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I had an interesting convo today with a fellow dog owner - she mentioned she was the Alpha in her house. To which I responded, "don't be alpha, be the leader" She replied that the two terms mean the same thing...she controls the resources, she makes the rules, enforces them, etc...and that is what makes her the Alpha/Leader. In a way I see her point, but I never thought that those terms had the same meaning...

What do you think?
 

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I personally use the term leader, not alpha. I suppose if someone is using the term "alpha" and is being a firm and fair leader it doesn't matter to me what they call it.. If they are using NILIF, training their dog in a positive and productive way to have manners and be a happy and well adjusted family member they can call it whatever they want.... :p

um, did that even make any sense? I was up all night with a migraine and am not really awake yet..... LOL
 

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Technically they're the same, but in the way that they are used, 'Alpha' seems to have a more aggressive connotation. In my (admittedly limited) experience, a lot of people who use the term 'Alpha' have it in their heads that they need to do a lot of yelling and screaming to assert their status. Patricia McConnell uses the term 'Benevolent Leader', which means you establish & enforce the rules and have control over the house, but can still show affection and assert the leadership role without a lot of drama. As a low blood-pressure type of personality, I prefer the latter method.
 

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Zim beat me to it.

You control the resources in your household and use them to shape the way your dog behaves by rewarding him for some, and not for others. Does this mean that you're dominant over your dog, or that he sees the family as a pack, of which you are the leader? Doubt it. To me it just means you're the one who has access to treats, toys and enjoyable activities. Which, in turn, to me just means that you are the physically and mentally superior one. So what?
 

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Alpha = breeding partner. Ewww.

Leader = one that guides.

I lead a lot of the time, but so does Elsa...so I'm sometimes leader. Does that count?
 

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Alpha = breeding partner. Ewww.

Leader = one that guides.

I lead a lot of the time, but so does Elsa...so I'm sometimes leader. Does that count?
Well I was trying to choose and it was a choice between 1. Sticky-sticky Sambo-no-so Rambo, 2. Alpha, 3. Leader, it was quite distressing until wife solved problem and I am now called 4. Old Fool. :D Actually the dogs could care less if treated properly.
 

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What I don't get is why it is that if an owner responds to their dog, the owner isn't the leader anymore.

Why is it that leadership = giving orders and never taking input from the followers?

That's not what a good leader does. A good leader guides, teaches, makes decisions, controls for the welfare of the team, but also takes input from their followers, is in tune with their feelings, and knows how to make the most of their talents and motivations.

A leader tries to build the team and guide it to as much success as they can achieve, keeps the team unified and focused on the goal (not necessarily on his/herself), tries to keep spirits and morale high among the group, and will do what he/she can for the safety and well-being of the group.

Sounds like what a good dog trainer does, imo.

So yeah, I'd say any good owner/trainer that has a good relationship with their dog is probably a good leader to the dog because they very likely do all the things a good leader would.

I mean even if alpha was a sure thing in the pack world - there's also calming signals, barks by the subordinates that convey messages to the "higher ups", and probably more - after all the alpha is just one wolf/dog/pair - and can't do everything. So if the alpha responded to any of those signals/calls/barks - is he/she no longer alpha? That wouldn't make sense to me.
 

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kb, sounds good but in practice...at least with me...it isnt the case. i wish i could show you because its hard to explain...

the best i can say is that Bolo isnt obligated to do anything i ask. at all.

she wants to because i made it worth her while..but if she doesnt im not going to stop feeding, sheltering, etc
 

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Psh, I just say I'm her mom. :) That may be from working at PetSmart though, I call all of the owners the dog's mom or dad.

Other than mom, I don't have a title for myself in relationship to my dog. I don't go around telling people I'm the alpha or leader of my dog. I say "I have an eskie". And then babble for 45 minutes about all of her wonderfull qualities and what we do together. But I can't recall ever talking about how I lead her.
 

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Well I was trying to choose and it was a choice between 1. Sticky-sticky Sambo-no-so Rambo, 2. Alpha, 3. Leader, it was quite distressing until wife solved problem and I am now called 4. Old Fool. :D

Oh, God....my side hurts from laughing so hard!!! Could our wives be related???!
 

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she wants to because i made it worth her while..but if she doesnt im not going to stop feeding, sheltering, etc
Bah, stop feeding? Stop sheltering?

Who said anything about that? :confused:

It's not about obligation either. Nothing in my view of leadership has to do with "obligation" or the like.

