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

Are Dogs Pack Animals?

Canine professionals debate whether 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, dogs obviously are pack animals. 

But misconceptions whether animals that live in packs will always act as a pack —  or act as a coordinated group when they're  together — lead to the argument about whether 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 groups. 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 adheres 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 life with humans. Like them, we are 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 remain in the same territory for life.  But we, as humans, often expect our dogs to welcome other dogs from outside — visitors or new additions — into their territory. Wild canines do NOT visit other packs.  We also expect our dogs to meet and interact with dogs they have never met before in parks, daycares centers and elsewhere. Clearly, domestic dogs are much different and far more tolerant than their wild counterparts. This is why we need to encourage appropriate communications and interaction protocols. This is also why it is so important to demonstrate appropriate leadership skills and communication with our dogs. 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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