A very common myth and misunderstanding is that dogs are really just domesticated wolves. Some people use language that is usually attributed to wolf behavior, such as “dominance”, “pack member”, or “alpha.” To us as Canine Behavior Consultants, we are proponents of describing behaviors and not using the terms “alpha” and “dominance” to describe behaviors as these terms are often misused or there are varying definitions, thus, miscommunications occur.
The truth is that dogs are very different from wolves. In the wild, wolves exist in packs that are almost always a family group of a mating pair and their offspring. While that pack can change over time, the constant is the mating pair. Dogs in the wild typically live solitary lives, sometimes living in groups, but they are fluid and fleeting. The dogs that live with humans are usually solitary dogs put into an unfamiliar group with humans and sometimes other non-familial dogs, creating an artificial “pack” of a makeshift family group. Dogs are well adjusted to this dynamic as we have been breeding them and selecting them for at least 14,000 years (some research suggests up to 40,000 years!) They are “family” members, not “pack” members. There is not a wolf sleeping on your bed, waiting for his chance to dominate you and become the alpha of your household. You have a dog; a fantastic companion and friend, who will likely do many things for you just to make you happy (and likely hoping for a treat, too).