Just Dogs Training
Gina Lyn Hayes
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The 3 Personallity Types
The 3 Personallity Types

January 10, 2002
UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENT CANINE PERSONALITY TYPES
 
 
There is much talk about Alpha, Beta, and Omega personalities within the dog world. There are many myths and different theories on these 3 personality types. I have watched dogs for about 45 years and taught professionally to dog owners for just over 20 years. In the behavioral consulting end of my business, I have established my own theories, which I have keenly observed over and over. These theories only apply to dogs and not wolf packs or other undomesticated mammals. I have not observed the wild animal packs. I have only worked with Companion Dogs and their owners.
 
 
 
 
 
ALPHA
This is the dog that I describe as the true “leader” of a pack. This is NOT the dog that makes the most fuss or tries to be “top dog”. This is the leader and the leadership role is very clear. Many times owners are confused as they may have a dominant dog, which others have described as an Alpha. A dominant dog does not necessarily mean the Alpha dog. The Alpha dog may be nothing more than a clearly confident dog. I have observed packs of dogs over the years and found that the true leader, the classic Alpha, knows they are the “boss”. They are not generally noisy, demanding, or pushy. They accept leadership from the humans, as long as it is clearly defined. They do NOT get into fights with other dogs often, and if they have to chastise or put another dog in its place, the action is taken swiftly with little fuss. 
One example that comes to mind is this scenario. I had a female Irish Setter who was the clear dog leader in our home. Many times over the years I would bring in a new dog for our Board and Train program. The new dog might be pushy, unmannerly, perhaps dominant, and just a general “pain”. This Irish would observe and do nothing unless it was necessary to put the new dog in its place. Then the “attack” or teaching of” manners” would be swift, immediate, and with little fuss or fanfare. She would respond in the following way:
1)                  She would roll the dog immediately before it could even struggle. Size, breed, or sex did not matter. If the dog were breaking her or my rules, it needed to be educated.
2)                  She would then either place a paw on its chest or perhaps, stand right over the downed dog.
3)                  She would stare down into the dog’s eyes until it looked away.
4)                  When the dog quit struggling or submitted to her, she would let the dog up.
5)                  She would then follow or watch the dog for the next several minutes, possibly as long as the next half hour. If she even thought the dog had not learned its lesson, she would follow the dog around, perhaps 5 feet away. If she felt the dog had learned its lesson, she would just watch the dog. 
6)                  If it did not obey, she would then repeat the above steps until it submitted.
There was never a lot of barking or overt posturing. Her body language was clear, easy to read for even an untrained eye, and very productive. 
 
 
BETA
This is the dog that I see more frequently in our Board and Train program. This is definitely the dog that challenges the companion dog owner over and over. Quite often, the Beta dog is also very dominant and may need to be on a strict Nothing In Life is Free program (see attached NILF handout). The Beta dog may be barky, mouthy, reactive, and unwilling to accept the human as its leader. This dog spends its life, if untrained; challenging every day any form of control. These dogs are quite often, given up to Breed Rescue or to Shelters, as they are “too much” for many dog owners to handle willingly. Quite often in dog play, they cause fights by playing too rough or intense, they do not read nor accept other dog’s body language. They may be clearly possessive of prized items such as toys, rawhide, food, or even fighting to get all the attention from their owners in a multi dog household.
Remember the Beta dog can be dominant, but not necessarily a leader. This dog wants to be the leader of a pack, but may not have the skills to be a true leader!
 
 
 
 
 
