Puppy Forum and Dog Forums banner
1 - 10 of 10 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
4 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Dear friends,
I would very much appreciate if someone owning a pack of big dogs ( at least 4) could explane to me when and why a beta (male) will try to become an alpha and how am I supposed to handle this.

This is my pack of 5 rescued dogs:

an 8 year old Rottweiler mix (my Alpha)
a 7 year old amstaff ( my female alpha)
a 6 year old pitbull mix ( female omega)
a 5 year old Rottweiler mix ( male whom I considered beta and now is trying to become the alpha)
a 5 year old Doberman ( female. who is now a beta but someday will become an alpha).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,428 Posts
There is no clear-cut order to group dynamics, and it tends to change frequently over time. Plus, you have five dogs of breeds/mixes known for dog aggression. Separating, and keeping separated, the ones who are having issues with each other is probably going to be the safest option.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
thank you for answering.

Keeping them separated is not an option because that will increase their intolerance to each other. When under my surveillance everything is under control and whenever I go out I do keep them in different rooms.
My question was more oriented towards whether I should keep on supporting my alpha even if he’s getting older ( cause that’s what I ve been doing for now and I think it is still the best option for now) or prepare them (slowly) for the change if possible.
what relates to our pack it has always had a clear order with my oldest male on the top and it has always been the same way with no changes.
Also, It is normal for a young male to try to defy the old one, as he also has a dominant character, however I m always there to let him know how runs the show.


There is no clear-cut order to group dynamics, and it tends to change frequently over time. Plus, you have five dogs of breeds/mixes known for dog aggression. Separating, and keeping separated, the ones who are having issues with each other is probably going to be the safest option.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
2,909 Posts
Modern canine behavioral science suggests that dogs don't have any kind of strict social hierarchy, even in feral populations. The idea of alpha/beta/omega in canine social interaction comes from poorly done research on wolves done in the 40s, based on interactions among a group of unrelated individuals confined to a small enclosure. We now know that wild wolves in their natural environment typically have a family structure where the animals that appear to be 'in charge' are just the parents of the other, younger wolves, and that they have nothing even close to a 'beta' or 'omega' socially. Feral dogs don't even form family packs, let alone have with clear and fixed social roles.

What I'm trying to say is, there's no set, 'right' definition for what alpha, beta, or omega behavior and/or temperament means when it comes to dogs because it's not based in solid behavioral science, and among people who use that language I've seen wildly different schools of thought and definitions. It would help to know what specific behaviors you're seeing that you're concerned about, because otherwise it's unclear what's actually happening between your dogs and how serious the issue is.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
676 Posts
thank you for answering.

Keeping them separated is not an option because that will increase their intolerance to each other. When under my surveillance everything is under control and whenever I go out I do keep them in different rooms.
My question was more oriented towards whether I should keep on supporting my alpha even if he’s getting older ( cause that’s what I ve been doing for now and I think it is still the best option for now) or prepare them (slowly) for the change if possible.
what relates to our pack it has always had a clear order with my oldest male on the top and it has always been the same way with no changes.
Also, It is normal for a young male to try to defy the old one, as he also has a dominant character, however I m always there to let him know how runs the show.
If by 'supporting your Alpha' you mean that you always feed, pet, give treats/attention, or whatever to him first, I'd suggest you stop worrying so much about some social hierarchy that you deem important, and simply look more closely at your dogs' individual behavior & reward (with food, attention, etc...) them for acting & responding in the way you want, regardless of what status you've designated them with.

Allowing (or worse, rewarding) rude or pushy behavior out of an individual dog in the group simply because you've decided he's the 'Alpha' and should act that way simply leads the other dogs to act pushy or rude, because (obviously, to them) it seems that's the way to get good stuff.

For example - If I'm going to dole out treats to my four dogs I expect them to sit & wait politely for their treat to be handed to them. Whoever sits the quickest gets the first cookie (regardless if I felt that was an Alpha dog or not) Same with mealtimes - I feed them in whatever order is most convenient for me. There is no 'stealing' of toys or chews allowed by any of the dogs - rude, pushy behavior is NOT tolerated between them & I support all dogs equally in this. If one is lying quietly on a bed & another tries to smash in & shove the other one out, I redirect the second one to a different resting place (unless I already know that those two don't mind snuggling/sharing the space)

In other words, simply reward the behavior you want to see & don't worry about status or think that your dogs are worried about status. They're not - they're worried about getting the good stuff, and since you have the opposable thumbs, you are in control of that.

PS - If I have misinterpreted your situation & this is NOT what's going on, then please forgive me & disregard my advice.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
3,329 Posts
Domesticated dogs aren't wolves, and their social structure can't be compared to wolves. Wolf packs are actually typically made up of family groups, with the parents being the "alphas"! Domesticated dogs that live in your house have an incredibly fluid social structure, so you can't really apply "this is the alpha all the time" and so on and so forth to them. Google Scholar "Social Organization of Domestic Dogs" and look for studies performed specifically in domesticated dogs. There's a lot of information that I think might help you understand what is going on between your dogs.

You can best support your elderly dog by ensuring he's safe, and sometimes that means separating dogs that are causing issues, or redirecting dogs that try to bother him. Same with all your other dogs. There isn't a whole lot you can do other than that. It might also help if you describe what specific issues you're having.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
You understood me perfectly.
I ve always been feeding/ pet/ give treats/ attention first to my alpha but have never approved/ignored a bad or pushy behavior. Always taken care of making them respect their spaces.
However I am now a bit worried because, a week ago we had an incident. It was their lunch time and the eldest dogs were eating in the living room while the youngest were eating in the kitchen. While they were eating, the Amazon guy rang the buzzer and I went to answer. At that very moment my two males started to fight. The fact is that I didn’t see who started first. But the youngest one was next to the door, I guess because of the buzzer ( which also happens to be the place where I feed the old ones). So they had two triggers, the door, on one side ( to which they have always reacted very well) and the food on the other side ( here what I guess that happened is that the younger one went to the door and the older one thought he had to protect his food.

