Pack Mentality As It Relates To Your Dog
Look at how wolves behave in the wild. There is one leader, the Alpha, who directs all of the activities of the other pack members. The Alpha is the dominant member of the pack, and all of the other members of the pack are subordinate members. The subordinate members know they are subordinate; they know their place and are comfortable in their roles.
It is just like any job you have ever had in any corporate structure in any company. Someone is in charge, your boss. Your boss has a dominant position over you. You and your coworkers in the department are all subordinate members of the pack, or department. There is no physical punishment when you
don’t follow the rules. There may, however, be some disciplinary action taken when the rules aren’t followed. If that disciplinary action is strong enough, you won’t break the rules again! I also doubt your boss gives you a treat each time you do something correctly.
Notice I said ‘There MAY be some disciplinary action taken when the rules aren’t followed’, think about the confusion you and your coworkers have when one time a rule is broken and there is disciplinary action. Then the next time the same rule is broken, let’s say by a different individual, and there is no disciplinary action. The result is confusion on your part. You may even start looking at other members in the department and question who is actually in charge! The exact same thing happens in your dog’s world.
Periodically there is discord in the department and someone thinks they can do the job better than the boss. What happens then? In the wild, the one who thinks he can lead the pack better than the current leader makes his intentions known. The current leader of the pack will put the one challenging the leader’s position back in his subordinate position, or will submit to him, thus making him the new pack leader.
Let’s assume the current leader is the one who wins this confrontation and look at how this happens. The leader will ‘dominate’ the other wolf, or dog, using several techniques. Nipping, snapping, pushing, getting on top, holding the other one down, or other physical techniques. Once the other dog submits, it’s over. There are no hard feelings, no grudges, it just goes back to the way it was. Peace and harmony is restored and the pack goes back to normal. The subordinate dog goes back to his role and behaves as he is supposed to behave. And, I can promise you the leader does not bring him a treat for his now current behavior!
There is no magic to training your dog. The majority is common sense and keeping in mind how your dog perceives you and the pack structure you are both in. Dogs are pack animals and need a leader. It is inherent in their nature, it is in their DNA. If you are not going to be the pack leader, your dog will take over this role. He may not want to but he will, if you don’t take the role of pack leader.
Each dog has dominant and subordinate tendencies. Some people have told me their dog ‘naturally’ walk behind them and will come to them when called. They tell me the have never trained them to do this. This is a dog who is naturally submissive and will be much easier to train because they are less willing to assume a leadership role. Some dogs are more dominant than others and are more willing to assume the pack leader role. In fact, part of the nature of some dogs is to continually test for this leadership position. If you are not always the leader your dog then becomes confused. The roles are not clearly and consistently defined. He will partially assume the leadership role. Because this is not a total take over there is a gray area in the leadership roles. Dogs don’t do gray areas. Everything is either black or white. Either you are the leader or you are not. It also does not mean 98% of the time, you have to be the leader 100% of the time. The result of partial leadership will be confusion on the dog’s part, and some behavior issues will start to develop or be exaggerated.
You can see an example of this when you see a person walking their dog on a retractable leash. The dog will be walking in front of the owner, leading the leader. This dog will go where he wants to go, stop when he wants to stop, going to the end of the leash whenever he wants. It is pretty easy to see which one is the pack leader in this situation. It is also easy to see why this dog could be confused about who is in charge of this pack. Subordinate pack members never give directions to pack leaders. So when this human owner gives direction to this dog what do you suspect will happen?