The Alpha dominance myth exposed.
In the early 1970’s Dr David Mech made the claims that Wolves and therefore dogs live in a heirachical world where the Alpha dog is the leader of the pack. His work was based on previous studies in the 30’s & 40’s by a Swiss Behaviourist called Rudolph Schenkel who worked with captive wolves, “Expressions Studies on Wolves.”. Mech even published a book titled The Wolf: The ecology and behaviour of an endangered species, explaining all the Dominant behaviours he had noticed while studying wild wovles in North America.
His research was picked up by many dog trainers and has been absorbed into modern day dog training by the lay public. People like Ceasar Milan have popularised this notion of Alpha dominance in domesticated and pet dogs.
BUT IT IS COMPLETELY INCORRECT AND ALWAYS WAS.
Dr Mech himself denounced his own book in the early 90’s, claiming that his research was fundamentally flawed, but by that time the notion of the Alpha dog and the dominance theory of needing to be the boss of your dog had already taken center stage.
Thankfully this is beginning to change thanks to force-free positive reinforcement trainers like myself.
A Fresh Look at the Wolf-Pack Theory of Companion-Animal Dog Social Behavior – February 2004, Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 7(4):279-85; discussion 299-300
International Wolf Center – Dr D.Mech’s publications.