Understanding Dog Packs

This section will explain how dogs relate to one another, how their pack behavior affects their relationships with people and it will explain the concept of social hierarchy in a dog pack. Dogs were domesticated from wolves, and like wolves, dogs are inherently pack animals that live in a very strong social structure with a clear hierarchy. If you understand the wolf-pack behavior, you will better understand how to train your dog. Dogs are wired to live within a pack – it’s in their genetic blueprint. A pack consists of a hierarchy where the most dominant dog is considered the pack leader, and the second most dominant dog second in command, etc. A dog pack kind of resembles a mafia-like structure, with a head boss and other sub bosses underneath each other. Not every dog wants to be the pack leader, but every dog wants to be in the pack – it’s what makes them feel comfortable and secure. Each dog needs to know who’s who (i.e. each dogs rank) in the hierarchy.

Social rank is a very simple concept – a dog respects, obeys and follows anyone who’s above him in rank (humans included) and conversely, a dog will not obey or respect those beneath him in rank. The dog doesn’t differentiate between species, all it cares about it rank and for this reason alone, you must establish yourself as the ‘leader’ in the pack (i.e. the one with the higher or highest rank).

A dog will automatically test any new person who enters the family circle to see where that person fits in the hierarchy (this should explain the strange behavior your dog displays when new friends or guests are around). If there are many human’s in your home, the dog will try and sort out each persons rank and try to establish who the leader is. It is very important that you establish that the dog is below all human’s in the home (this includes children).

A dog will use his rank over lesser ranked dogs or humans to dominate over things such as territory, food, toys, sleeping quarters and even his favorite people. If ever you feel frustrated or confused by a dog’s behavior, you should remind yourself that there is a logical reason for your dog’s stubbornness – he or she is operating under the pack hierarchy. Here is a list of some possible ‘pack’ like activities you can expect from your dog (either with other dogs or with humans):

  • Sleeping in packs
  • Eating in packs
  • Walking, running and playing in packs
  • Sitting or lying together in packs
  • Barking or howling together in packs

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