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I have been searching, questing, seeking, etc to find the alpha dog symptoms. When I do a search, I get this:

Your dog may be an Alpha if he:
Ignores commands
Bites, snarls, and jealously guards his toys and food
Demands to be petted
Growls when told to move or stop his destructive behavior

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/783921/the_alpha_dog_if_you_think_your_dog_pg2.html?cat=7

However, I have been told my dog is alpha but it doesn't seem right.

Some scenarios that run through my mind:

1. Dog is willingly knowing to try to bring me down.
2. Dog already thinks he is alpha which is why sometimes he doesn't listen to me.

However, as I have learned, 1 & 2 don't make sense. Majority of dogs are not trying to take down their owner. I also learned that dogs may not follow a command because one has not trained him well in many various environments, ie. dog park, home, dog store, etc.

To be honest though, it sounds like a selling scheme to say, anytime a dog pulls on the lead/leash, that he is trying to be alpha. I really think that some of the time it is just poor training and the dog wants to sniff the environment, not try to lead the pack. I noticed nothing is said about the dogs age. A puppy that is 8 weeks old pulling on a lead is just curious.

So my question is this, what is the main symptoms of an alpha dog? Must he exhibit a certain trait before he is considered an alpha dog.

The reason I ask is that I found an abandoned Lab that is about 3-4 months old at a dog park. It seems to constantly bite on my GSD and my dog will get frustrated with it. Then my dog will come back and bite on it - a never-ending cycle. I also noticed when I touch another dog, that my dog wants to come investigate or if I give another dog a toy, my dog wants to get it. I asked through email a dog behaviorist and they told me that I had an alpha dog and a human-canine reversal had happened. (Meaning my dog is the one in charge.)

I'd be cool to fix what I need to fix but I couldn't find the answer to this problem. I have him trained and will listen to me in a dog park. If there is a dog fight, he will come to me when I call him. He doesn't sleep in my bed nor does he ever growl at people - except alarm barking.

Anyhow, I am sure this thread will help others in a search result through google or something.
 

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Yo CSP,

So really, it is just to say the breeding male/female or also mother/father.

However, I am still confused why people still use it to explain problem dogs.
 

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However, I am still confused why people still use it to explain problem dogs.
The point is that they SHOULDN'T use it to describe problem dogs -- dogs are not wolves, so 'alpha' doesn't apply.

I'd find a different behaviorist who uses positive reinforcement methods of training and behavior mod.
 

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The so-called "Alpha Dog" is a genuine phenomenon (IMHO), but the "syndrome" is rarely a factor in pet dog training. As with any social animal, there will be dogs who possess an extreme drive to be in charge. You will absolutely recognize one if you meet one. Oddly enough, that type is fairly easy to deal with (again, IMHO).

* Dogs guard resources because they want to keep them. The least dominant member of a pack will do it. Possession in 9/10ths of the law.

* Dogs bolt through doorways because they want something on the other side.

* Dogs pull on the leash because humans walk too slow.

* Dogs ignore commands because they don't want to do what you tell them.

* Dogs demand to be petted because they want attention.

* Dogs steal food because they like to eat.

* Etc., etc., etc......

My dog did (or does) all of those things, and he is no kind of Alpha Dog. The thing to know about dogs is that they are opportunists and grifters of the first order. If threats and bullying gets them what they want, that's what they'll run with. Same-wise with pathetic puppy dog eyes.
 

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The symptoms you listed can easilly be explained by different circumstances. Lack of training/socialization, immaturity, agression. The "demands to be petted" one really gets me, lol! I can't imagine how a dog would DEMAND to be petted other than being near you and maybe even leaning a bit? Sounds like whoever wrote that doesn't show their dog enough affection!

The aggression one is a big deal, though. Aggression comes from fear and guarding instincts, not from dominance. Alpha wolves in the wild don't threaten their packs into submission. Aggression should be dealt with carefully and by a professional. If you practice the typical "dominance" techniques with an aggressive dog (Looming over him, yelling commands, forcing him into "submission") you're very very likely to get bitten.

There is definitely a place for leadership in your relationship with your dog, though consistant and mostly positive training will make them well behaved. Also, a lot of dog owners fail to realize that dogs try to communicate with us, too. They're not suggestion boxes. If your dog is standing in front of the front door and barking at you, he's not trying to be "alpha," he's telling you he needs to go out or needs some exercise. If the barking annoys you, don't try to dominate him into completely stopping, replace the behavior with a more desirable one (like hanging a bell next to the door that he can ring). Reward the desired behavior and ignore the undesired one, and be consistant! He'll never learn if you give in and let him out when he barks, or fail to let him out when he rings the bell.
 

