We love our dogs and are often amused when we see them act mischievously and get up to all kinds of trouble. However, this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Pooches that strut around like they own the property might want to be in charge, exhibiting the behavior because they believe they are the pack’s leader or alpha.
When a dog is part of your household, all your family members automatically become members of their pack. It is essential for the whole family to understand leadership from the dog’s point of view, and impose consistent boundaries and rules in the household.
While dogs naturally like to push the boundaries and test your limits, this kind of behavior shouldn’t be ignored, and you and all the members of your household will have to put him in his place and provide consistent, appropriate training.
In this blog post, we’ll look at several things dogs do that indicate that he or she sees you, rightfully, as the pack leader.
Signs That Your Dog Sees You As Alpha
Learning to read the signs of your dog’s behavior is crucial to understanding pack behavior. Dogs are not natural leaders and are happiest when they are following a trusted alpha. Here are some signs that your dog sees you as one.
1. Your Dog Is Always By Your Side
Yes! Even the bathroom! It is the job of all pack members to protect the leader, and your dog constantly shadowing you around means that you are the top dog.
The alpha always goes first, similar to the social order in the wolf pack hierarchy; doing the opposite is a sign of disrespect.
2. You Walk Through The Doors First
As a pack leader, you lead the way. Your dog will let you walk through the door before him out of respect for the leader. This instinctive rule also applies in the wild, where small dogs will not enter the cave before the alpha.
This proves that you are their protector, who will protect you from all forms of threats from the other side of the entrance. On the other hand, a dog that doesn’t think of you as an alpha will go through the door before you.
3. Never Steals Your Food
While stealing a bite every once in a while is a cheeky, amusing behavior, it actually indicates a potential problem with dominance. Dogs stealing food is an instinctive behavior. In the wild, food is scarce, so dogs learn to scavenge to survive.
Any food left lying around without being guarded will become something up for grabs. However, a respectful dog will never steal your food. They know that it’s your right to eat first.
As in the wild, the alpha will eat the food first and dictate what and when the other members of the pack get to eat.
So even if they stare at you from across the dinner table with their puppy-dog eyes, they should stay quiet while you eat and wait for scraps.
4. You Pick Your Spot
Many dog owners will beg to differ if they’ve got a couch or bed hogger for a dog, but YOU should get the spot you want. Whether it’s on the couch, bed or anywhere you want to sit or lie down, you should get the first pick and find a comfortable spot for yourself. Only then, can your dog settle in next to you.
This is a stark contrast to many dog parents that allow their dogs to hog the bed or couch. While it is amusing, there are much deeper behavioral consequences to allowing your dogs to sit wherever they want. Making them move is a clear indication that you are the top dog, and sends a nice, clear message to your cheeky couch-hog.
5. They Break Eye Contact
In building their social hierarchy, dogs rely on nonverbal communication. Eye contact is an essential part of communication and is used to establish dominance. During eye contact, two things can occur.
Neither party breaking the contact could lead to conflict, and breaking contact by one party signifies obedience and submission.
Bonding is one of the reasons for eye contact in dogs. Eye contact with pets increases oxytocin, a brain chemical in parent-child bonds. Eye contact is an excellent way of communicating to get attention or tell your dog not to do things he shouldn’t.
If your dog is used to making eye contact to get approval or attention, they are likely to be obedient and not about to do something cheeky.
If your dog stares at you for a long time and refuses to look away, this could be a challenge and needs to be dealt with carefully. In the dog world, intense or prolonged eye contact is considered threatening.
6. Listens To You
When a dog sees you as their leader, they will respect your boundaries, pay attention, and comply with your commands. Dogs who respect your space and understand limitations have good manners even when asking for affection from you. They won’t demand attention by jumping, biting, and tugging your shirt.
That’s why having a trained dog is oh-so-important for a dog’s happiness. A badly-behaved dog gets yelled at a lot! Dogs are not only man’s best friend, but also an integral part of the family.
As such, it is important to take the time to train your dog so that it can be a well-behaved member of the household.
By teaching your dog basic obedience commands, you can ensure that they will always behave in a manner that is safe and respectful. In addition, training your dog can also help to strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend.
7. Stays Calm and Is Happy
The vast majority of dogs DON’T want to be alpha. It is stressful to take responsibility for the safety of the pack. A happy dog is a follower, not a leader, and will usually fall into place behind you and their human pack members gratefully.
As a leader, it is your duty to protect and look after your pack members. Your dog views you as both a leader and a protector. Your presence will give them peace of mind, especially in situations that are generally stressful for dogs.
For example, when visiting the vet, your presence will keep them calm, and because of their trust in you, they might have an easier time getting shots or being handled.
Signs That Your Dog Thinks He’s Alpha
There are several behaviors to watch out for that indicate your dog has gotten it all wrong. A dog that thinks he’s alpha is bad news, and many miss the early signs of dominant problems in dogs, which can end in disastrous consequences.
All dog owners should be aware of the signs of dominant behavior in their pets. While most dogs are perfectly well-behaved, some may exhibit dominant behaviors that can be harmful to both themselves and their owners. Dominant behaviors can include growling, biting, lunging, and barking.
These behaviors are often motivated by fear, insecurity, or a desire to assert dominance over others. If not promptly addressed, these behaviors can lead to serious aggression problems.
1. Pushing Boundaries
Your dog is constantly pushing boundaries and doing things that he isn’t supposed to do, like steal food, or jump onto the bed when he knows he isn’t allowed. He may even growl or grumble when you move him. This is a red alert, and any aggressive behavior must be corrected firmly and immediately.
2. Pulling On The Leash
While some dogs are natural pullers, lunging on the leash during your walks also can indicate that your dog is going wherever he wants to go, and not where YOU want him to go. The alpha walks in front, so keep your dog behind you when you’re going for a walk.
3. Barks At You
Some dogs are naturally vocal and bark to let you know something is up, like if they need to be let out to go potty. However, excessive barking that becomes a nuisance because they want to play or are bored should not be tolerated.
4. Marking In The House
This is a terrible no-no. You’ll need to go back to basics on potty training for this one, and if you feel it’s getting out of hand, consult with a professional.
Fortunately, there are several things that dog owners can do to prevent and address dominant behavior. First, it is important to provide your dog with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Dogs that are bored or frustrated are more likely to act out in destructive ways.
Secondly, make sure to establish yourself as the alpha in your pack. Dogs are social animals that naturally submit to a hierarchy; by establishing yourself as the leader, you will help your dog feel more secure and less likely to behave aggressively.
Finally, if your dog does display any signs of dominant behavior, do not hesitate to consult with a professional trainer or behaviorist for assistance. With a little effort, you can help your dog overcome his or her aggressive tendencies and live a happy, healthy life.