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Alpha male problem?

May 5th, 2008, 11:50 AM
We adopted a 3 year old male dog in December 2007. He is a 75 lb Red Dobie and Chocolate Lab mix. He was neutered when we adopted him. Mondo has been a great dog, great with the kids (young) and highly trainable, basically the best dog you could ask for. Until now he has been the only animal in the house, and he is an inside/outside dog.
Last weeked, May 3, 2008 we rescued our second dog, Brutus, a 90 lb Chocolate Lab mix (maybe mastif). I already had concerns about having two male dogs in the house, and the hormones are not yet out of his system, as he tried to mark his territory in the house a couple times (already broke him of that) and he has tried to hump Mondo and me! I knew that was not good. (Mondo also tried to hump Brutus once.) I did something that someone had suggested to me: I immediately forced Brutus to the ground, not hurting him, but holding him down and putting my body over his as he lay on his side. This would teach him submission, supposedly, that neither Mondo or Brutus were allowed to be the alpha dog, pack leader, but that I was.
My wife and I are concerned about possible competition that could break out between the two with small children around.
I would appreciate any help and advice on how to best deal with the situation. They are both really, really good dogs.

May 5th, 2008, 01:32 PM
I have no clue what to do there, haven't had quite that problem, usually Bourbon tolerates anything, and speaks up when he had a problem, but it always subsided.

The one that you've been doing (laying on top of dog) sounds logical, if you were having a problem with being leader of the pack. but a pecking order seems to be more complicated. Like thier's the top dog, but not everyone else is equal to eachother. The non-alpha ones have thier own order, and your boys may continue trying to figure that out, even though they both accept you as being top dog, they might try to figure out who's above who between the two. Make sense?

May 5th, 2008, 02:44 PM
i have read lot of documentation online about the alpha male, pack leader mentality, and am trying to wrap my head around what is right. while both opinions state that your dogs should definitely dominate you, the owner, one idea states (Milan) that you, the owner, become the pack leader. The other opinion is that The dogs will have a pack leader between them, that it is natural for that to develop and one dog will be submissive to the other and one will be dominant, the pack leader.
Any help understanding this, as well as advice and methods is much appreciated.

May 5th, 2008, 03:29 PM
Here would be my ideas on the problem.

1-I think you may be moving too fast interms of integrating the new dog into your household. I have two males, if I were to bring a third dog into the house, the new dog would be given a full week, MINIMUM, of being separated from the other two to get used to me, the new environment, new routine, etc. The dogs would all have an opportunity to get used to each other's smells, sounds, etc. without fully meeting face to face right off.

After that I would move onto slow introductions on neutral territory, like a walk with one person per dog, again, no face to face intros, just walking beside each

Only after all this going well would I actually introduce the dogs in the house, and with my two, I'd likely have them all dragging leashes and insist on the dogs just calmly being around eachother, not playing or anything yet or for a while.

2-You couldn't pay me to alpha role a dog who I'd known for a week, I think you're asking for trouble with that one. The dog is probably just trying to figure out who's who and what's going on, but integrating some non-confrontational re-enforcement of your role as great dog god of all resources won't hurt. Try reading up on NILIF-or Nothing In Life Is Free (

May 5th, 2008, 04:04 PM
First I have to say I am very happy to know that you have rescued 2 dogs - that's wonderful!

A few observations and questions:

While you've had Brutus for a very short period of time, Mondo is also a relatively new addition. I doubt that Mondo's had long enoughto settle in, learn boundaries/foundations and be 100% reliable (let alone Brutus).
What exactly does "inside/outside dog" - not outside unsupervised, I hope??

You bring in another male (generally, its easiest to integrate male-female dogs (not same-sex). How old is the new addition and is he neutered? How were the dogs introduced (neutral territory, off-leash, separated etc...). Did you find out as much as you could about Brutus to make sure he was compatible with everyone? Has he had free run of the house since you brought him home? Are they left together unsupervised?

