Dog Pack Hierarchies Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Α Β Γ Δ

Contrary to popular belief, in Wolf or Dog packs there are no pack hierarchies. And it is not an altruistic society that looks out for one another. To the untrained eye a dog that is constantly picking on other pack members, most likely will be categorized as the alpha of the pack. When in reality they are not the strongest nor toughest dog, they just happen to be the biggest moron, idiot or stunod of the group.

If the individuals that received funding to study these behaviors had a better understanding of what they were observing, they would have never written any scientific research papers claiming there are defined pack structures and hierarchies within the packs themselves.

Even one of the most respected individuals in the field of wildlife biology ( L.David Mech) who has garnered quite a reputation as the authority on wolf and wolf pack behavior. Has said , and I’m paraphrasing here ” The notion of the alpha wolf is firmly ingrained in our psyche through lore and wolf literature and partly because of   “The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species,” a book Dr. Mech wrote that was published in 1970.”

Dr. Mech is being very modest when he says “partly because of his book”. It’s usually one of the constantly mentioned attributed resources in dog training or behavior books written by others, when describing pack structures, alpha dogs or leaders of the pack.

Dr. Mech goes on to say that the alpha theories of the past are outdated and inaccurate, and that try as he may he cannot get the book publisher to stop publishing that particular book.

Hear from Dr. Mech himself in this Youtube Video.

I also have a different take on a couple of the topics Dr. Mech covered in the video, but I’m not going to go into writing another couple of hundred words unless someone is interested in hearing about it. I’m not a writer, I’m an animal guy.

Thanks for visiting

The Spirit Dog

two dogs


Wolf ear rub


8 Responses

  1. Hello Mark, and thank you for your comment.

    Although, I have great respect for Dr. Mech, he has more or less studied behavior from an outsiders point of view. Not as a pack member. Most, not all, related or unrelated packs will have a more confident and dominant animal that centers their pack. What will upset this cohesive balance of a pack, (related or unrelated) that can have a disastrous affect on said pack is a very reactive animal (normally not a confident animal) that occasionally attacks other members of his or her pack. Usually it’s nothing more than a quick action, directed towards the most submissive of pack members.

    Sometimes, it’s directed at the leader of the pack. As mentioned before, usually nothing comes of this unless other pack members get excited and join in. If it was directed at the alpha and other animals joined in, the alpha is no longer the alpha as they usually become shell shocked and the pack (if wild) may be doomed because now they are being lead by an over reactive, less than confident animal. Or no leadership at all.

    More times than not, an individuals observation of this less than confident reactive dogs actions will mistakenly believe this was a power play for leadership.

    The problem with most animal behavior research, is a fundamental lack of an individuals ability to communicate with the species they are observing. If they can’t communicate with the animals they are studying in their language, than their finding will be suspect at best.

    I believe Dr. Jane Goodall, would concur.

  2. Dr. Mech says that “alpha” is still an accurate description of the dominant animal in an artificial pack (of animals from different families) or a pack with multiple breeders.

    Like a typical pack of domesticated dogs, or a mixed pack of humans and dogs?

  3. I’m curious, what would you call a dog that disciplins other dogs, a dog that holds a puppy in it’s mouth and waits for it to settle/submit and then spits it out without it being harmed? I was often told my male is aggressive, he’s been in dog fights, with a few dogs, yet he has never harmed another dog.
    He also gets along fine with dogs that often attack other dogs, they will not attack him? NOt all dogs do this, very few dogs do this. I observe dogs at my breeder and the way their communicate is amazing, you can clearly spot more ‘dominant’ dogs, in my mind, dominance=pack safety and disciplin as required. I find dogs often are called ‘alphas’ because they are aggressive, yet they are not dominant. My male has defied all trainers and behaviorists, it’s amazing how he communicates. I find when I maintain my status as ‘alpha’ he is calm and relaxed and won’t disciplin dogs while we walk by, but when he gets attacked, and I have not managed to keep him ‘safe’ he acts out until I can regain control. Takes time and never being physical. I’m curious what terminology you would use. I would simply say ‘CEO’ equivalent.

  4. Ha ha. Flies in the teeth of all the “accepted” knowledge doesn’t it? Personally I have two female dogs and finally gave up trying to figure out which one of them was the “dominant” member. They both boss each other around some of the time and give in (in the same scenarios) the other times. As long as they both listen to me! 🙂

  5. Hey Abz, that’s very kind. Thank you.

  6. Having had dogs all my life, truth be told over the years we have had packs of dogs on our Dairy farm. Just watching them interact with each other, whether they were playing, eating or being rambunctious. I never believed that our dogs had any kind of structure within their group.

    It makes me very happy to see that you who obviously knows dogs through real life situations, has finally said what I have thought all along.

    Thank you

  7. Ahhh bugger, the comps playing up and I have no sound… you may be an animal guy but you also write beautifully.. so dont stop I appreciate it,,, love abz

  8. […] Dog Pack Hierarchies Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta… It’s usually one of the constantly mentioned attributed resources in dog training or behavior books written by others, when describing pack structures, alpha dogs or leaders of the pack. Dr. Mech goes on to say that the alpha theories (…) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: