Thinking with a Pack Mentality
“Dogs are pack animals.” This is a widely known fact, but although we might know it, it can be quite challenging for humans to truly understand it and apply it in our daily relationships with our pets.
To summarize, applying a pack mentality to your relationship with your dog means providing leadership. By acting like his leader, your dog can instinctively relax and fall into the role of “family pet.” In fact, without leadership dogs can become very confused, anxious or dominant, and may feel obligated to step into the “top position” since no one else is.
For example, imagine you are a small child who is just beginning to attend school. Imagine that you arrive at the school and no one tells you where to go, what seat to sit in, how to walk appropriately in the hallways or what time lunch is eaten. It would be chaos! Children would be running everywhere, no one would learn anything and it would likely be downright dangerous.
When not enough leadership is present in a dog’s life, he can feel just as chaotic. In the wild (or in any group situation including our homes), dogs will always identify a pack leader who sets the tone for the entire group. That alpha dog dictates when they go walking, how and where they walk, when they eat, who eats first, second and last, and when they all rest.
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. For example, if the whole pack didn’t hunt together and just went off “willy nilly,” each deciding when they feel like hunting, chances are no one would catch anything. The group has to work together, and just like any working team, there has to be a leader who delegates responsibility and designates how and when things are done.
Of course, our pets don’t have to worry about hunting for food. But they do have to worry about conforming to the household rules. If no one clearly defines the rules, provides a schedule and shows what will or won’t be tolerated, the dog simply won't know.
The majority of dogs don’t have the natural inclination to be a pack leader. When such a dog is in a situation where no leader is present, this can lead to anxiety, wild behavior, chewing, excessive barking, separation anxiety and a multitude of other problems.
If the dog does have natural leadership qualities, he may step into the role of household leader, and the rules he chooses to implement may be very different from how you want your pet to act. Dominant behavior, aggression, territorial marking, area guarding and many other problems can surface when the family dog feels like the pack leader.
Now that you have a better understanding of how dogs really think, it should be much easier to provide the necessary leadership your pet needs. Instead of feeling “sorry” for enforcing rules, you can now do so knowing that in his heart of hearts, it really makes your dog feel comforted. Instead of treating him like a human and then wondering why he keeps acting like a dog, you can now treat him like a dog and know that you are doing the right thing.
Some things you can do to provide leadership include: Setting and sticking to a schedule, always walking through doorways ahead of your dog, enforcing obedience commands on a day-to-day basis, not allowing your dog to pull you when you walk, keeping him off the furniture, and other similar rules.
Another thing you should do is to keep an eye out for your dog trying to “train” you. For example, if your pet “demands” that you throw his ball whenever you’re on the phone because he barks at you, do not throw the ball. Instead, put your dog into a down/stay (provide leadership), and play ball when it’s on your terms… not because of his demands.
By really understanding how dogs think and implementing some leadership strategies into your dog’s daily life, you can have the best possible relationship with your pet.
Keywords: How Dogs Think, Socialization, For Families, Miscellaneous, Adult Dogs, Training Methods, Leadership, dog training, Alpha dog, dog pack, dog problems, prevent problems, pack leader, pack mentality.
When the aspect of protecting one’s territory comes into play, even the friendliest dog may behave uncharacteristically. That’s why the best way to introduce dogs to one another is on neutral territory. What this means is that it’s best not to invite a new dog friend over and have them enter your front door or yard until after the dogs already know each other.
A better idea is to take your dog out for a short walk in your neighborhood a few minutes before the canine friend is expected. A little exercise and sniffing will help tone down your pet’s initial excitement about being out for a walk on the leash.
When the friend arrives, introduce the two on leashes in neutral territory, such as out in the street or sidewalk of your neighborhood. Be sure to act relaxed (after all this is a friend), keep their collars loose and try not to let their leashes get tangled with one another.
Most dogs will do a little sniffing and shouldering of one another, and will then be ready to play. Ideally, if you have a fenced yard you can then walk them there and take their leashes off to play freely together.
After burning off some energy, marking their territories a bit and running free, most dogs will be just fine about heading inside the house with their new friend.
If the dogs don’t seem to get along right away, some obedience work can go a long way toward ironing things out. You and your friend can take the dogs for a walk side by side so they can coexist together without focusing directly on one another. After a while of walking, each person should work their dog through some basic commands, such as “sit” and “stay.” Chances are, after doing some of these exercises your dogs will likely be ready to be reintroduced and will probably get along much better.
Of course, if your dog displays aggressive behavior such as snarling, snapping or growling, you may need to work with a knowledgeable trainer to solve the problem.
For the most part, dogs like to have friends just like people do. By taking some steps to introduce them correctly, you and your dog are likely to enjoy play dates and friends together without problems.
Helping a New Dog or Puppy Adjust to Your Home