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However, I am still confused why people still use it to explain problem dogs.
People still call dogs that exhibit problem behaviors 'alpha' because, like dogs we humans also learn through conditioning. Much of what we're taught in schools, in the media (even in popular dog related shows today), and in public, is the idea that 'alpha' = leader, ruler, dictator. So when the dog does something against our will (our leadership) it is assumed the dog is striving for 'alpha' position, to dominate and dictate his will; thus, the label 'alpha' becomes convenient in lumping problem behaviors that seem to result from this effort.

We humans like lumping, however, lumping can be problematic. This message is late in getting into our text books, in the media, and out in public, so these old idea of what 'alpha' is, prevails. The cards are stacked against what we know to be true now, but with the efforts of Mech and other experts in the scientific community, perhaps those explanations will have their day.
 

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So my question is this, what is the main symptoms of an alpha dog?
There is such a thing as an alpha dog, but it doesn't have anything to do with wolves or wolf studies or dominance. People always bring up wolves, but dogs are not wolves and are behaviorally different than wolves, so wolves really don't enter into it. It has to do with domestic dog pack observation, not wolf observation. And to make these observations, one must be observing a pack of dogs (3 or more) that live, eat and sleep together.

An alpha dog is usually the best behaved dog in the pack. Alpha dogs are usually very calm, relaxed and confident dogs. The way to tell which dog is alpha in a pack is to observe which dog the others in the pack fairly consistently defer to. It's not anything an alpha dog DOES, it's how the other dogs treat them that is the revealing factor.

If all the dogs in the pack defer to a human, sometimes that human will refer to themselves as "alpha". I don't have any problem with this, but clearly, some do. It's just a word. :) Unfortunately, a lot of people don't know what it means in regards to a dog pack.

I also noticed when I touch another dog, that my dog wants to come investigate or if I give another dog a toy, my dog wants to get it.
I have to disagree with the behaviorist who diagnosed this through email. With such little information, it would be difficult to say what's going on with your dog and the lab. But I doubt it has anything to do with "being alpha". I agree with Nargle that it could be just about anything from doggy rudeness to bad socialization or just curiosity.
 

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If all the dogs in the pack defer to a human, sometimes that human will refer to themselves as "alpha". I don't have any problem with this, but clearly, some do. It's just a word. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't know what it means in regards to a dog pack.
FourIsCompany
When you're right, you're right. Alpha is just a word, pretty close to 50 yrs training and I have seen/heard this word more on this forum more times in the last 9 months than I have in the 1st 46 yrs or so of dog training.
 

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Alpha is just a word, pretty close to 50 yrs training and I have seen/heard this word more on this forum more times in the last 9 months than I have in the 1st 46 yrs or so of dog training.
Really? That's very interesting. I wonder what has made it such a popular concept. I wonder where people got the idea that a misbehaving dog is "trying to be alpha"... I haven't heard ANY dog related shows using the word. That's really curious to me.
 

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Really? That's very interesting. I wonder what has made it such a popular concept. I wonder where people got the idea that a misbehaving dog is "trying to be alpha"... I haven't heard ANY dog related shows using the word. That's really curious to me.
My gut feeling, is that it has become quite trendy nowadays to throw the Alpha word out and it sometimes gives a false impression that the person who uses the word really knows a lot about dogs and training. Having spent close to 15 yrs building/training protection dogs and exchanging/discussing dog stories with K9 handlers, police and prison dog handlers just never heard the word alpha much at all. This was in the late 70s and 80s though, we probably weren't the brightest bulbs in the box.
 

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The whole Alpha/dominance spiel is a fairly recent development. To a certain extent it's a true thing, but some of it is pure wackiness. If a dog being out in front is a sign that he's the "pack leader", then someone's gonna have to explain all those superbly mannered bird dogs who operate halfway to the horizon while the hunter plods along behind. Other examples abound.

It used to just be called "training your dog".
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
FourIsCompany
When you're right, you're right. Alpha is just a word, pretty close to 50 yrs training and I have seen/heard this word more on this forum more times in the last 9 months than I have in the 1st 46 yrs or so of dog training.
Hey Wvasko,

That is what I thought all. I knew for the most part, it was a lot of BS. It just didn't make sense.

I know what it relates to. I think it has to deal with more of "The dog whisper" than anything else. He became a major craze. Dog lovers probably watched him but how many people without dogs are going to watch "The Dog Whisper" to learn how to curb aggressive dogs, shy dogs, etc. I know I didn't until . . . I got a dog. I know I didn't care to read about dog behaviors until I got one. And it is just a floating idea out there.

I think the reason Wvasko is because people are finally starting to learn about him. I have had vets, trainers, random people and others tell me to watch him to learn how to raise my dog. So with this new found population and people constantly getting new puppies all the time, I think this is where it comes to play. You have people who think they know all about dogs telling people to watch that show or read this book causing people to bump into the word "alpha" many times.

