I board dogs in my home. When people call for information about my services I will ask them to tell me about their dog. It is not uncommon for me to hear, “He’s not an alpha dog,” or, “She’s not a dominant dog.”
For years I have lived with 3-4 dogs of my own. Used to be I tried to figure out which of my dogs was the ‘alpha’. Mitzi, Sabu’s mom was a confident, fearless cocker spaniel, Sabu a bit less comfortable with other dogs. Mitzi, being the mom, and Sabu being less confident must mean that Mitzi was the alpha dog, right? But when I put them in the car Sabu got all excited and mounted Mitzi whose response was the equivalent of a sigh and eye roll in a person, must mean that Sabu was the alpha dog, right?
I couldn’t tell you which was the ‘alpha’ dog in my house, but I could tell you this:
Sunny cares enough about the yellow squeaky toy to give a muzzle punch to ANY dog that goes near it.
Finn loves his frisbees and will resist Sunny’s attempts to take one from him, but if it happens he’ll readily snatch it back as soon as it’s dropped.
Annie gets yappy and excited when new dogs show up and can tolerate having one look at her or sniff her for about 3 seconds, beyond that she will snap and tell them to knock it off.
When Nina the chocolate lab is here Sunny will let her lie in his spot under my desk, but he will not allow Buttercup the black lab to do so.
Maddie the Australian Shepherd will ignore all the dogs unless her housemate Lionel is running around playing and then she’ll chase and nip at him putting a stop to his fun.
Sasha the black lab can drink from the water bowl under my desk, but Sunny will not allow Bugsy the old cocker the same privilege.
Nina will happily run and explore with any dog but should one approach her while she’s lying down she will let out a ‘BOOF’ that never fails to make me jump out of my chair (her owners tell me it’s a habit developed after being harassed by the household cat).
When it comes to Daphne the bulldog I will confess to being uncertain sometimes as to whether she’s trying to play with another dog or telling them to move away.
None of my own dogs will try to take a fresh marrow bone away from another dog, but once they’ve been ‘used’ a bit will readily sneak over to snatch one left momentarily unattended. There have never been any fights over bones or chews but I never leave them with the ‘good stuff’ unattended.
All the dogs staying with me can surround me while I dole out treats to them individually. In the beginning some are rude and don’t understand that a hand reaching out with food in it is not necessarily for them and try to snatch it, but so far none of the other dogs have taken great offense to it.
Some would say that I am the alpha and that’s why the dogs don’t have to assume that role. But if that were true, how come I am the one that always ends up without blankets at night because some dog is snoozing on top of them?
p.s. I couldn’t resist and created the ‘Alpha Schmalpha-I’m the one with the thumbs‘ T shirt. Check it out.