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Series: Lessons from Nature Part 1

The Myth of the Alpha Dog

"To be the leader of the pack, to maintain order and discipline and obedience, was the first law of club and fang… this resulted in severe punishment toward any dog who dared to violate the law. The law was not always just, but it was certain. The strong ate the weak, and the strong, in this case, was Buck." - Jack London, The Call of the Wild. (London, 1903)

In Jack London's "Call of the Wild," the myth of the alpha dog has been perpetuating a misconception of power and influence for over a hundred years, shaping our culture in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. As part of the Middle School curriculum, the book was assigned for students to read. However, even at a young age, I found it unsettling. Discovering the truth about alpha dogs I found it counter to the canine character, Buck. In fact, a wolf pack’s leadership role is fulfilled by a pair of wolves known as the alpha pair. While the alpha pair does lead the pack in finding locations to hunt and raise their young. Their most important role lies in protecting their pack from external threats. The functionality of the wolf pack relies on the alpha pair's ability to assess and avoid dangers for their team.

Interestingly, the importance of teamwork is also demonstrated in the world of sled dogs. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, a 1,000-mile trek across the Alaskan wilderness, is a grueling te