Training

Understanding Pack Behavior

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To help in understanding pack behavior, let’s start with a little look at the past of dogs. It is mostly agreed nowadays by experts that dogs are indeed direct descendants of wolves. Studies in the recent past show they share 99.8% of their DNA in common, debunking theories that dogs could be products of cross-breeding between wolves and jackals or coyotes.

Whether dogs resulted from direct domestication efforts of wolves by humans in the distant past, or some wolves deciding association with humans would be beneficial, may never be known with certainty. (Having had the pleasure of observing wolves in the wild, I think the second theory is unlikely, but it could have happened in very dire circumstances I suppose.)

To understand pack psychology we must study wolves, since they are a classic example. They naturally live in packs, usually three or more, but sometimes two. The “Lone Wolf” phrase has some basis in fact, but it has rarely been observed in nature, except when a young male has been run off after challenging the leader and losing. Even in that case, the “Lone Wolf” tries to join another pack as soon as possible.

The leader of the pack was usually the largest, strongest male, and has been designated by researchers as the “Alpha male”. The pack members willingly follow his lead, until at some point a young, strong upstart challenges his lead successfully.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar Of Jan

    Jan

    says:

    I’m a trainer, and I like the part of this article referring to the “alpha.” Being the “alpha” doesn’t mean being cruel to your dog. It just means you (the human) are in charge and the dog accepts that without question. By reinforcing this relationship through training, the dog learns that positive behavior is rewarded. And dogs love to please their people!

  2. Avatar Of Lloyd

    Lloyd

    says:

    I picked up a cattle dog from a shelter that had been returned twice. She is smart , loving, obedient, friendly with our family and their dogs, Does what a dog is suppose to do and keeps check on the property and lets us know if things aren’t right. Why anyone one would want to get rid of a friend like that I can’t understand. All she wants to do is please and she knows I am her pack leader. I walk around with a smile on my face knowing that.

  3. Avatar Of Amanda

    Amanda

    says:

    Having a dog is the same as having children. If you let them run amok and do whatever they please, then they are going to be horrible little creatures. A dog needs to know what is expected of him and that misbehaving is not acceptable. The people who don’t take the time to integrate a dog into the family hierarchy are the same people who call me at the animal shelter expecting me to take the dog off their hands. It is very easy to train a dog without being harsh; with enough socialization and reinforcement even the most bull-headed un-neutered male can be as docile as a lamb.

    Too many people don’t even realize what appropriate interactions with a dog look like. For example, I have seen many people laugh or tell their dog that it is okay when their dog tries to bite the vet. Being firm with your dog is not the same as being mean. And can we please just ban flexi-leads? Letting your dog run wherever even when on leash is not a good way to teach manners and respect.

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