Dogs were first domesticated 15,000 years ago. Since that time, the extraordinary bond between humans and these animals has existed. Dogs are pack animals who live in a well-established hierarchy, and they see their humans as members of their pack. Due to this, it is important to establish yourself as the pack leader while still showing respect and affection to your canine companion.

Defining the Pack Order

All modern dogs are descended from wolves, perhaps one of the best-known pack animals. They are also social animals with an instinctive understanding of a chain of command. The pack leaders, one male, and one female are called the alphas. Beneath the alphas are the numerous betas. At the bottom of this social ranking is one or more omegas. Domestic dogs must see their human as the alpha. This means that under your pup’s love and affection exists a tremendous amount of respect for a dog to see you as the pack leader. If your pup shows certain signs, they have granted you the role of alpha. Just remember that it is as important to show your dog the respect they have given you.

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Your Dog Follows You

English Cocker Spaniel Puppy Sitting On Ground Beside Grass

According to the pack code, alphas are at the front of the line, betas are in the middle, and omegas are in the back and double as lookouts. If your dog follows you, this indicates it sees you as the pack leader and is exhibiting the instinctive behavior of walking behind the alpha. When it comes to a multi-person household, the individual your pooch follows is the one who has been deemed the top dog. This applies when it comes to walking through doors. In the wild, an alpha always enters the den first to make sure it is safe for the rest of the pack. When a dog lets you walk through a door first, this is a sure sign it sees you as the alpha.

Affectionate Behavior

Because dogs are social animals, they are very affectionate with the people they care about. It is also a request for approval from the alpha. So all of those licks, kisses, and nuzzles are your dog’s way of asking if they are in good standing with their pack. As dogs have their own unique personalities, these forms of affection can vary significantly. 

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Dining Habits

In the wild, the alpha eats first. If your dog sees you as the alpha, they will permit you to eat first and refrain from snatching or stealing food. This is a sign of respect. In your home, you set your dog’s feeding schedule. If your pup sees you as the alpha, he or she will patiently wait for food or subtly ask for table scraps. And more importantly, your dog will not swipe food from your plate.

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Giving Up the Comfy Spots

Snuggling is a great way to bond with your dog, but this needs to be on the owner’s terms. Luckily, if your dog deems you the alpha, it will reserve the comfiest spot in the room for you. Even if Fido is lounging in that oh-so-warm chair by the fire, he will get up the moment he knows you are near. Or, your dog might linger in your favorite place when you aren’t there as a sign of trying to be close to you. Either way, it is an affectionate and heart-warming gesture topped only by your faithful companion seeming to guide you to the most relaxing space in your “den.”

Breaking Eye Contact

Eye contact is a show of strength among all creatures. If your dog breaks eye contact, this is a telltale sign of submission. In the wild, alphas put betas and omegas in their place with a decisive stare. If your dog breaks eye contact with you first, this is a dramatic sign of them viewing you as the alpha. It also demonstrates that you can discipline your dog with nothing more than a look. Just avoid being aggressive with eye contact as this can be a challenge to dominance, thus not wise to utilize when trying to win a dog’s trust or form a bond.

Staying Cool

woman petting her small brown dog

Pack leaders are responsible for staying cool in stressful situations. As the alpha, you need to stay strong for your dog during tough times like thunderstorms, vet visits, or anything else that might be traumatic for your pup. It is your duty as a good pet parent to soothe and comfort when necessary. On the flip side, if you abuse or hurt your pet when it is the most vulnerable, they could lose faith in you. These are the times to step up to the plate and be the alpha your dog needs you to be. Owning a pet is a tremendous responsibility, so live up to this and make the most of the limited time you have with your furry friend.

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Living Up to Your Dog’s Expectations

The bond between dogs and people is nothing less than extraordinary. You are your pup’s world; remember that. The years it took to build trust and a bond can vanish in a second if you cease to be the pack leader your dog follows. Once you become the alpha, you have even more responsibilities, and you must adjust your mindset to see yourself through your dog’s eyes. There is an adage that reputations take years to build but seconds to destroy. The same principle applies to the relationship you build with a pet. 

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Image SourceBeing the pack alpha is a significant role that is not to be taken lightly. Humans and dogs have protective instincts, especially regarding each other. Fifteen millennia of this bond is difficult to break, but it can happen quickly on a micro-level. Never forget that you must give respect to get respect from any creature, including the noble companions that are dogs.