Alpha Male Dog Characteristics

Alpha male dogs expect to get food and treats first.
Alpha male dogs expect to get food and treats first. (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Dogs are naturally pack animals, and all pack animals, there is a hierarchy. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and has been used to describe an animal that is at the top of his pack. A strong leader is necessary for the pack's stability and to provide guidance and order for the rest of the animals. Alpha male dogs possess characteristics that separate them from the rest of the group, thus creating a natural leader. When there are two or more dogs together, it is relatively easy to spot who owns this power position.

Body Language

One of the ways an alpha male can be spotted is through the way he carries himself. He has an air of confidence and superiority. The alpha male holds his chest and head up, his ears and tail erect (but relaxed) and he does not fear looking other dogs in the eye. Alpha male dogs walk around like “they own the place."

Power Displays

An alpha male dog also will assert himself through various power displays. When he plays with another dog, he will show his strength and make it clear that he is endowed with plenty of muscle. For example, when he is engaged in a game of tug-of-war, an alpha male will always win. The alpha male dog will never look away when glancing at another dog. He also mounts other dogs, to demonstrate his dominance over them. When living in a pack, the alpha male dog earns certain perks, like being the first to eat and being mated to a variety females, including the alpha female. The alpha male dog gets to choose the best sleeping spot, as well.


As the leader, the alpha male dogs expects to be treated like royalty. He enters rooms first and is petted before the rest of the dogs, when a human is greeting them. If he is not greeted first, he will become jealous. And it’s not just the humans that give him special treatment; other dogs are attracted to him and will show their subservience by licking him around his mouth.


In addition to having control over the food and the females in a pack setting, the alpha male dog may guard or take other things out of a sense entitlement. It likes to display ownership over things like toys, bones and other treats.

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