Why did they tell us that dogs were pack animals?
You may have heard the experiment where they put several families of wolves in a small enclosure, and then said they were being dominant over each other when they fought for space.
They then decided that because dogs were descended from wolves that they must be dominant seeking pack animals too.
Although it is true that dogs are descended from wolves, it doesn’t mean they are pack animals. In fact it turns out wolves aren’t particularly either!
Therefore it really doesn’t make sense that domesticated dogs are trying to be dominant over humans or that humans have to be the boss to control their dogs.
“But I’ve seen dogs acting dominant over other dogs, so it must be true”
Some people think that because dogs are sometimes submissive with each other, that we can dominate them and get the same results. But it’s not a case of one dog trying to control the other, it’s just their way of communicating that they don’t want to argue.
Some insecure, socially inept dogs will ‘bully’ other dogs. This is not because they are being dominant but because they are insecure about the other dogs and don’t know how to act around them.
It may look like your dog is trying to be the boss. But this isn’t what’s really happening, and trying to do this as a human can cause harm to the human dog relationship.
When humans use dominance on dogs, it doesn’t translate. The dog just becomes very confused and possibly scared, and this damages the trust between them.
So what’s really going on?
When humans try to be boss or pack leader, they often resort to physical manipulation in an attempt to get the dog to do what they want.
When the dog tries to avoid conflict in these situations, they get used to the physical manipulation and then the human has to increase the intensity to get the same result. If you’ve ever tried shouting at your dog, you’ve probably found you have to shout louder over time to get the same result.
Canine behavioural issues usually arise when they don’t know what they are supposed to do in a human world.
All dogs want is to be told what we would like them to do, using communication through training and behaviour modification. Dogs understand body language, and so we need to translate this into cue words that they will then willingly and happily comply with.