The pack

Much attention is being put on the pack mentality of our dogs these days. Because of the popularity of a conventional trainer on tv; many positive trainers are trying to move away from the idea of "the pack." With the popularized trainer using harsh methods and using "the pack" to explain much; the good guys are looking for a different way of explaining things. Every pack; each situation, environmental surrounding and the individual members changes an outcome of dog behavior. I have seen people who live with a bunch of dogs which in no way resembles a functioning pack. A bunch of unruly dogs living together is considered a pack, but a fine tuned one it is not.

There are many stories of wild packs of dogs killing prey and farm animals at night. These packs mostly are stray and are a dangerous bunch. The pack is constantly changing and when they hunt it is more a frenzied attack rather than a well thought out plan for a meal that a pack of wolves would take part in. But as far as our lives with dogs; the dogs we live with in our home as part of our family is indeed our pack. At least to our dogs; we are part of their pack.

It doesn't take alot to witness pack behavior in your own home. Just go lay on the floor of your living room; the pack will follow. Do you have a shadow with you on your daily wandering around the house and yard? That's what packs do. Packs do stuff together; everything from walking, sleeping and playing, all together. And every pack has a hierarchy which is another touchy subject. But as far as the pack; humans are the bosses and dogs are the dogs basically. That is how it should be.

When I am called in to fix a problem behavior it is often caused by lack of leadership. The dog basically came into a home where no human took the "leader" role. In life there are leaders and there are followers; both in humans and in dogs. But when it involves a dog and a human it is important for the human to play the leader role. This has nothing to do with strength and everything to do with patience, guidance, educating and understanding.

Let's talk about the difference between dogs and wolves for a minute. Wolves consist of family members; rarely a strange wolf will be allowed into the pack to live. Usually strangers are driven out or killed. And often there are members in a pack that just don't get along; when this happens, normally the wolf of lower status will leave to find another lone wolf and start their own pack. When you have dog pack members in your home that do not get along, it can often be resolved with guidance and strong leadership. But sometimes it just isn't going to work and it may be the best for everyone involved to place one of the dogs.

With a pack of dogs; you may be able to bring in a new member who will be accepted over time, much easier than a strange wolf. A pack of dogs who have a strong leader can have a much calmer, less volatile pack than a pack of wolves. Wolves; although very intimate and are hardwired not to hurt other pack members tend to be in a state of status seeking. There are always resources to fight over; but we teach our dogs that fighting over resources is not acceptable. With a strong human leader you can keep status seeking behavior to a minimum if you know what to look for.

Packs of stray dogs that band together don't seem to display typical "pack" behaviors. Afterall they are not a true pack like a wolf and have no strong human leader to keep things under control so it ends up being a sort of free for all. Some experiments have been done on large stray dog populations where they found that although the dogs did come together for food resources and breeding they did not pack together like a wolf pack.

Perhaps the dog being completely domesticated to live with humans found that once they are stray they become a little lost. And we cannot ignore the fact that a pack of stray dogs is not living as a pack of wolves that are fearful of human and do not live with human intervention. The surrounding enviroment is completely foreign from a secretive wolf pack way up in the mountains somewhere.

I believe that I live with a pack of dogs; a very nice pack I should add. But "pack" is not how they are treated or controlled. I do not believe in alpha rolling as a "leader" to keep members in line. I do believe in constant guidance; clear cut educating of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Something we have the priviledge of giving another species.

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