View Full Version : pecking order???

30th November 2006, 10:16 PM

Iv got a question about the pecking order amongst dogs. What factors contribute to playing the part of pecking order? (age,size??)

Iv got 5 lovely cavs 1 boy and 4 girls. I think we’ve figured out that our boy is top male and our oldest girl (nina) is top female and I think the rest kind of go from oldest to the youngest being last. BUT nina (3 ½) and phoebe (1 ½) have been having the odd fight lately and im sure its down to the pecking order and nina thinking phoebe is a threat.

Has anyone had any experiences of this?

30th November 2006, 11:46 PM
I've written about this quite a few times as it is such an interesting area. Age, gender, size and a lot of things we might think are important don't actually seem that important to dogs. Their choice of leader tends to be the dog that commands respect in a benign way. After all the point is to NOT have fights within the pack, if you think about it! So often, the dog we think is the the top dog actually isn't -- it is simply the one the alpha dog lets get away with things. :) Often it takes a professional behaviouralist to determine what the pecking order is, because it can be very subtle (and the order does change, too, especially when a leader ages to the point of losing command).

Also you do tend to need to be around a group of dogs a lot to start to sense which fits where but it can still be easy to get this wrong. In my house with three dogs, people always guess wrong about the alpha -- they think it is Jaspar, who was my first dog, is very closely bonded to me, and very playful. He almost always wins the tug of war games with his half brother Leo, and almost always gets the fetch toy first to bring back. Then people might think number two is Lily, as though she is very small, she is very opinionated with other dogs, and often snaps at other females when she's on the lead.

The bottom of the heap, everyone assumes, is my gentle and quiet Leo, who is a small male and has a melting face and the sweetest disposition imaginable. Everyone always loves Leo.

Well, Leo is the alpha. He is the most benign of benign dictators, the most easy-going boss, always cheerful and almost always ready to let others have the toys, etc. But if things come to a scuffle over a chew -- he will win and Jaspar will back down. If he does decide tog rab the fetch toy, Jaspar will play tug of war with him for it, but if Leo starts to carry it back, Jaspar backs down. And Leo has turned and snapped at other dogs who were bothering Jaspar even though Leo was at a distance and not being harrassed himself. Interestingly when we are on a walk and meet other dogs the main dog they are interested in is always Leo, so I think dogs recognise and also quickly acknowledge the alpha in a new group. Leo is also quite fearless of other dogs, including those many times his size, and will eye them if they are being rude, and growl as well. Jaspar is extremely submissive with other dogs and typically rolls on his back.

Lily meanwhile is very deferential to Leo and licks his face several times a day (and cleans his eyes, which he loves), a typical gesture of submission. But she also will not challenge Jaspar and always backs down if he wants something.

So the leader tends to be the one that quietly leads -- but if a scuffle happens, he or she will be the one that ends up with the desired toy or chew or whatever.

Your females may well be fighting with each other to establish order. The more dogs you have, the more pack behaviour you get, the more complex their relationships grow, and the more difficult they are to manage. Often females seem to be the ones who fight. If one is younger and just getting into adulthood, she may well try her chances at challenging an older dog or keep testing the others too.

1st December 2006, 05:43 PM
Hi Karlin,

Thanks for replying. I find this subject very interesting too because we have 5 cavs now and I feel it’s important to know there roles and to make sure everyone gets on. Your comments did make me think and I do agree with you about the more benign dog taking place of leader than the dog that seems to be bossing everyone around.

Joey has always been the openly bossy dog and the other girls will submit to him apart from Nina who’s never submitted to him.

Nina is a very gentle natured and an obedient dog that doesn’t really bother with the other dogs and prefers the company of people. The other girls submit to Nina straight away and she seems to have respect even though she ignores them.

Phoebe often barks a lot at Nina when she wants something off her (toy, chew) and normally she’ll just ignore phoebe it’s when phoebe gets over excited that the fight will occur. Like before walks they all get excited and this will set Nina off into this strange fight mode which completely baffles me! :? :?

We just don’t really understand why this sets them off?

How do u discipline your dogs if they fight?

We do keep them separate before a walk which does work but sometimes they just seem to get riled up when anything exciting happens before and after.

1st December 2006, 06:25 PM
Very interesting. I followed advice in the forum and tried not to get the alfa of the litter but I'm not sure I was looking for the right thing. As it turned out I was only offered one dog so had no choice. In a litter of pups, how can you tell? I was happy not to have the demanding pup who was always attached to my sock when I walked, the biggest and most demanding. The girl apparently was the bossy one. Mine was quiet, playful and affectionate, more so than any of the others but the breeder said mine is a little braver than the boy she is keeping. What do you think?

1st December 2006, 07:27 PM
hi Pauline

To be honest I don’t have a clue :lol: lol. I really would love to find out because I find it intriguing. maybe one day ill learn dog language!!??

Karlin may know something about ur question though

Ooh I just remembered something about nina too! When the other girls go out to wee in the garden nina goes around weeing on all there wees. She does it all the time she’s really precise hovering in each place they’ve just been.i didnt even know girls marked before i had our nina :lol:

1st December 2006, 07:40 PM
I'm sure karlin would know as would some others, i'll wait and see if they leave a comment. Thanks for bringing it up. xx

2nd December 2006, 08:06 AM
I agree with Karlin. Faith has always been packleader of the dogs in our household. She never fights unless one is out of order. She never bites them she mouths and makes lots of noise. Its really funny to watch 3 goldies back off and suck up to her, because she is so small. She intiates play and they only play with her when she wants it. She seems to have a different sound for each command she gives as well. She was an alpha pup and was very head strong in her younger days as well, but its not always the alpha pup that becomes the leader. In my experience the quieter ones generally come out of there shells when they are away from their sibblings. And I tend to find also that if I have a dog that gets over excited and start to course fights, I will work on it seperately to calm the dog down. Like teaching it to sit and stay and then bring one extra dog in at a time, teaching them the sit and stay until you have all the dogs sitting and staying when you want them to. This works for me. It does take time though and a great deal of patience. And of course there is always the one that is constantly trying to climb up the corporate ladder that you will have to spend more time on. Just let her know that its not acceptable to act like that in your presence because ultimately you are the leader. Good luck with it all.

Cathy Moon
2nd December 2006, 02:33 PM
I have a small book by Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D. and Karen B. London, Ph.D. entitled Feeling Outnumbered? How to Manage and Enjoy Your Multi-Dog Household.

The author says to put both dogs into a down-stay, within sight of each other but at a distance, for a cooling off period of up to 1/2 hour, then when you release them from the down-stay ignore both for 1/2 hour up to a full day, depending on the transgression (from a threat incident such as a growl, snap or visual display all the way up to a fight.)

Both dogs need to both understand that neither of them 'won' and that neither gets what they wanted by the threat incident or fight.

Also, doing things to prevent the problems from occurring are of utmost importance, and you are already doing that. :flwr:

3rd December 2006, 07:05 PM
thanks for all your advice it certainly makes sense!

And I will definitely check out that book too!

thanks again :D :D