The fact you've showed Bolo it's worthwile to work with you is leadership. You've got her working with you as a teammate and buying into you. You've motivated her to WANT to follow your direction.

That's leadership.
 

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Bah, stop feeding? Stop sheltering?

Who said anything about that? :confused:

It's not about obligation either. Nothing in my view of leadership has to do with "obligation" or the like.

The fact you've showed Bolo it's worthwile to work with you is leadership. You've got her working with you as a teammate and buying into you. You've motivated her to WANT to follow your direction.

That's leadership.
i completely disagree.

leadership is generally defined as guidance or inspiration towards a goal which is exactly the opposite than what i do...shaping.

in shaping the dog takes the lead. then you ask nicely via click for the dog to do x behavior again. it is partnership.

there is zero point in this twosome where one mind takes the lead more than the other. its exactly equal.

there is actually only ONE thing where i take the lead.. thats her attacking other dogs being a no no. the rest is up to her to decide.

so yeah i disagree.
 

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leadership is generally defined as guidance or inspiration towards a goal which is exactly the opposite than what i do...shaping.

in shaping the dog takes the lead. then you ask nicely via click for the dog to do x behavior again. it is partnership.
Really? So there's no goal to your shaping?

Isn't the click the goal from the dog's point of view? Isn't she offering behaviors to get that click and thus a reward?

Aren't you, via shaping, inspiring her to achieve that goal?

Isn't shaping the technique of teaching behaviors - or even just teaching the offering of behaviors?

Why is that not a goal? It was for Wally when he first started. I needed to inspire him to feel comfortable to offer behaviors. Shaping did it. So it's both - I inspired him, he bought into it. I led by setting the method (shaiping), he followed (offered behaviors), we worked as a team towards a goal (him getting rewarded, me: teaching a behavior, or just offering behaviors).
 

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Oh, God....my side hurts from laughing so hard!!! Could our wives be related???!
No, being related is not necessary, it comes in the husband user's guide that's passed down from generation to generation. They don't have a wife user's guide as cost of ink was too much considering the amount of printing etc it would have cost and then nobody could have picked up the guide, just too heavy. Us husbands are much simpler to handle, it is a much smaller guide.
 

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I consider myself the steward of my dogs.

"Alpha" has too many silly connotations. (Ever try to pin a Plott hound on her back to show who's the alpha?) "Leader" sounds like I should be going out the door first. I'd rather my dogs go out first in case there's a bear or a dragon in the back yard. (They can move a lot faster than I can, and I suspect Esther, at least, can climb trees.)

I think a healthy relationship with our dogs is symbiotic. It's mutually-advantageous.
 

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Now that CP has defined Alpha I am even LESS inclined to use that term. I don't think about leadership either.

Here is the thing.. until technology took us from an agrarian society to a technological society (anf befreo that from Hunter and Gatherer to agrarian), our dogs were partners and the relastionship was as Ron says.. mutually beneficial. For humans, Dogs provided alerts, helped to hunt, tend livestock, and were in famine times, a source of food. Humans OTOH provided shelter and food.. a safe place.

Quite honestly, I don't think anyone was too worried about being Alpha (especially in the face of CP's definition.. tho you never know!) or about being the leader.. mostly people were worried about survival and the dog was a benefit to that end. Dogs were also worried about survival and humans were a benefit to that end.

The analysis of leader and alpha and all the rest only came about with technological advancements which changed the dog's role from symbioisis to mostly companion animal.

I don't burden my already weak mind with all this stuff. I have a dog and I have had a blast training her. She OTOH seems to find it very amusing to live with me and sets me up for various calamities which provide her with no end of entertainment.

Fact is, if we are talking resources, it seems to me I am the one being "lead..."
 

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No, being related is not necessary, it comes in the husband user's guide that's passed down from generation to generation. They don't have a wife user's guide as cost of ink was too much considering the amount of printing etc it would have cost and then nobody could have picked up the guide, just too heavy. Us husbands are much simpler to handle, it is a much smaller guide.
There's a guide???? No wonder I'm always in trouble!
 

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Lol saying you are Alpha is overestimating yourself (not directed to anyone personally) for me this kind of means that you understand so well dog language and behaviour that you've become one of them and can interact on the same way with them as they do between themselves.

I'm much more humble, I'm a leader: I make human rules for my canine friend and we try to communicate together but communication is not perfect because neither of us fully understand the other.

Many would like to say they are Alpha, but they are not as they impose themselves and their knowledge is not perfect.
 
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