An individual sent me an e-mail last week that was titled, “Dominance Scuffles.” And although I’ve already covered this subject fairly extensively as an aspect of dog aggression, I thought it was a good idea to explain it to this fellow through another metaphor.
[In response to a prior e-mail:]
“Thank’s Adam. I think I found the answer. ‘We determine who will be the alpha dog.’ Correct? ”
My reply: “No, no no! You cannot do this! It’s impossible!!! The dogs’ temperaments are inherent. Only you can determine if you’re dominant to the other dogs, by being MORE DOMINANT. But you cannot work it out for them. You can control the dogs’ behaviors and not allow any scuffles if:
1. You are the alpha dog in the pack. and
2. You have voice control. But as soon as you leave the dogs together– unsupervised– and go out for dinner… all bets are off. The dominant one will still be the dominant one.
Think of taking a group of four kids. Kid#1 will grow up to be a Navy Seal, and then an Admiral. Kid#2 will grow up to be a fierce criminal defense attorney. Kid#3 will grow up to be a middle management executive for a large firm. Kid#4: will grow up to be a peace activist and a socialist.
Now, when you leave the house every day for work, you may say, “Kid#4… you’re in charge.” And as long as you’re around, Kid#4 may get the priviledges of being the “so-called” top dog. But as soon as you leave… It’s going to be a given that kid#3 and kid#4 are going to be the bottom dogs, and kid #1 and kid#2 will scrap-it-out to see who is REALLY the “top dog.”
Their genetics (and to some extent, upbringing– depending upon their age) determines this.
But it is the toughest kid who will become the group leader. Even though kid #2 may be fairly tough in his own right, he will test kid#1… but will ultimately lose… as kid#1 is too tough.
Now, if kid#1 gets sick and has to stay in bed, then kid#2 becomes the new kid#1. In other words, the “Alpha dog.” Until you get home. Then you’re the alpha dog, and he becomes the beta dog.