Loki is alpha

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.
“Loki.”

“Does Jujube ever start the fights?”
“No.”

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.

8 comments:

dannah said...

Interesting..so that's how it is to define an alpha dog. really, very informative. I didn't quite know of this till now. Thanks!...hey by the way, I just joined in this exciting Pup-peroni Sweepstakes Promo that gives me the chance to win $750 worth of prize package! It's so fun, you should try it, too!

Jen said...

I'll agree to disagree with your behaviorists assessment... just for cross referencing, have you ever heard of Natural Dog Training?
Training by harnessing the natural prey drive of the shiba?
http://www.leecharleskelley.com/

Vi said...

Jen -- Nope, I haven't heard of it, but it looks interesting. I'll be sure to check it out.

Xarien said...

Jen, thanks for the link!

Mozeyin' Along said...

Jen, thanks for the link!

We haven't had any alpha canine struggles in our house - the little dog who has some alpha traits, he is a Shiba, afterall, acquiessed to the Dane.

However, he's having some trouble understanding that our female cat is alpha over everyone. He seems to think the hierarchy is Person - Dane - Shiba - Cats, when everyone else understands it as Female cat/Person - Dane - Shiba - Male Cat. Thus, when the 16 pound cat is occupying her sleeping space, the 116 lb Dane finds somewhere else.

I do reinforce the hierarchy, but sometimes people are horrified that I don't impose some sort of equality between the two dogs. I get that, but they are dogs, not people, and they are much more settled when they know what the hierarchy is and everyone agrees.

Dogs don't mind being subordinate, as long as it's clear; knowing their place is more important than what the place is for dogs.

Masako said...

Wow, this is really interesting! I'm going to have to try it for Winnie's on leash aggression.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your canine behaviorist that one cannot treat one's dog like human just like one cannot treat a human like a dog.

I would like to also point out that "providing alternative" is an excellent concept for canine training (although it is not acceptable policy for humans). "Separate but equal" policy was abolished in U.S. and is illegal for humans but is acceptable for the dogs.

No one would want the second best but we all want the BEST as human (i.e. we don't want the second best real estate or second best doctor. we want the best)but it is okay to give our canines alternatives or the second best.

I agree with your canine behaviorist's point completely that our barriers for successful dog trainings may be to realize that we can't use human concept on our dogs just like we can't use dog concept on humans.

By the way, Vi, when I use the terminology "you", I'm not pointing to you/Vi, but using it like "you out there" or you/general audiences.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your canine behaviorist that one cannot treat one's dog like human just like one cannot treat a human like a dog.

I would like to also point out that "providing alternative" is an excellent concept for canine training (although it is not acceptable policy for humans). "Separate but equal" policy was abolished in U.S. and is illegal for humans but is acceptable for the dogs.

No one would want the second best but we all want the BEST as human (i.e. we don't want the second best real estate or second best doctor. we want the best)but it is okay to give our canines alternatives or the second best.

I agree with your canine behaviorist's point completely that our barriers for successful dog trainings may be to realize that we can't use human concept on our dogs just like we can't use dog concept on humans.

By the way, Vi, when I use the terminology "you", I'm not pointing to you/Vi, but using it like "you out there" or you/general audiences.

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