After I broke the fight everybody went to their corresponding places. However, I am now worried because today, the young one has tried to approach the old one’s bed that is located on the left side of our bed, whereas his own bed is in front of ours.
Of course this act of his has not been allowed and he has been immediately sent to his place.

Maybe I m wrong but I feel like the fight has made him realize how powerful he is and he is now trying to defy the older one.
What is also weird is that the old one does not want to sleep at my side anymore and prefers to go where the rest of the dog beds.

So my dilema is the following:
.
Should I Let the old one sleep where he wants to or should I make him stay next to me reaffirming so his status?

I m sure that if i let him go, the youngest one will not lose his opportunity of making himself comfortable beside me.
I wouldn’t like to change their bed positions but I don’t know if I will eventually have to.

thank you very much for answering.

Also, if you have a completely different approach I would love to hear it.

Btw, what breeds do you have in your pack?





If by 'supporting your Alpha' you mean that you always feed, pet, give treats/attention, or whatever to him first, I'd suggest you stop worrying so much about some social hierarchy that you deem important, and simply look more closely at your dogs' individual behavior & reward (with food, attention, etc...) them for acting & responding in the way you want, regardless of what status you've designated them with.

Allowing (or worse, rewarding) rude or pushy behavior out of an individual dog in the group simply because you've decided he's the 'Alpha' and should act that way simply leads the other dogs to act pushy or rude, because (obviously, to them) it seems that's the way to get good stuff.

For example - If I'm going to dole out treats to my four dogs I expect them to sit & wait politely for their treat to be handed to them. Whoever sits the quickest gets the first cookie (regardless if I felt that was an Alpha dog or not) Same with mealtimes - I feed them in whatever order is most convenient for me. There is no 'stealing' of toys or chews allowed by any of the dogs - rude, pushy behavior is NOT tolerated between them & I support all dogs equally in this. If one is lying quietly on a bed & another tries to smash in & shove the other one out, I redirect the second one to a different resting place (unless I already know that those two don't mind snuggling/sharing the space)

In other words, simply reward the behavior you want to see & don't worry about status or think that your dogs are worried about status. They're not - they're worried about getting the good stuff, and since you have the opposable thumbs, you are in control of that.

PS - If I have misinterpreted your situation & this is NOT what's going on, then please forgive me & disregard my advice.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
676 Posts
Personally, I'd let the older dog sleep where ever he wants & is most comfortable. Seriously - he is not worried about his 'status' in relationship to where he sleeps. If the younger male is getting pushy or otherwise being a 'bully', then what you need to do is step up your protecting of the older one. Not because he's "the Alpha", but because senior dogs sometimes need our help when they slow down or become less physically able as they age & they deserve to be able to continue to live in peace, not worry about having to defend themselves from bratty younger dogs.

Maybe move the feeding area to a quieter spot so there is no reason for any other dog to approach his bowl & cause a scuffle. And it's OK if they swap beds, as long as both dogs are happy with where they are sleeping and no one's being shoved out of where they are contentedly laying. Dogs really, really, really don't spend all their time thinking about their "status" and how to change it. They simply do what works to get them the things they want - they're pretty simple that way. No deeper, darker plot to take over the world or even their little corner of it. If your older dog doesn't care about laying on one particular bed, why would you worry about it? Just make sure everyone's happy & politely getting along.

My household consists of a bunch of shelter mutts. Sadly right now I am down to only two, having lost my two oldest ones recently (Charlie, the Beagle-mix in the front, a couple years ago & Abby, the black Boxer-mix in the back, a month ago), but here is a picture of them as a whole group. They can/could lay this close to each other while enjoying a very high-value chew because we have clear rules about staying on their individual mats & not being allowed to pester each other. (I would never do this without very close supervision, though!)
265305
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
What a cute pack you have there, they look very entertained.
So sorry for your loss, all doggos leave a permanent mark on our hearts and our characters.
Thank you again for your advice and let you and your amigos have a long and healthy life together.

“Salute” from Barcelona.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
2,909 Posts
I agree with BKay - I let my dogs choose where they're most comfortable sleeping and don't intervene unless I see bullying or guarding behavior. Senior dogs especially have changing physical needs that can mean that a sleeping spot they used to love is no longer comfortable. Just like with aging humans, many senior dogs have minor aches and pains, don't sleep as well or as deeply, and are more sensitive to temperature than they were when they were younger, which can all lead to a change in where they prefer to sleep. I'd listen to your dog and let him sleep where he's most comfortable, because an overtired dog is way more likely to cause conflict within your pack than a change in sleeping location is.

The conflict over food is definitely something that needs intervention, and my personal approach would be to put some kind of physical barrier between your dogs - at least the two involved in this in incident - while they're eating so neither feels like they have to worry about defending their food. Alternately, work hard on training the dogs to stay at their feeding station until everyone is done eating and you release them, but this will take time and a physical barrier is still a good management tool in the meantime. I've used both a pen and crate with my two dogs when I can't physically stand between them to ensure they're not bothering each other. They also are not allowed high value chews like raw meaty bones without either constant supervision or a physical barrier between them, though they're generally good about sharing lower value chews and toys without human intervention.
 
1 - 10 of 10 Posts
Top