Channeling Your Inner Alpha Dog

Dogs are incredibly in sync with their human owners’ needs, emotions and habits—so much so that we think of them as family members—no different than humans. While we personify our furry friends, however, it doesn’t cross our minds that they could be thinking of us as dogs. Yet research suggests that dogs consider us members of their pack. This mentality can come into play as we work with our dogs to train them, which is why it’s important to know how to embrace your role as a pack leader.

In the wild, a wolf group follows a hierarchy. In this hierarchy, the alpha male and female lead the pack and the submissive omega dogs give way to other members, who rank subtly in the middle. The pack travels as a group—eating, sleeping, and hunting together, as well as protecting one another. All of these activities reflect that same chain of command, with the alpha wolves eating the choice parts of the prey, sleeping in the best spaces, and choosing where the pack is heading. These instincts come from the wolf and our modern-day domestic dog’s common ancestor, and are present in our furry friends’ everyday behaviors—dubbed “pack mentality.”

North Hills, CA, USA: Shannon Hil and Gio in the forgound watch Damian and Amanda Lorporto in the background. (Photo Credit: National Geographic Channels/ Cesar 911 Crew)

Photograph by National Geographic Channels

Keeping in mind that our dogs are not wolves and we are not to treat them as such, it’s still important to harness the alpha role in your pup’s “pack.” Especially if you live in a multi-dog household, you owe it to yourself and your loyal canine to maintain the position as the alpha dog (or owner). The reinforcement of this is particularly applicable in times like meals and walks, though as a dog owner, your energy should always have the slight essence of dominance. Without it, dogs can adopt all sorts of detrimental behaviors, like barking and aggression.

As notorious dog expert Cesar Millan recommends, being the pack leader means honoring your dog’s instincts and setting rules and boundaries while maintaining calm and assertive energy. The energy is key, as it solidifies your dominance. It ensures that your dog knows that he is not to eat until you, the “alpha dog,” eats or to maintain a submissive state if he wants affection. Similarly, these parameters need to be encouraged by administering appropriate and fair discipline. Not being dominant enough can lead dogs to assume the role as protector and cause aggression towards dogs and strangers—two big problems Cesar Millan runs into on Cesar 911.

To see Cesar’s expertise in action, tune into Cesar 911 tonight at 9/8c, as he takes on a pug who is one bite away from being sent to a shelter and a Rottweiler mix named Bodie who has a track-record of harming his family’s ranch animals rather than protecting them.

Watch a preview: Lorenzo the Llama Puts Bodie in His Place
Bodie’s rehabilitation begins with meeting some of Cesar’s animals at the dog psychology center. Cesar corrects Bodie when he appears anxious and instead teaches him to submit.