How much mental and physical stimulation are these dogs getting? While humping can be dominance related, it is more often a release of pent up energy/excitement - basically an overstimulated/out of control dog (much like the zoomies).

You will find plenty of people who support the alpha theories and forcing a dog to submit but I am not one of them. There's an excellent article called debunking the dominance myth that you may want to read...
Have you ever heard of NILIF? Many people have turned it into a dominance program or pulling rank... In fact all NILIF or as I prefer "learn to earn" means is that your dog isn't allowed access to resources until he is behaving appropriately. You can customize it the way you want and it ensures a well-mannered dog because your are integrating obedience training into your daily life... A common example is taking your dog outside. Alpha supporters will often say that as the leader you must walk out the door first so your dog isn't leading you (which is IMO complete nonesene but let's not get off-topic). In reality, you can expect a sit, down, eye contact wait or any calm behaviour... Its completely up to you. I prefer default eye contact (I NEVER ask for it, its expected)... When my dog looked at me out we went (generally with him in front) - this is not something I do all the time (but I did it a lot when he was learning foundation behaviours). Humans control the resources - that is enough to be your dogs "leader", you don't need to rely on force.
I do not support or condone "alpha rolling" and would strongly urge you to never do it again. At best you are confusing the dog and at worst you could be intimidating him or encouraging aggressive behaviour (this is especially dangerous with a new dog). Labs are generally soft and submissive dogs but not all will put up with that kind of force. Alpha rolls are extremely threatening - if you read the article, you will understand why!

With regards to rank, many dogs are concerned about hierarchy and generally work things out for themselves no matter how hard humans try and intervene (oftentimes when people intervene it makes things worse). You may need to keep them separate when unsupervised. So far if marking and humping are the only issues, you are doing quite well (although they aren't acceptable behaviours, they aren't necessarily dominance related if this is all that's happened so far). You will need to observe each dog closely and if you aren't well-versed in canine body language you may want to brush up (Brenda Aloff's books are great). You need to learn how to read each dog's body language so that you know what's about to happen before it does. Being able to recognize something as small as dilated pupils or a hard mouth can stop a reaction before it happens.
Some people suggest that you support the alpha dog by allowing him access to all resources first. The problem with that idea is that many owners don't properly identify the alpha dog... Oftentimes the dog who does the most posturing is considered alpha when in fact he is couldn't be further from alpha. Alpha's don't need to display their rank, all they care about is other dogs defering to them when they want.... Which is why I don't play up to an alpha but this is a personal choice!

May 5th, 2008, 05:23 PM
I did not take the time to read all of the answers because my alarms went off when you said you held him down.

Please find other methods before ever resorting to an alpha role. In all of the thousands of dogs we have worked with we have maybe held down 3 dogs who were out of control, and we do not recommend such a move to our clients. Even the dog who really nailed me a few years back - I would never have even dreamed of doing an alpha role on him - he was big, strong and mean. I would have been injured even worse than I was.

There is a great danger to you and anyone to comes at your dog once they have been rolled. The first time you might be lucky and get away with it, but then the dog learns the move and may submit or may not and when you let go he has a right (in his doggie brain) to retaliate. Once you get so physical with an animal you have no where to go but to cause harm or pain and with such large dogs you could loose that battle. Remember the second you cause pain you loose trust. Relationship is all about love, trust and respect. You need to earn these dogs respect in a non physical manner - that will last a lifetime.

The beauty is we are the ones with the sophistcated brains and can think through situations. Dogs are typically reactive but we can still out smart them.

We have 6 male dogs in our home - always have had even with small children. This shouldn't be about sex, but structure, manners, rules and clear leadership. You should not have to get physical to be a great pack leader.

How old is the second dog? If you have 2 dogs close in age and in temperament then that is more of the issue then anything else. It's like having 2 - 30 year old, type A personalities in the office - fur is going to fly! They will challenge each other for who gets to be top dog.

You can't interfere with who ends up on top - that is natures decision. But you can absolutely teach them the rules of the house and manners.