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Dog Types


This is a debated topic. There are conflicting views, some believe in it, some don’t. Some say domestic dogs are bred out of pack structure ideals while others believe it still exists. We have an article that goes into more detail on the Pack Structure Debate if you would like to read it. You may know nothing about it, you may be on the fence or you may have chosen a side. It is an interesting topic so you may enjoy the article.


The basics of what we have found is that if a person has an eager to please dog it can appear pack structure and types don’t exist. If a person has a difficult dog then they may find help in the pack structure ideology. Even if a person has an eager to please dog they may still want to learn about this ideology as it helps to keep their dog safe in preventing dog attacks.


If you abide by Pack Structure Ideology there are 3 main Dog Types:


1. Alpha

2. Beta

3. Omega


Some people will say "Go ahead let your dog up on furniture, no problem". Other people will say "Never let your dog up on furniture, they will become aggressive and bite you". Knowing your different Dog Types will help explain the confusion.


Let's do a quick explanation on the 3 and then go into more detail.


1. Alpha - Is the boss or thinks they are the boss. It does not matter where you think your dog is in your pack, it matters where your dog thinks they are.

2. Beta - Isn't the boss but would like to be. If there is no clear leadership they will try to take over the Alpha position.

3. Omega - So easy going it does not matter what you do, they will always want to follow and listen. These dogs are a piece of cake to train. Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs often fall into this category.


Omega - There are many Omegas that are allowed up on beds and furniture their whole lives and never have a problem with it. They will never challenge another dog or challenge a person. Any breed or sex can have an Omega, some breeds will have a majority and others will have a minority. Retrievers often fall into the Omega category. Dogs in this category are the reason that you hear some people say "Go ahead let your dog up on furniture, no problem".


Beta - These are the dogs that will follow when clear leadership is given by their humans. If these humans spoil this dog or give away too many freedoms then this dog can think they are higher ranking and no longer want to listen to their humans. These dogs will either lead the pack or follow the leader. You need to have a decent understanding of dogs and their behaviour to have success with your training.


Alpha - These dogs see themselves as the boss or will try their hardest to reach this position. If you are a person who likes to spoil their dog then do not get an Alpha. These are the dogs that are much more likely to start biting their human family members or guests as well as attacking other dogs or killing other animals. This can be avoided but you need to have an excellent understanding of dogs and their behaviour as well as implement strict rules that are always followed. Pure Treat Based Training can lead to a dog that only listens when it suits them and Pure Force Based Training can lead to a dog that bites their handler for a hard correction. These dogs are best suited for Working Dog Applications where extreme drive is needed. Law Enforcement Applications are examples of where these dogs excel or where the dog is required to guard property. You would want to keep this dog busy and be a very strict and rule oriented person yourself to have a dog like this. If you want a companion dog then definitely do not get a high level Alpha!


There are many dogs that are allowed up on furniture their whole lives and never have an issue. We have also work with very dominant dogs and we have one client who has scars up her arm and across her chest from being attacked by her own dog for trying to get into her own bed.


For Companion Dogs get an Omega or at the most a low Beta if you are good at following rules.


For a Working Dog for certain applications, mainly where high drive or aggression is needed, you will want to get an Alpha. As a Working Service Dog for people with disabilities you would want an Omega or Low Beta.


If you do have a Beta or an Alpha you may find these Pack Structure Rules helpful if you follow them. For difficult dogs this seems to help them see you as the leader and increase their respect for you.



A Better Understanding of the Categories


If you were to look at a dog or several dogs what would you look for to determine if they were Alpha, Beta or Omega? After working with hundreds of dogs you will see patterns. These appear to be the indicators. Keep in mind you can see a dog that strongly displays one category but does one thing to indicate they would be in another. So let’s say if a dog showed a bunch of Omega qualities but did one Beta quality we would define that dog as a Low Level Beta. If it did an even amount of Omega and Beta qualities we would probably define that dog as Mid Level Beta. If that dog did all Beta qualities then we would probably define that dog as High Level Beta.


Examples:


