Understanding Your Dog’s Pack Mentality 

… (And Why You Might Not Be Top Dog)

Having issues with your dog not listening to you? Always feel like you’re second-fiddle to your pet’s needs and wants? If so, your dog may have the upper hand in your relationship and has taken on the leader of the pack role. Instead of viewing you as the one in charge, your pet sees you as a follower and has no reason to listen to you. Reversing these roles is essential to balancing your relationship with your dog.

What is Dog Pack Mentality

What is pack mentality: Pack mentality applies not only to dogs, but to any animal group, including humans. The definition of pack mentality has a negative connotation. It describes a collaborative group led by an alpha, who exudes dominance over the submissive group.

Are dogs really pack animals? Sorta. The research on dogs and packs suggests that dogs tend to be more social animals. In a true pack (as in wolves), the animals collaborate to survive; dogs aren’t as organized, and they tend to fend for themselves, even when they travel with a pack.

Classic dog-pack theory suggests a dog pack has a social hierarchy; one dog stands out as the leader, while the others follow. The alpha dog’s self-appointed responsibility is to direct and protect the pack. This dominant, dog pack mentality, can play a role in the relationship dynamics between dog owners and their dogs. One clear sign you are not the dog pack leader is your dog’s negative and very frustrating behavior — like ignoring your commands.

Bottom line is, whatever you want to call it – alpha dog, leader of the pack, dominant dog – your dog isn’t listening to you, and you’re frustrated. And that may because it sees you as subordinate; it may also be because your dog simply doesn’t understand you.

Alpha Dog Characteristics

Some dog trainers suggest that there are signs that your dog doesn’t see you as the alpha, such as:

Do you…

  • allow your dog free rein of the house?
  • feed your dog before you eat?
  • get upset and yell at your dog?

Does your dog…

  • jump on people, including you?
  • enter or leave a room in front of you?
  • pull when leash-walking?

If you answered yes, you might be enabling alpha dog characteristics. You may also be unknowingly rewarding negative behavior, thus reinforcing it (ensuring it will happen again). Establishing dominance with a dog earns your pet’s respect and gives you the leadership position in your dog “pack.”

How to Stop Your Dog Thinking He is Boss

Now that you know your alpha dog is in charge, let’s address how to assert dominance over a dog. The goal is that your dog sees you as the alpha, or leader of the pack. If he follows your commands, whether it be the basic “sit,” “come,” and “stay,” he will respect you, know that you’re in charge, and heed your requests. He’ll also obey more advanced instructions, like behaving well around other dogs and people.

To reach this point, you need to adopt some pack leader traits through your own behavior and dog alpha training, also referred to as dog respect training, or pack leader dog training.

How to break a dominant dog and become pack leader

There are some important steps you need to take to establish yourself as the pack leader.

Whether your dog is a puppy or an adult, understand that modifying your pet’s behavior will not happen overnight. Dog training takes time and patience, which leads us to tip #1: Be assertive, but never yell at your dog. Cranking up your volume toward your canine companion can cause fear and anxiety, which almost assures that your pet will continue ignoring your commands and potentially display increasing negative behaviors.

  • Take your dog for a daily walk for your pet’s physical and mental well-being.
  • Use consistent boundaries and limitations (we’re talking off-your-special-chair, out-of-the-bed, no-hanging-around-in-the-kitchen kind of boundaries). When your dog adheres to the house rules, reward the good behavior with affection, treats, or both.
  • Walk in and out of doors before your dog.
  • Command your dog to perform a particular task like “sit” or “stay” before they receive affection, water, food, or toys.
  • Involve all household members by setting individual pet responsibilities, so you’re all on the same page regarding caring for and training your dog.
  • Keep your dog beside you or behind you when walking. Positioning yourself between your dog and other dogs shows your pet you’re their protector.
  • Provide your dog with a space all her own. Whether it be her bed or the corner of a room, you must respect her space by staying out of it, which will teach her to respect yours.
  • Foster quiet time by sitting with each other and relaxing. No need for noisy play; just chill together.
  • Teach and reinforce basic commands like “sit” and “stay.” Training your pet to follow your instructions and continued practice throughout their life will strengthen your authority in the relationship.
  • If you’re bringing a new dog into the home, research the breed and the dog’s energy to ensure it fits your lifestyle.

While claiming the leader role (top dog) in your relationship with your dog takes time and consistency, once established, your pet will observe your authority and replace negative behaviors with positive, obedient ones.


Photo 49414435 / Dog ©ï¸� Ksenia Raykova | Dreamstime.com
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