a dog act at home? Do owners play, ie. tug with their dog and let them win? or Let them NOT win ever? How does that result in the playground?

And when they are born into their litter. Soon as they can see and hear, they will form into this hierarchy. And people who are choosing a puppy from that litter will see which puppy behaves like this and like that. But clearly the hierarchy is formed early in their life.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,845 Posts
I had a female who was rather dominant. If she felt she could assert herself over another dog, she'd do it. She also challenged my husband when she was first getting to know him, and I had to tell him how to put her in her place, or he would never be able to get her to obey him. You didn't get on this dog's good side just by feeding her cookies! She was always testing you to see just what she could get away with!

Anyway, there was twice I can remember that she immediately submitted to another dog. The first time was when we met this HUGE male great Dane. She took one look at him, collapsed to the ground and rolled on her back! Roger and I both laughed because we'd never seen her do anything like that before!

The second time was when friends invited us to go sailing with them. Tasha took one step onto the deck of their boat, and their 10 lb. black, fuzzy mutt came charging up to her, yapping aggressively. Tasha, who weighed 70 lbs., just went "Ooookay..." and backed right off! The two dogs avoided each other as much as possible the whole weekend.

There was a time when Tasha and the mutt (Muffy) didn't get along so well. Our friends, who were also near-neighbours, were out walking Muffy and stopped to chat. I THINK Muffy tried to challenge Tasha, or maybe he was being protective of his owners. Anyway, Tasha was on her own turf this time, there was some barking and growling, and I think a fight would have resulted if both owners hadn't stepped in right away and put some distance between the two dogs.

What this shows is that being on its own turf can give even a small dog the courage to challenge a much larger one, and it seems that other dogs are capable of understanding this and respecting it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,027 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
@Sunsilver how my dog reacts to dog X (let's just call that particular dog, X) is exactly how yours reacted to the Dane. My dog doesn't submit to any dog but him. Although, this past few weeks as mine has gotten a little bigger, he's starting to challenge back by barking and 'taking position' (no charging), but my dog will only does this if I'm physically near him, and I know he's not being protective of me, I think he's just realising how big he has gotten and now trying to challenge him back.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
7,121 Posts
A couple of things I have actually observed about pack behavior is before leash laws were a thing dogs would spend the the days wandering around together peacefully.No peeing on each other,no fighting,even when several dogs were lusting after a bitch in heat.Fences,leashes,dog parks have fostered some neurotic behavior I think.
I have kept a pack of three or four dogs for the last twenty years and which dog is in charge changes according to the circumstances at the time.Various situations call for certain skills and the pack will follow the "specialist".It's very fluid.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,550 Posts
I had a dog pee on my male golden retriever one time. My golden could not have cared less. He bounced over to me with his tail wagging. I was the one freaking out. I hate impromptu pee-baths! The owner didn't even apologize. He just laughed.

Anyway, the dog that did the peeing was in no way, shape, or form a dog I would call "natural alpha." He was a complete bully, plain and simple. He was of the unmentionable breed. He would push himself into dogs, give them looks, not allow them within a certain distance from him, basically rule the roost for dogs that were kind of dumb, happy-go-lucky, didn't have a care in the world. Why would a true alpha be threatened by dogs that aren't even giving him the time of day?

I agree with Dogma. A truly dominant dog does not need large displays like that, and any dog I see behaving that way, unless another dog is clearly acting inappropriately, I call a bully. Not a confident dog. Why would peeing on another dog ever be necessary? That makes me think of a BETA who is trying to climb the ladder, not an alpha keeping his spot.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
330 Posts
I agree with Dogma13, and some of the research bears out her point about dog-pack structure. I think it’s pretty clear dogs care about social rank. I think it’s not the same as wolves, and that it’s probably more complicated and fluid than who’s ‘alpha’ or not. Top dog is relative to a specific pair or group of dogs at a specific time, and can change with new dogs in the mix, or even just different circumstances for the group. It makes more sense to me to talk about how strong or confident or calm or aggressive a dog is, or what a good problem solver, rather than whether or not he is a ‘top dog’.

