No, I’m not talking about the 80’s TV show. I’m talking about the question I regularly get asked by my clients about my dogs’ relationships to one another.
My answer? All of them are.
Contrary to what some dog trainers might have you believe, hierarchy is not fixed or constant. It is fluid and will vary depending on the circumstances and dogs present.
Most dogs, like humans, don’t even care about being in a leadership position. Not all the time, any way, so they willingly go with the flow, stepping up to the plate only when necessary or when something truly matters to them.
If you’re surprised to hear this, think about it in human terms. We, like dogs, are pack animals and also have a social hierarchy. The Prime Minister is arguably the “alpha” of the country. But does that mean he’s alpha in every situation, everywhere he goes? Not likely. Just ask his wife. Or his mom. Or his proctologist. If he’s smart, he knows when to stand down.
If we examined his other relationships, we would find dozens where he would be in a more subservient role. Not because he isn’t truly a leader, but because every relationship calls for a different role to be played out. And, let’s face it, if he tried to be the boss of everyone all the time, he wouldn’t have many friends, family or even certain professional relationships to speak of, now would he?
We are all leaders and we are all followers. No one of us is ‘alpha’ or ‘omega’ all of the time. And with dogs, most don’t have any interest in being the alpha vigilante’s our TV shows have made them out to be. It takes too much effort and, quite honestly, most dogs don’t have the desire, or even the confidence, to pull it off.
It takes guts to be a leader. And while a lot of dogs do have what it takes to carry out that role, they understand the responsibility (read: stress, pressure, enormous weight on their shoulders) that comes with such an important role and so choose not to take it on.