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7 Signs Your Dog Considers You Alpha of the Pack

Written by: Justin Palmer
Justin Palmer is a Certified Pet Food Nutrition Specialist and co-founder of Inspired by his rescued husky, Splash, he dedicated himself to learning about extending both the length and quality of her life. Splash lived and thrived until 18 years old, and now Justin is on a mission to share what he learned with other dog owners.Read more
| Published on March 26, 2024

Dogs, with their rich history of domestication and companionship with humans, often look to their human families for guidance, protection, and social structure. Understanding the dynamics of your relationship with your dog can significantly affect how you interact, train, and live together. One of the key aspects of this dynamic is the concept of leadership or the alpha role within the “pack” that is your family.

Recognizing the signs that your dog considers you the alpha can help you better manage their behavior, meet their needs, and ensure a harmonious living situation. Here are seven signs that indicate your dog sees you as the alpha of the pack.

1. Following Commands and Obedience

The most evident sign your dog views you as the alpha is their obedience to your commands. This includes basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “down.” Dogs who respect you as the leader will listen attentively and follow through with commands more consistently. This obedience shows they acknowledge your authority and are willing to comply with your directions.

2. Calm Submission

A dog that considers you the alpha will often display calm submission. This can be seen in body language such as lowered ears, avoidance of direct eye contact, and a relaxed, non-threatening posture. They may also show this by lying on their back to expose their belly, a vulnerable area, indicating they trust you and acknowledge your dominance.

3. Waiting for Permission

Dogs that view their humans as alphas will typically wait for permission before doing certain things. This could involve waiting for a signal to start eating their food, waiting at the door before going out for a walk, or looking to you for approval before jumping on the couch. This behavior shows they recognize your leadership and are looking for your guidance.

4. Following You Around

If your dog follows you around the house, it’s a sign they see you as their leader. This behavior is part of their pack mentality, where the pack follows the alpha. They do this not just because they want to be near you, but because they view you as the decision-maker and protector.

5. Checking in During Walks

During walks, a dog that sees you as the alpha will frequently check in with you, either by looking up at you or coming back to your side if off-leash. This indicates they are aware of your leadership and are looking to you for direction and reassurance.

6. Protective Behavior

While it’s natural for dogs to be protective, those that view you as the alpha will often position themselves in a way that puts them between you and potential threats. This behavior suggests they respect you as the leader of the pack and feel a strong instinct to protect you.

7. Relinquishing Toys or Food

A dog that willingly gives up their toys or food when you ask them to is showing a significant amount of respect and trust. This action demonstrates that they acknowledge your authority to take something from them, a behavior deeply rooted in pack dynamics where the alpha has control over resources.

Understanding and Nurturing Your Role

Recognizing these signs is just the beginning. It’s important to nurture your role as the alpha in a positive and responsible manner. Leadership in the human-dog relationship doesn’t mean using fear or intimidation; it’s about setting clear boundaries, providing consistent training, and offering the security and structure your dog needs. Positive reinforcement, patience, and understanding are key components in strengthening your bond and maintaining your role as the alpha.

The concept of an alpha in the human-dog dynamic is more about leadership, guidance, and the provision of safety and resources than about dominance or submission. By understanding and recognizing the signs that your dog views you as their leader, you can create a stronger, more harmonious relationship based on mutual respect and love. Remember, being the alpha is not about being a dictator but about being a dependable, caring leader who provides for the needs of their pack.