Home Getting a Dog Getting Started Training A Dog Dog Fun Videos The Great Debate About Us

Dog Types - Settling Pack Structure Debate?

Out of all the research we have done this seems to be the defining answer on why the two sides differ. Thinking of dogs as being in different categories may be the answer on why the two sides differ.

Dog Types

  1. Alpha
  2. Beta
  3. Omega

Each category seems to have 3 levels, high, mid and low. Ie. High level beta, mid level beta and low level beta.

Alpha is the boss or thinks they are the boss.

Beta is not the boss but would like to be. If there is no clear leadership they will try to take over the Alpha position.

Omega - Wants to please and follow, has no desire to be boss. These make great pets that seem to require little to no training.

In the argument of Pack Structure being bred out of dogs, Omegas are what they are referring to. Breeders can breed for dogs that are very eager to please. If you took a group of these dogs and watched them it would appear that Pack Structure does not exist between dogs. They don’t care who gets which possession or who gets pet first. They will walk behind you, are quick to come when called. They will often fetch naturally with no training.

In the argument that Pack Structure does exist, if you take a room full of Alpha type dogs where they place high value on items and want to be boss you can have bad fights. These are the types of dogs that often get kicked out of Doggy Daycare or don’t do well at off-leash dog parks or greeting other dogs on leash. We have worked with a lot of these dogs and following Pack Structure rules with these dogs helps their humans manage them better and minimize or eliminate fights between dogs.

This is why it seems each side has their argument for being correct. It would really depend on the sampling of dogs you pick. Certain breeds can be more linked with easy going or trouble making but it is definitely not a guarantee.

There is also the argument that in wolf packs that we mentioned about it being more about conflict avoidance rather than actual pack structure.

We have pondered this and asked some questions that would be up to the wolf researchers to study.

This is what we have thought or wondered:

  1. We agree that it would look more like conflict avoidance. Dogs in an existing pack can do quite well together. This can be at home or doggy daycare. We have had clients tell us that at doggy daycare their dogs never have a problem but if they go to a dog park the dog will always get into fights.

  2. Opposing wolf packs - ask a wolf researcher what would happen if you took two opposing wolf packs and put them together. Or if you took different wolves from different packs and swapped them. Would it look like conflict avoidance or would it be problematic? We have heard that the number one cause of death of a wolf is being killed by another wolf or wolves from a different pack.

    Dogs do share similarities with wolves and if they do share the pack mentality then this can help explain why some dogs do well with dogs they already know but can be quite aggressive with other dogs they do not know.

  3. Conflict Avoidance - The reason we suspect on why existing packs can seem to have conflict avoidance is the fact that they work as a team to hunt and bring in food. If they got into fights over everything and injured each other they would have less chance of surviving as a species. With wolves especially, this would seem to be a trait that would be passed on for their ability to survive. The ones that would fight and get injured and consequently infected would die off and not be able to pass on their genes.

    In the case of dogs, they don’t always appear to have the gene of “maybe I should’t do this because I might get hurt or die”. Us humans can pay for veterinarians to save our dogs which will allow them to continue to pass on their genes and traits.

    An example: If you have ever witnessed a pack of coyotes try to take on a domestic dog. They will circle the dog and the coyotes in behind will attack. If the dog turns to face them those coyotes will back off. Whichever coyotes now face the back of the dog will attack. It is their goal to try and cripple the dog or bring it down safely so they can kill it without injuring themselves.

    Many domestic dogs will do things that are not conducive to their continued survival such as eating things that are not edible or far too big to digest. Many people have witnessed or heard of the little 10 pound dog try to take on the 100 pound dog. If that little dog wanted to live it would be unwise to pick a fight with a dog that is 10 times their size.

You can see points for each side of the pack structure or no pack structure argument. These are the questions we have asked and pondered.

If you have a dog that is eager to please then that would be a result of good breeding for the task you had in mind.

If your dog doesn’t want to listen or appears to be aggressive with people or other dogs or animals then you may find aid in abiding by the Pack Structure rules. This can help the dog see you as the leader and once they respect you it is then much easier to train them.

Take a further look into Dog Types if you are having a difficult time with your dog. This will help you determine if following the Pack Structure method will be of help to you.