Dogs as Pack Animals Canine/Feline Behavior Counseling - Dog and Cat trainer in Denver, CO
Are Dogs Pack Animals?

There is apparently a debate among canine professionals, whether or not dogs are pack animals.

Here are my thoughts:

Webster' s Dictionary (1991), on page 972, defines a pack as " a group of animals of the same kind." Pack Animals are considered those that live primarily in groups. Based on these definitions alone, Yes, dogs are pack animals. 

The misconception is that animals that live in packs will always act as a pack, or a coordinated group when together leads to the argument of whether or not dogs are pack animals. The more appropriate terminology is "social animal and group hunter."

The question to this is unequivocally yes. In the wild, canines live in cooperative group. They not only hunt together and sleep together; but they help care for and protect each other's young. This nurturing and protective nature carries over to their lives with us.  

All social animals have some type of hierarchy (social order).  Canines have a primarily linear hierarchy, meaning that each dog has a specific place with the social order,  topped by the alpha (or lead pair) and progressing down to the Omega (most submissive).  This structure is determined and maintained through birth,  respect and effective communication. Despite popular belief wild canines do not fight for "dominance", they earn their place. Order is maintained through mutual respect, and adhere to protocol and communication signals. True fights among wild canines of the same pack are very rare. 

Domestic dogs are still instinctive social animals, this is why they adapt to our life with humans (also social animals with a hierarchical structure). Unlike their wild counterparts, domestic dogs do not usually remain with their birth parents, remain in the same "pack" or even the same territory for life. We, as humans often expect our dogs to welcome other dogs into their territory from outside the pack-visiting dogs or new additions. Wild canines do NOT visit other packs.  We also expect our dogs to meet. interact with dogs they have never met before in parks, daycares, etc... This is where domestic dogs are much different amd far more tolerant than their wild counterparts. THIS IS ALSO WHY ENCOURAGING APPROPRIATE COMMUNICATIONS AND INTERACTION PROTOCOLS ARE SO IMPORTANT.  THIS IS ALSO WHY DEMONSTRATING APPROPRIATE LEADERSHIP SKILLS AND COMMUNICATION WITH OUR DOGS IS IMPORTANT.  Canines respect their (appropriate) leaders and will often follow their leader's guidance when confused about how to proceed. 

Dogs are happiest when their social nature, and social order is understood and respected. !


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