OMEGA
These dogs are what I consider, to be the “low man on the totem pole”. They quite often can be very sweet, but lacking in self-confidence. They choose to move through life, trying not to create a fuss. These dogs can be challenged or even attacked, by the classic Beta dog. The Beta dog knows that they can dominate or rule this personality and quite often, choose to do so. 
I will give you the following case study of a classic Omega dog. 
Rosie came to me for training at about 9 months of age. She and about 18 other dogs had been seized from a basement, locked in cages. Rosie had never been out of a cage and was in the cage with her mother. She had never had much human contact and no knowledge of any life outside of the crate. Once she was adopted, she refused to go into a crate and would show medium signs of separation anxiety. She would whine, paw at the metal walls and possibly, defecate. Her owners came to me for help and we set a 60-day deadline in order to improve the situation before trying behavioral medication.
We started to train this little German Shepherd X immediately. Rosie loved the training and her confidence level rose. As training progressed, we increased her exposure to different stimuli; noises, environment changes, people, etc. Her owners would put her in the crate for short periods while they were home. She could see them and be reassured that they were not leaving her. Rosie would get a special bone whenever she was placed in the crate. She learned quickly that going into the crate was neither punishment nor isolation.
Training improved her relationship with her new owners and with life in general. However, Rosie’s life with other dogs was difficult at times. When Rosie would meet another dog, she would immediately roll over and expose her belly. This is a classic submissive position. My Alpha female accepted her and would actually even protect Rosie from other dogs. If Rosie met a Beta dog, quite often after rolling over and showing submission, they would challenge her or even attempt to bite. Once we were taking 3 dogs for a walk in the neighborhood. An unknown dog came up behind up and attacked Rosie. This dog ignored the other two dogs, but only attacked her. 
By the same token, our Alpha dog had her own rule. If she went into her crate to lie down, no other dog was allowed into that area. One day I happened to observe some behavior that was just amazing! Rosie walked up close to the opening of the crate my Alpha dog was in. She glanced at my dog, immediately turned sideways and walked away. She then came back and repeated this behavior about 4 times. The fifth time she very carefully put one paw into my dog’s crate, glanced quickly at my dog and turned sideways again. Over a two minute time period, she put another foot into the crate, glanced quickly at my dog and turned sideways, and finally, had her entire body in the crate. She very quietly laid her entire body in the front of the extra large wire crate. After one minute, my dog took her paws and pulled Rosie close to her. Any other dog that tried to go into my dog’s crate would have been chased out very quickly. But my dog accepted that Rosie needed some companionship or comforting. I’m not sure which, but the unspoken communication between the two dogs was incredible! To this day, there has never been another dog allowed to do what Rosie did. And my Alpha dog always protected Rosie from other dogs challenging her. Rosie was at the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, in dog packs, but was always safe as long as my Alpha dog was around.
Hopefully, this will give you a better understanding of the three personality types and how they pertain to our companion dogs.
 
 
Copyright 2006
glh
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Just Dogs Training Center
3
 
 
January 10, 2002
UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENT CANINE PERSONALITY TYPES
 
 
There is much talk about Alpha, Beta, and Omega personalities within the dog world. There are many myths and different theories on these 3 personality types. I have watched dogs for about 45 years and taught professionally to dog owners for just over 20 years. In the behavioral consulting end of my business, I have established my own theories, which I have keenly observed over and over. These theories only apply to dogs and not wolf packs or other undomesticated mammals. I have not observed the wild animal packs. I have only worked with Companion Dogs and their owners.
 
 
 
 
 
ALPHA
This is the dog that I describe as the true “leader” of a pack. This is NOT the dog that makes the most fuss or tries to be “top dog”. This is the leader and the leadership role is very clear. Many times owners are confused as they may have a dominant dog, which others have described as an Alpha. A dominant dog does not necessarily mean the Alpha dog. The Alpha dog may be nothing more than a clearly confident dog. I have observed packs of dogs over the years and found that the true leader, the classic Alpha, knows they are the “boss”. They are not generally noisy, demanding, or pushy. They accept leadership from the humans, as long as it is clearly defined. They do NOT get into fights with other dogs often, and if they have to chastise or put another dog in its place, the action is taken swiftly with little fuss. 
One example that comes to mind is this scenario. I had a female Irish Setter who was the clear dog leader in our home. Many times over the years I would bring in a new dog for our Board and Train program. The new dog might be pushy, unmannerly, perhaps dominant, and just a general “pain”. This Irish would observe and do nothing unless it was necessary to put the new dog in its place. Then the “attack” or teaching of” manners” would be swift, immediate, and with little fuss or fanfare. She would respond in the following way:
1)                  She would roll the dog immediately before it could even struggle. Size, breed, or sex did not matter. If the dog were breaking her or my rules, it needed to be educated.
2)                  She would then either place a paw on its chest or perhaps, stand right over the downed dog.
3)                  She would stare down into the dog’s eyes until it looked away.
4)                  When the dog quit struggling or submitted to her, she would let the dog up.
5)                  She would then follow or watch the dog for the next several minutes, possibly as long as the next half hour. If she even thought the dog had not learned its lesson, she would follow the dog around, perhaps 5 feet away. If she felt the dog had learned its lesson, she would just watch the dog. 
6)                  If it did not obey, she would then repeat the above steps until it submitted.
There was never a lot of barking or overt posturing. Her body language was clear, easy to read for even an untrained eye, and very productive. 
 