Dog X sounds more like a bully than a leader to me. And yes, a beta-type jockeying for position.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,027 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
I wish I can get the owner's consent and put a video here so you guys can see and observe dog X's behaviour. I've never been so intrigued by a dog's behaviour before this, and his breed is also a very rare breed, so there's not a whole lot of information on that dog.

And by the way the owner just laughed and didn't apologise? I would have personally told him to bathe my dog. What the ****. So impolite.

It's interesting to point out the fact that domesticated dogs have been situationally shaped to be a little 'neurotic' (so to speak) on account of leashes and fences and crates. Personally I'm looking to have masters degree in an animal-related major, and by far dogs, horses and aquatic animals are the most intriguing ones to me. Not related to the post but just wanted to share:)

Bottom line is I agree that dogs DO care about social ranks.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,599 Posts
That is a good point you brought up about the stress of being constantly fenced, crated, leashed and otherwise confined and the all too often behavior problems associated with restricting movement and natural behaviors 24/7.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,027 Posts
Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
But I suppose that's the way it is with Domesticated dogs. Otherwise they can't be called domesticated without being contained in some ways.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,599 Posts
There are plenty of ways to give dogs freedom. One just has to prioritize their dog's needs.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,158 Posts
Rumo may be a dominant dog. After walking him daily for 1-2 hrs a day for over a year, I know his behaviors when passing/meeting other dogs very well! In all of our walks, I have never seen him submit to another dog - even when attacked. He meets hostile dogs with a growl and never backs down - I have to drag him away before a dogfight erupts. When he passes other large male dogs, he stands up high on his tiptoes, his ears prick, head high, his chest puffs out. I began to suspect he is a "dominant" dog - his foster mom in her description had written "good with submissive male dogs" (at the time, I had no idea what that meant). She also mentioned that he would push her other dogs out of the way to get onto the couch. Most other dogs drop their heads lower than his to meet him, or lay down or sit. He then sniffs them in a dignified manner and moves on. One offleash dog actually put herself into a hunched "turtle position" - Rumo walked over, sniffed her, and walked away. A dog put his paw on Rumo's back, and got growled/snapped at. I apologized profusely to that owner (because at the time, I didn't know what the paw on the back thing meant, I thought it was a friendly gesture).

So maybe mine tends to be a dominant dog (but I would NEVER let my dog pee on another dog or push/shoulder them! And he has never tried.)

And in my opinion, dogs leave humans out of the hierarchy? When I pet Rumo's head or he is greeting me, his ears are flattened. I can correct him verbally and he will never repeat the behavior. If I am coming through a doorway and he is lying there, he stands up and backs away quickly. I've wondered how it is that he can be dominant with dogs and submissive with his owner, and I think: I'm not included in the pecking order! What a relief! Because if he acted dominant with me, I am not sure if I could handle him.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,158 Posts
One last example: We pass regularly by a yard with a black lab behind an invisible fence, and their sign says "My name is XXX. Come in and meet me! I am friendly!"

I let Rumo meet him - they had a friendly greeting, and the lab laid down in the grass. While he was laying there, Rumo PEED on his bush! The dog just watched. At the time I felt like Rumo was being SO RUDE, like going to someone's house and taking a beer out of their fridge...but now I wonder, is that a dominant behavior?
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
7,121 Posts
A dog park where various dogs and owners come and go is not an ideal place to get an accurate picture of social rank and pack behavior IMHO.It's an unnatural situation.Nevertheless it's interesting to watch the dogs in that environment.I've taken a few of my dogs to dog parks when they were young and enjoyed the interaction.Hubby and I actually miss going:)
 
  • Like
Reactions: tim_s_adams

·
Registered
Joined
·
330 Posts
FWIW, Beau *always* has to cover another dog’s pee. He does it til he’s empty every morning, and still tries with the last drops. He’s more dominant than not, but not at the top of that ladder.
 
1 - 20 of 39 Posts
Top