Alpha male wolves don’t show submission, while other wolves might get submissive towards more dominant wolves by showing signs of submission like crouching, tucking the tail in, muzzle licking, and laying on the back.
There are some signs of submission that are more obvious than others, though. The signs that we can immediately connect with a submissive wolf – sometimes also called the omega wolf – include crouching, squeezing the tail between its legs, muzzle licking, and sometimes making submissive noises like whining.
However, some submissive wolves don’t show signs of submission immediately.
For some, these are far more subtle and not as pronounced; sometimes, it might just be giving up first in an argument or letting the other wolf sniff it first.
What are the Signs of Wolf Submission?
When a wolf shows submissive behavior, these are the signs to watch for:
- Lying on the back and showing its vulnerable parts
- Crouching or looking at the floor
- Tucking the tail in
- Muzzle licking
- Giving up first in a fight or argument
- Whining or making submissive noises
These signs are more prominent and more obvious if a wolf is lower down the social hierarchy. Omega wolves, for instance, are at the very bottom and will show these signs in a more clear manner.
Other members of the pack will almost always show submissive behavior towards the alpha male of the pack, although these signs will be more subtle than with an omega wolf. Most of the time, it will be giving way to the alpha male and letting it have its own way, which often means backing down in an argument.
Most pups will show these signs of submission when they’re in their childhood years although some wolves might retain them well into their adulthood. Pups will also show them when they’re faced by adults and when they want to accept the dominance of the adult. Subordinate wolves, thus, may never be able to get rid of them.
Sometimes, the female might display these signs as the two animals are breeding. They might look similar, although the signs of the female are not of the classic submission. Instead, these are small social cues that show a female’s preparedness to mate, which the male will quickly act on.
This is how an omega wolf shows its submission to a more dominant wolf.
Why Do Wolves Show Submission?
Some wolves that are lower down in the wolf hierarchy will almost always show submission to higher ranking wolves. Omega wolves, thus, almost always show submissive signs towards other members of the pack.
If you follow the world of wolves more closely, then you know that wolves have a strong social hierarchy.
And with this hierarchy come certain responsibilities and expectations for each member of the pack. The alpha male is the leader of the pack and the most dominant wolf, while other members of the pack will almost always give way to the alpha and accept its dominance. Sometimes, this dominance will have to be earned by the alpha.
And when the two wolves fight for dominance, they’ll show their teeth and growl. However, the wolf that’s more submissive will quit first and will back down, which shows the other wolf that it’s the dominant wolf of the pack.
Pups, on the other hand, will always show signs of submission no matter who it is against. This behavior is especially visible when they are with their parents.
However, some wolves will continue using these signs of submission for the rest of their lives. These wolves usually become the omega wolf of the pack, which often acts as a sort of a stress reliever for the other members of the pack as they let their stress out on it.
Two Types of Submission
There are two types of submission with wolves:
With active submission, the cues for submission are much clearer and more pronounced. In the cases where wolves show active submission, you will see these signs in action. They are tucking the tail in, crouching, and even lying on the back.
Passive submission is a bit more subtle. However, wolves are good at deciphering social cues and establishing a clear social structure. So these subtle signs are more than enough for the dominant wolves they know they’ve won the battle.
This passive submission is not always easy to spot, and it shows when there’s a confrontation going. For instance, when the two wolves fight and show teeth, the first wolf that backs down is the submissive wolf.
Do Submissive Wolves Whimper?
Submissive wolves will, in addition to showing other cues of submission, make whimpering noises which tell other wolves that they’re the submissive wolf and that they “give up” in a confrontation.
Whimpering could be described as a sign of passive submission rather than active submission because it shows the wolf’s readiness to be less dominant in a less active way.
Pups especially use whimpering to show their readiness to obey and to follow their parents and other wolves of the pack. Although as with some other signs of submission, some wolves will retain this characteristic throughout their adulthood.
Not all submissive wolves will whimper, though. These noises are also often a part of their behavior when they play, and it might just be a part of their playful behavior. Other times, it could be closely connected to omega wolves.
Wolves are usually connected with dominance and strength. But, as with other species, they also have the odd one out, which is usually the omega wolf. This wolf will show clear signs of submission that other animals will pick on and exploit to “boost” their ego.
Submissive wolves play an important role in a pack, sometimes. They can be seen as a stress relief for more dominant wolves, and a way to confirm their social structure and establish a hierarchy. If there were no submissive wolves, all of them would be dominant, and that’s never good for a group of animals.