I can't quite figure out what's going on in my little dog society. Ordinarily Hero is the alpha-- not strongly so, but typically he is the boss, and Impy accepts that. If Hero growls a little, Impy lowers himself to show he recognizes Hero's authority. They spend most of their outside time in the back yard (my invisible fence is configured so that the front and back are separate). However, I took to putting them out in the front yard for their last piddle after dark, because Hero goes nuts about the deer he believes are in the back yard, races around barking frantically, and won't come in no matter how much I call (he believes guarding the premises is more important than obedience, unfortunately). But he comes in just fine from the front yard.
Anyway, last night I put out Impy first (and that's a violation of doggy protocol; the alpha should go out first), and when Hero stepped out onto the front porch, Impy uttered a little growl and jumped on him. I took it as normal play, but Hero jolted in surprise and cringed a bit. Tonight I did the same thing, letting Impy out first, and when Hero got to the door he flatly refused to go through it-- I had to grab his furry butt and shove him out the door. Impy growled again, and Hero didn't just cringe; he dropped right to the ground and flattened himself in an attitude of submission. Which is totally not what the alpha dog should do, and I have never, ever seen him do that before.
I'm not sure what's going on with them. Maybe Impy has crowned himself King of the Front Porch, and because he startled Hero last night, his self-declared crown carries authority of a sort. Maybe my breach of doggy protocol in putting out the beta first has caused an instability in their society. Or maybe Impy's simply learning to assert himself, although since the behavior seems to be confined to the front yard, I don't think that's the issue. Whatever is going on with them, I hope they work it out peacefully. I've never had problems with them fighting, and I don't want to start now.
At any rate, I think I'll put out Hero first tomorrow night, per correct doggy protocol, and see what happens.