One of the most common misconceptions when considering dog behaviour (or misbehaviour) is that they may be attempting to be ‘dominant’ over their owners or other dogs. Although some dog fights do occur when two dogs of the same social position fail to reach an understanding, ‘dominance’ is too often blamed for aggression issues and other poor behaviours. Fear aggression, poor socialization, inconsistent training, abuse and plain old spoiling are far more often the cause.
Dominance theory first became popular after L. David Mech published a study of wolf social behaviour in 1970. The alpha wolf concept has since been disproved and the original research done on wild wolves was never applicable to domestic dogs.
The concept of the alpha wolf is well ingrained in the popular wolf literature at least partly because of my book "The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species," written in 1968, published in 1970, republished in paperback in 1981, and currently still in print, despite my numerous pleas to the publisher to stop publishing it. Although most of the book's info is still accurate, much is outdated. We have learned more about wolves in the last 40 years then in all of previous history.
One of the outdated pieces of information is the concept of the alpha wolf. "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."