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Are you the alpha? The answer may surprise you!

March 14, 2017

When you and your dog are hanging out together, do you ever find yourself trying to figure out if you're the "alpha" in the relationship? If so, take this short test to find out!


1) Are you a human being?





2) Is your dog a dog?




-Acts like a cat, I'm a little suspicious


3) Do you have opposable thumbs and are you in control of pretty much everything in your dog's life?



-Sorry, only yes's for this one.


                                                   Regis says "Who you callin' the alpha?!"



Did you find yourself answering "yes" to the above questions? Congratulations, you're the dominant one in your relationship with your dog. Automatically. By default. Yes, it really is that simple.


The definition of dominance is:

1. ruling, governing, or controlling; having or exerting authority or influence:dominant in the chain of command.

2. occupying or being in a commanding or elevated position.

3. predominant; main; major; chief


Some dog trainers and "whisperers" would have you believe that you need to prove to your dog that you are "dominant" in the relationship using physical force or intimidation. But the fact of the matter is, you are automatically dominant because you're the human with the fancy opposable thumbs. When your dog needs to go to the bathroom, who does he go to so he can go outside? You. When your dog wants his favorite toy taken down from a shelf, who does he go to? You. When it's dinner time, who does he find and stare at forlornly? YOU. You have control over EVERY resource that your dog could possibly want. And that is what dominance is. Having control over access to resources.


Dominant/Alpha is not a personality trait. It's not some mystical skill that can only be controlled by trainers with no knowledge of learning theory. And it's not the root cause of behavior problems. Your dog jumps on you? Not dominance, probably just excited to see you. Your dog goes out the door before you do? Isn't the backyard just SO EXCITING?! Your dog jumps on the couch? Why don't you try lying on hardwood flooring all day. Your dog bites you when you try to take his toy away? He's probably learned that when you take things away you never give them back and don't trade anything else in return; why wouldn't he be reluctant to give you his stuff? 


There are SO MANY behaviors that are falsely attributed to a dog's "dominant" personality. Some of them are rooted in excitement, some of them are rooted in fear, and some of them are just happening because we haven't taught the dog what TO do yet. Using dominance/pack theory to try to label dogs and explain behavior is lazy, unimaginative, and just plain bad science. Do your dog a huge favor, and ditch the labels "dominant" and "alpha". You'll be doing the both of you a big favor.


            Credit for the above picture goes to Lisa Mullinax of 4paws University! Her Facebook page has a ton of great information for dog owners and trainers alike!


Is there a behavior that you always thought was attributed to dominance? What was it? How did you overcome it, or do you still need help figuring it out? Comment below!

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Mary Thompson, CPDT-KA, PMCT
Phone: 312-307-6481
E-Mail: mary@happyhounduniversity.com

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