LOL, I can not tell you how many times I heard people talking about alpha dogs in the dog park.

I thought I was missing something when I talked to the behaviorist but now I know an email review is def not the way to go. Next weekend I am going to a trainer who specializes in dog behavior and is very popular in my area. I will update for the sake of this forum to let you all know what happens.

Oh and Xavier has no problems with socialization. I take him everyday M-F to Day Care for him to play all day. I take him to the dog park on the weekends. That is why it is a huge surprise to me with the way he acts. However, I know I am doing something wrong because he barked at someone today at Petco as they were talking to him. Maybe I will have to do something to build up his confidence.

And Marsh Muppet, I agree too because not all dogs sit by their master such as on a farm.
 

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I first heard the word in reference to herd structure.. with... CHICKENS. It was called the pecking order and the chcken who managed to get to the food etc. first and get her fill b4 the others was at the top. The unthrifty one that could not compete was last in order.

I also heard it with respect to wolves in packs and pack structure in Biology classes.

The first time I heard of any of this with regards to dogs was on TV and we all know that if it is on TV it must be true.... :rolleyes:

there is another word tossed around a lot with regards to dogs.. it is "dominance" which I NEVER heard of with regard to dogs until I saw it on TV.

I find both of these most puzzling. I think you can probably train your dog well and never know either word or what either word means and still have a good dog.
 

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I first heard the word in reference to herd structure.. with... CHICKENS. It was called the pecking order and the chcken who managed to get to the food etc. first and get her fill b4 the others was at the top. The unthrifty one that could not compete was last in order.

I also heard it with respect to wolves in packs and pack structure in Biology classes.

The first time I heard of any of this with regards to dogs was on TV and we all know that if it is on TV it must be true.... :rolleyes:

there is another word tossed around a lot with regards to dogs.. it is "dominance" which I NEVER heard of with regard to dogs until I saw it on TV.

I find both of these most puzzling. I think you can probably train your dog well and never know either word or what either word means and still have a good dog.
I did not even want to touch the word "dominance" as I know somewhere there is a litter still in the womb that somebody will post about a dominance litter not yet born. I have never heard of so many 8 or 9 week old puppies that are dominant and aggressive. It boggles the mind.
 

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lol. You should see them when they are born. Growling and hissing and fighting the mother for her position as leader.
 

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The reason I ask is that I found an abandoned Lab that is about 3-4 months old at a dog park. It seems to constantly bite on my GSD and my dog will get frustrated with it. Then my dog will come back and bite on it - a never-ending cycle.
Ummm. Puppy? Puppy behaviour? PITA puppy? All NORMAL. LOL. Sounds like play between the two dogs. Be sure to give your older GSD a break occasionally, put the pup in his crate with a great chewy to keep him occupied when the old man needs some rest.

As for the popularity of the "alpha question"...what do people think? That the dogs are all planning an uprising and are constantly plotting to usurp and take over the world?

Dogs run the spectrum between submissive and dominant personalities but this has nothing to do with us two leggeds. And like mentioned earlier, a truly dominant type dog is a cool as a cucumber, chill kind of dog that doesn't NEED to force respect on others.

If a dog misbehaves, aggresses or "disobeys" a cue, chances are it is in pain, not fully trained in a proper manner, fearful or anxious or is showing intelligent disobedience (asking for a sit in an icy water puddle for example..would you do it?). In most cases it is simply lack of training, misunderstanding of the dog's signals and a lack of skill on the part of the handler.
 

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Ummm. Puppy? Puppy behaviour? PITA puppy? All NORMAL. LOL. Sounds like play between the two dogs. Be sure to give your older GSD a break occasionally, put the pup in his crate with a great chewy to keep him occupied when the old man needs some rest.
:cool:

As for the popularity of the "alpha question"...what do people think? That the dogs are all planning an uprising and are constantly plotting to usurp and take over the world?
I think they are. They are hellions when they are born and have self awareness.
Before long, we humans will be staring at Liberty Statue saying "God-dang it they finally did it."
 

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I did not even want to touch the word "dominance" as I know somewhere there is a litter still in the womb that somebody will post about a dominance litter not yet born. I have never heard of so many 8 or 9 week old puppies that are dominant and aggressive. It boggles the mind.
ROFLMAO! Amazing, isn't it, how many dominant and aggressive 8 & 9 wk. old puppies there are!
 

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ROFLMAO! Amazing, isn't it, how many dominant and aggressive 8 & 9 wk. old puppies there are!
In 45 years we had possibly 10 planned litters as I was never into breeding and selling, these were dogs that I personally liked a lot. Anyway they must not have been the type of stock out there now as there were no Piranhas or T-Rex 8 week old pups. Maybe it was a gentler time for dogs/pups etc.
 
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