Tag Archives: alpha wolf

Outmoded notion of the alpha wolf

It’s been almost a year and a half since I wrote about the alpha roll myth.  Yet, there are still dog trainers who are using methods that are based on outdated thinking about animal behaviour and training.

Here’s a great video by L David Mech, who wrote “The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species” in 1968.  The book, published in 1970 and re-published in paperback in 1981, is often cited as the reason why ‘dominance’ and ‘leadership’ models for dog training are acceptable.

L David Mech now admits he was wrong and has publicly announced on his website that he has pleaded with the publisher to stop publishing his book.

“Alpha” implies competing with others and becoming top dog by winning a contest or battle. However, most wolves who lead packs achieved their position simply by mating and producing pups, which then became their pack. In other words they are merely breeders, or parents, and that’s all we call them today, the “breeding male,” “breeding female,” or “male parent,” “female parent,” or the “adult male” or “adult female.”

In the rare packs that include more than one breeding animal, the “dominant breeder” can be called that, and any breeding daughter can be called a “subordinate breeder.”

I’m a supporter of positive reinforcement training.  Please be on the lookout for trainers who still use outdated information and possibly damaging training techniques.