Dog society

form a family group in which individuals display assertiveness or passiveness, rather than dominance and submission. While the majority of research to date indicates that domestic dogs conform to a hierarchy around an Alpha-Beta-Omega structure, domestic dogs, like their wild wolf counterparts, also interact in complex hierarchical ways.

Dominance and submission

It is believed by some Fact|date=January 2008 that dogs establish a dominance hierarchy through aggressive play and roughhousing along a continuum of dominance and submission, although the concept of social hierarchies in dogs is unproven and controversial. It is important for successful socialization that puppies participate with their littermates in learning to relate to other dogs. Dogs learn to successfully relate to other dogs by keeping the peace, rather than by constantly fighting to reestablish this hierarchy.

Dominance behavior

Contrary to popular beliefFact|date=June 2008, dominance is not a personality trait. Displays of dominance include standing above or over other dogs, placing a paw on other dogs, holding the tail and ears erect, looking directly at other dogs, circling and sniffing other dogs, growling if the other dog moves, and aggressive marking of territory with urine. Submissive displays mirror dominant displays and include adopting a posture that is lower than other dogs, such as crouching, rolling over on the back and exposing the abdomen, lowering the tail (sometimes to the point of tucking it between the legs), flattening of the ears, averting the gaze, nervously licking or swallowing, dribbling of urine, and freezing or fleeing when other dogs are encountered.

Ideally, the dominant/submissive social structure of dogs avoids conflict and enforces social stability. Poorly-socialized dogs who are inept at establishing dominance hierarchy may become involved in excess conflicts, especially from a human viewpoint. People who misunderstand dog behavior or who have inadvertently placed themselves in a disadvantageous position within the dominance submissive hierarchy can find themselves participants in similar conflicts with the animal(s).

It is problematic to anthropomorphize the dominance/submission behavior of a pet or to mistake it for characteristics more appropriately applied to humans. It can be dangerous for a dog to be dominant relative to its master or mistress. Owners who inadvertently reward dominance or assertiveness by giving in to a dog's demands and preferences may cause the dog to feel that it is more important than its owner or than other dogs. Likewise, submission in a dog is not necessarily an indication of a problem dog. Continuing to discipline a dog after it has adopted a submissive or appeasement posture is contrary to a goal of obedience.

While there have only been two studies in the last 50 years on dominance hierarchies in dogs (Dunbar and Scott and Fuller), many Fact|date=January 2008 place their belief about dog behavior in the dominance hierarchy construct. There are between 18 and 21 theories of social hierarchies, and few agree on which is the correct theory as applied to dogs. Further, comparing dog behavior to captive wolf behavior presents complex issues, as dogs and wolves do not exhibit identical behavioral characteristics.

Behavior when isolated

Dogs value the companionship of the others in their "pack" and are sometimes distressed if they are separated from it. Typical reactions when a dog is separated from the pack are barking, howling, digging, and chewing. These activities may distress humans when they need to leave dogs alone for a period of time. However, this behavior, called "separation anxiety", can be overcome with training, or at least decreased to the point where it becomes manageable. If young puppies are habituated to periods alone from an early age, this can normally be prevented entirely. Some owners struggling to deal with this problem resort to debarking.

Favorite activities

Dogs enjoy spending time with and interacting with other dogs. Roughhousing and chasing one another are favorite activities. Off-leash dog parks can be good places for dogs to exercise and interact with other dogs. When seeking relaxation, dogs enjoy laying about with their companions, favoring spots with a good view of their surroundings.

Recent research

Dr. David Mech of the University of Minnesota, who has studied wolves in their natural habitat, claims that new evidence about the behavior of wild wolf packs shows that the traditionally described hierarchy in wolf packs does not actually exist. He no longer uses the word "alpha" because "It falsely implies a hierarchical structure in which a wolf assumes a place in a linear hierarchy." Mech also states that dominance is rare in wild wolves. Instead of "dominance" and "submission", he uses the terms "assertiveness" and "passiveness". [cite journal|last=Mech|first=David|title=Canadian Journal of Zoology|year=2002]


*cite journal|last=Mech|first=L. David|year=1999 (Version 16MAY2000)|title=Alpha status, dominance, and division of labor in wolf packs|journal=Canadian Journal of Zoology |volume=77:1196-1203|coauthors=Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online|url=

ee also

*Dog communication
*Pack (canine)
*Pack hunter
*Alpha roll

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