 
BETA
This is the dog that I see more frequently in our Board and Train program. This is definitely the dog that challenges the companion dog owner over and over. Quite often, the Beta dog is also very dominant and may need to be on a strict Nothing In Life is Free program (see attached NILF handout). The Beta dog may be barky, mouthy, reactive, and unwilling to accept the human as its leader. This dog spends its life, if untrained; challenging every day any form of control. These dogs are quite often, given up to Breed Rescue or to Shelters, as they are “too much” for many dog owners to handle willingly. Quite often in dog play, they cause fights by playing too rough or intense, they do not read nor accept other dog’s body language. They may be clearly possessive of prized items such as toys, rawhide, food, or even fighting to get all the attention from their owners in a multi dog household.
Remember the Beta dog can be dominant, but not necessarily a leader. This dog wants to be the leader of a pack, but may not have the skills to be a true leader!
 
 
 
 
 
OMEGA
These dogs are what I consider, to be the “low man on the totem pole”. They quite often can be very sweet, but lacking in self-confidence. They choose to move through life, trying not to create a fuss. These dogs can be challenged or even attacked, by the classic Beta dog. The Beta dog knows that they can dominate or rule this personality and quite often, choose to do so. 
I will give you the following case study of a classic Omega dog. 
Rosie came to me for training at about 9 months of age. She and about 18 other dogs had been seized from a basement, locked in cages. Rosie had never been out of a cage and was in the cage with her mother. She had never had much human contact and no knowledge of any life outside of the crate. Once she was adopted, she refused to go into a crate and would show medium signs of separation anxiety. She would whine, paw at the metal walls and possibly, defecate. Her owners came to me for help and we set a 60-day deadline in order to improve the situation before trying behavioral medication.
We started to train this little German Shepherd X immediately. Rosie loved the training and her confidence level rose. As training progressed, we increased her exposure to different stimuli; noises, environment changes, people, etc. Her owners would put her in the crate for short periods while they were home. She could see them and be reassured that they were not leaving her. Rosie would get a special bone whenever she was placed in the crate. She learned quickly that going into the crate was neither punishment nor isolation.
Training improved her relationship with her new owners and with life in general. However, Rosie’s life with other dogs was difficult at times. When Rosie would meet another dog, she would immediately roll over and expose her belly. This is a classic submissive position. My Alpha female accepted her and would actually even protect Rosie from other dogs. If Rosie met a Beta dog, quite often after rolling over and showing submission, they would challenge her or even attempt to bite. Once we were taking 3 dogs for a walk in the neighborhood. An unknown dog came up behind up and attacked Rosie. This dog ignored the other two dogs, but only attacked her. 
By the same token, our Alpha dog had her own rule. If she went into her crate to lie down, no other dog was allowed into that area. One day I happened to observe some behavior that was just amazing! Rosie walked up close to the opening of the crate my Alpha dog was in. She glanced at my dog, immediately turned sideways and walked away. She then came back and repeated this behavior about 4 times. The fifth time she very carefully put one paw into my dog’s crate, glanced quickly at my dog and turned sideways again. Over a two minute time period, she put another foot into the crate, glanced quickly at my dog and turned sideways, and finally, had her entire body in the crate. She very quietly laid her entire body in the front of the extra large wire crate. After one minute, my dog took her paws and pulled Rosie close to her. Any other dog that tried to go into my dog’s crate would have been chased out very quickly. But my dog accepted that Rosie needed some companionship or comforting. I’m not sure which, but the unspoken communication between the two dogs was incredible! To this day, there has never been another dog allowed to do what Rosie did. And my Alpha dog always protected Rosie from other dogs challenging her. Rosie was at the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, in dog packs, but was always safe as long as my Alpha dog was around.
Hopefully, this will give you a better understanding of the three personality types and how they pertain to our companion dogs.
 
 
Copyright 2006
glh