Equality is a human concept, not a dog one.
As a human, who believes in equal opportunity and equal rights, I refused to believe that I could not treat my two dogs equally. They were both my darling, furry children. But the dog behaviorist successfully convinced me that dogs have a hierarchy, and equal treatment had to go out the window. It wasn’t difficult to convince me. We were having dog fights; that had to stop. So I was willing to do whatever it took to stop the fights. If we were not having any problems, I would probably have continued treating them equally.
Loki is alpha.
Between the two dogs, Loki is alpha. Convincing me of that took more work. I felt that Jujube had a lot more dominant traits. The behaviorist informed us that the incumbent dog is always alpha by default. Loki was here first, therefore he is alpha by default. But, I argued, Jujube has a lot of dominant traits too. She’ll fight back when Loki attacks her, and she even wins sometimes. She’s much better at humping him rather than the other way around.
“But who starts the fights?” she asked me.
“Does Jujube ever start the fights?”
Therefore, Loki is alpha. Loki is trying to control her, trying to dominate her. She does not try to control or dominate him.
Switching status is possible.
It’s very possible that dogs will switch roles. The behaviorist told us that she wouldn’t be surprised if Jujube became alpha later on, but until that happens, we should treat Loki as alpha.
Support Loki as alpha.
This notion was the most revolutionary for me. Prior to the behaviorist, I would always admonish Loki for showing teeth or growling at Jujube. He was the one displaying aggression. Shouldn’t he be the one reprimanded? Shouldn’t he be the one to be corrected?
Instead, the behaviorist suggested that we support Loki as alpha. This meant that when Loki showed teeth to or growled at Jujube, we should be his ally, not his enemy. For instance, if he growled at her to stay away and give him more personal space, we should make Jujube back up and give him more personal space. Dogs show teeth or growl to communicate to other dogs. Jujube wasn’t getting the message. She was not heeding his warnings. We needed to help facilitate that communication. Admonishing Loki for showing teeth was a mixed signal to the dogs. It told Jujube that she didn’t need to listen to Loki and could ignore his warnings.
Additionally, we were advised to treat Loki as alpha by feeding first, greeting first, letting him out first, etc. But since we were having problems, we were advised to not allow either of them access to the couch or bed.
We immediately implemented alpha treatment and alpha support of Loki. So far, so good.