On a fateful sweltering summer afternoon, on my usual bout of procrastination I chanced upon the following mind-blowing visual imagery. What you have before you is Heini Winter, dog sled racer and sled dogs extraordinaire, taking his pack of sled dogs out about town for a bit of good old fashioned fun. Rummaging through the comments of the website, someone raised the question of how does one achieve such a level of “alpha”, implying that how do one become an alpha male of such a pack. Thus this piqued my interest and off I went trying to acquire knowledge to become an alpha dog (Canis lupus familiaris)!

Alas, it was not to be, fate has it that there is actually little evidence to support the idea that dogs have hierarchical dominance based social structures. The idea of this social structure stemmed from that of Wolves (Canis lupus) but this behaviour does not seem to be evident in wolf packs found in the wild rather only in those found in captivity; furthermore such behaviour is also not found in feral dogs thus exacerbating the spotlight already put on this idea of social dominance hierarchy (Kerkhove, 2004).Kerkhove (2004: 279) thus suggested that if true, it implies that social behavior—even in wolves—may be a product more of environmental circumstances and contingencies than an instinctive directive.”

However, it is not to say that “dominance/alpha-ness” is not a behavioural trait in dogs, it is just that we may have misinterpreted its function. “Dominance/alpha-ness” do exist in dogs, to be exact, it exist in the relationships between dogs. For example in a pack of 3 dogs named Cat, Monkey, and Giraffe, Cat is dominant over Monkey, Monkey is dominant over Giraffe, but Giraffe is dominant over Cat (Bradshaw et al., 2009). Thus this illustrates that there is no true social dominance hierarchy, no one true alpha male/female.

What about Dog Jesus, Heini Winter then? Well, that is another mystery for another time! Tally-ho!

Literature Cited

P.S. Check out the full length (9 mins) video of Heini Winter and his dogs in the video description.