Thursday, October 7, 2010


The dictionary describes the word “Alpha” as something that is first. I think when you live with dogs or should I say that they live with you, then there is always someone that is the “alpha” in this kind of relationship. It’s either you or the dog. But when you have more than one dog living together, there is always one of them that are the leader of the pack. Some of those “leaders” lead better than others. Some with a gentle nudging and others with a ferocious presence than no one can deny. If you are in dogs for any length of time, you just might come across a few different “alpha” personalities. Not too unlike the human society that we live in. Some people win you over (and that’s really what an alpha sets out to do – win you over) with a sweetness that covers up a strong willed personality. You never quite know just what it is about these types of personalities that always end up getting their way. You just can’t put your finger on it. But out on top they come. That type of personality that although so different from the “in your face” type of alpha, still accomplishes what they set themselves out to do………which is to be in control.

Having lived with most of the different degrees of alpha, I can say that I prefer the sweet type of alpha over the “in your face” type of alpha any day! What the sweet alpha may do is let her “subjects” know in subtle ways that she is in control without being overly aggressive. For example, take a look at the picture of the two dogs at the top of my blog. One very obviously the bitch and the other very obviously the male. The bitch weighed 58 pounds and the male weighed 105 pounds. He was double her weight and look at the size of his head. He was a big healthy boy. She was a small feminine bitch. But that small feminine bitch was the one that controlled the reins in their relationship. He adored her and she could do no wrong in his eyes. She was never overly aggressive with him. She never needed to be although this was never her nature to begin with. If she wanted a toy that he was chewing on, she would gently take her mouth and put it over his until he gave her what he was chewing. Most of the time she never really wanted it anyway. She was just reminding him that she would and could take whatever it was that he had and he would willingly give it up to her.

Of the three bitches I own now, one is extremely dominate and is always exerting her powerful influence over the other two whether they want her to or not. Although she is an aggressive “alpha” she’s not a nasty “alpha.” Rather she intimidates and controls everything in her environment. She doesn’t ask permission. She just takes what she wants, when she wants it and doesn’t back down from doing it. For example, I just gave all three girls a marrow bone this morning. You would think that they would love this. Nope, they have got to play “musical chairs” with the bones all morning long. They don’t care about the bone that they have. They care about the bone that the others have. This naturally was the “brain child” of the alpha girl a long time ago and it has stuck. She steals her sister’s bone or her mother’s bone until she decides which one she would rather chew on. Her sister has been taught another one of her bad habits and she thinks it’s perfectly alright to steal her mother’s bone now also. This goes on for the hour or so that I tolerate them in the house and then when I’ve had enough, the sisters are shown the back door once again. Then their mother (my house dog) can have her choice now of the three well chewed on bones.

Come supper time around here is another story in itself. The “natives” get restless about an hour and a half before their scheduled feed time. The mother paces around and around, whining more than she normally does. When the two on the back porch hear their bowls clanking, this is the signal for the “alpha” girl to set about her usual intimidation habits. Her sisters back feet and legs get nipped until she retires herself into the dog house which the “alpha” has shown her the way to. It never fails. You should see the fresh face that she wears when I tell her to stop being so bad. Her mouth is all puffed (because I just caught her in the act) and she has the “devil in her eye” look. There’s no denying that she’s been up to no good when she has “that face” on!

I only owned one alpha bitch that would have been more of the aggressive nature type. She was trying to “demote” the sweet nature alpha that I already mentioned in the first part of this article. She would go after her every chance she got and she was only an older puppy at the time but much bigger than the adult alpha bitch. I sold her which was a good thing as I probably would have strangled her if she hurt the smaller, sweeter bitch because she was one of my all time favorites!

So as you can see there are definitely different degrees of alphas. Of course the human in the relationship should always be the alpha of the pack, but even so, you can’t take away the “nature of the beast” sort of speak. One of the dogs in the pack will still have alpha tendencies but with you as the leader, those tendencies can be subdued. Such are the ways of the “secret language of dogs!”

From the book: THE FRIENDSHIP FACTOR - --Readers learn how to be a warmer, more loving person, how to communicate better, to resolve tension in relationships
--For friendships, marital relationships, and parents and their children. Friendship is the model for all intimate encounters.

My rating: Different degrees of alpha: (1 - 4)

1 comment:

  1. We live not too far from a wolf refuge. We enjoy visiting that refuge on occasion and talking to Kent, the man who runs the refuge. Kent told us one time about a very special wolf he had. Over the years many wolves have come and gone but one I will remember as long as I live. His name was Lucas and he was the Alpha wolf in one of the packs at the refuge. The strange thing about Lucas was not that he was the most fierce wolf, nor the most dominant. What set Lucas apart was that he had other wolves in the pack larger, far more dominant and better suited for the Alpha role.
    Lucas was recognized by the pack for his intelligence and the high level of caring he had for the other wolves within the pack. Even when he got old and the younger and stronger wolves could knock him down off his Alpha leadership role, they did not. Not a one even challenged him.
    You see Lucas had a heart as big as his 100+ pounds. Lucas loved the other wolves so much that they wanted him as their pack leader right up until his death.
    What makes me remember Lucas so well is that we sponsored him. He was a totally black timber wolf. He was very unique because of the tremendous love he had for his pack members. He didn't fight his way to the Alpha role, he was chosen by the rest of the pack.
    It seems to me that we could learn much from wolves like Lucas. In fact I question if we are not the inferior species. Barbara wrote a while back that Mark Twain once said "Man is the only animal that is cruel. He injurers and destroys for the pleasure of it" . I probably don't have that exactly right but I think I have the meaning. We should learn from the Lucas' of the world. As I look around me in the world I sometimes wish I could have been a loved member of Lucas' pack.