Why do dogs need an Alpha?

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We have often heard that dogs have a well defined pack
hierarchy and that the alpha rules the pack. If you have dogs at home, it is
necessary for you to place yourself in the alpha position so that your dogs
obey your commands. To understand why dogs need an alpha it is important to
understand the pack hierarchy first.

Understanding the
pack hierarchy

Most theories on the alpha are based on studies on the
behavior of wolves. A wolf pack is led by the alpha male and the alpha female.
The beta is next in line and the lowest member of the pack is called the omega.
The rest of the pack fall between the beta and the omega. Although there is an
alpha male and female, it is the alpha male that makes decisions that the rest
of the pack follows. Among wolves, the alpha decides where to hunt and also has
the privilege of eating first and getting the best sleeping spot. The rest of
the pack follows the lead of the alpha and those who do not, are often left out
of the pack.

Dogs, belonging to the same family are born with a sense
of the pack and they follow a similar hierarchy. If you observe a group of
puppies as they grow up, the sense of hierarchy becomes quite evident. As pups
grow up, their personalities start becoming clear. Some of them might be
dominant and some submissive. The mother assumes the role of the alpha as she
keeps the pups in line with nips of their neck and ears when they misbehave.

The need of an
alpha

Having an alpha and following him or her is instinctive to
dogs. The pack gets their direction from the alpha. Even among stray dogs that
live as a pack, one will assume the alpha position and lead the pack. The alpha
decides when to attack; and when the alpha attacks, the pack attacks as well.
The absence of an alpha cause the pack to be confused, because it is their
instinct to follow one dominant member of the pack.

Making yourself the
alpha

Even among domesticated dogs, the sense of pack is strong. If you have
just one dog at home, he or she will automatically assume you are the alpha and
will follow your lead. If you have more than one dog at home, one of them will
assume the alpha position. If you control the alpha, you control the entire
pack. In order to make yourself the alpha, you need to let them know that you
are in charge. So make sure you lead them while on a walk, and eat before they
do, so that they know who is at the top of the pack hierarchy.

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