Omega


  • Won’t jump on you.
  • Won’t nip you.
  • Will often look away when you look at them or pet them.
  • Will accept petting calm and quietly.
  • In a litter of puppies they are the ones hanging off to the side by themselves, not the ones coming over and jumping on you.
  • Will not play tug of war with you.
  • Will often fetch naturally.
  • Will release an object very easily.
  • Will follow you.
  • Will appear very distraught if you discipline them. If you do discipline them they will often never do that behaviour again.
  • Can break their spirit very quickly if harsh training methods are used.
  • Will not pee in areas other than their yard. They will hold it till they get back home to go pee in their own yard.
  • They will not lift their leg to mark territory.
  • Will naturally walk behind you with no training.
  • Will come when called with almost no training.
  • Hold their tail down low, not necessarily tucked in, just down low (below their back line).
  • Often need to be told several times to take their food with you present. They often prefer to eat their food when you walk away.
  • Do well with greeting other dogs on leash, off-leash park and doggy daycare.
  • If they get attacked by another dog they won’t develop aggression problems. They may be a lot more scared to go around other dogs or they may show extreme submission to another dog coming over.
  • Won’t bark, they are very quiet.  No barking for attention, guarding territory or anything of the sort. If they do bark it is often separation anxiety barking where they can get really worked up if they are left alone.
  • Will sit off to the side and wait for petting. They graciously accept petting but will often not come up to ask to be pet.
  • They make exceptionally good therapy dogs.
  • Won’t rush the door to greet guests. They will wait back for their turn.
  • Won’t sniff you.
  • Don’t want to play with other dogs. They will hang out with their owners or off by themselves.
  • Often take a long time to learn new commands. They will focus on you lots but take a while to learn. This is not to be confused with the dogs that can learn fast but are not motivated to focus on you.


Beta

  • Will jump on you.
  • Will nip at you.
  • Get excited when you pet them and want to mouth you or jump on you.
  • Will play keep away with toys.
  • Will play tug of war.
  • Will fetch but will often try to keep it away from you.
  • Will chew on your belongings.
  • Will bark.
  • Will walk in front of you.
  • Will lunge on leash at other dogs.
  • Won’t always come when called.
  • Want to be up on furniture or beds with you.
  • Will take food from you or steal food.
  • Play a bit rougher with other dogs or animals.
  • Will pee out on walks.
  • Will lift their leg to mark (or females with sniff and squat to mark their spot).
  • Will kick their legs as if wiping their feet off after they go pee or poo which also marks territory.
  • Want to get in between whatever person or animal you are giving attention to. They want that attention for themselves.
  • Want to greet guests first.
  • Will sniff guests.
  • Exhaust themselves at doggy daycare running around playing with the other dogs.
  • Will play until complete exhaustion with another dog.
  • Play rough with children.
  • Will chew kids toys especially.
  • Hold their tail at mid body line and higher.
  • Can get quite worked up when greeting other dogs or people out on a walk.
  • Learn commands quickly.


Alpha

  • Growls or bites when you go near their food or another dog or animal comes near their food.
  • Growls or bites when you try to take toys or bones away from them.
  • Growls or bites when you pet them on your terms and not theirs.
  • Growls or bites when you get near their resting spot or try to move them from their resting spot.
  • Hold their tail almost vertical.
  • Body posture is in a forward stance.
  • Will bark for attention and territory.
  • Will bark at the door and want to greet guests first.
  • Will jump on you incessantly, may scratch your back or body when jumping on you.
  • Always want to come over and sniff you.
  • Will bite over food, possessions, attention and resting spots.
  • Will pull like mad to be in front of you.
  • Go crazy when seeing another dog or person on leash. Although some of the highest ranking Alphas we have seen are very quiet and will just stare at you or another dog. Approaching them is not advised.
  • Have attacked other dogs.
  • Have attacked other people.
  • Have attacked their own humans.
  • Display all of the behaviours the Betas do but with more gusto.
  • Can make great guardian dogs or law enforcement dogs.
  • Do not make the best pets.
  • Are terrible for people who are not leadership and rule oriented and good at making a dog follow through on commands. The worst cases we have ever come across were with Alpha type dogs and people who were not leadership oriented. It is nearly impossible to get that dynamic to work as the dog won’t change and the people don’t want to change.
  • Get kicked out of doggy daycare. They get into a fight with one of the other dogs and then get kicked out. We have worked with a lot of dogs that were kicked out of doggy daycare.
  • Will go attack another dog when let off-leash at the dog park.
  • Are extremely intelligent. They can learn commands very quickly when motivated.


These outlines are not a definitive guide. We have seen cases where something happens and it is the complete opposite to what you have always seen before. You are looking for multiples of these items.


A very simple guideline: If the dog focuses on you and is always trying to please then they are an Omega. If the dog likes to test you a bit from time to time but does pretty well overall with training they are a Beta. If the dog shows any aggression especially under 1 year of age and you just feel like you don’t trust them and you have a very hard time training them they are often Alpha.


We will try to refine these as time goes on. As we mentioned there is a lot of debate over them. More research needs to be done to clarify.


Helpful Tip: Sometimes a person may have what seems to be a high level Beta or Alpha. They can be struggling with them and they will often get a lot of advice from other people. Often times these other people have not worked with as difficult a dog as this person has. The advice they offer can sometimes cause problems to get worse such as “you should let your dog greet more dogs on leash or go to the off-leash park more often”. Have a good read through this website as you may find some very helpful tips. We have helped a lot of people with very difficult dogs. It gets to be a lot more complex when dealing with a difficult dog. The good news is that once you have trained a difficult dog, all other dogs will seem like a piece of cake to train.