Are we really a pack?

Discussion in 'Dogs - General Dog Chat' started by Doberluv, May 30, 2005.

  1. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    We hear all the time, when discussing training and analyzing canines about the pack drive. We compare constantly our relationship with them, in terms of the social order of a pack. We tend to compare ourselves to an alpha wolf or dog, and our dogs as under us in the heirarchy. Those of us with multiple dogs observe a sort of organization between them. We wonder what we should do in certain situations. Should we inflict human ways of doing things on them and expect them to understand all that we do, or should we try to match their ways so they can better understand us? It seems they are definitely capable of understanding many of our ways, otherwise, they wouldn't have become domesticated. But what about the things they don't understand? Our language, our body language, our perception, our senses are all so different.

    What I wonder...actually, what I have my doubts about is: Are we really considered part of their pack? Are we looked upon as a wolf or dog in their eyes? I don't think so. I don't think it's possible for two different species to belong to the same pack. They never do in the wild. But, what is it that's going on?

    My half baked conclusion, based on my observations and long time ownership of dogs, some reading and right now, having multiple dogs...is that they seem to be a pack within a pack. (so to speak.) I am the head of the household and ultimately make the rules which they all respect. (eh-hem...for the most part. :cool: )BUT.... they also seem to have their own, private communication, organization, ways of doing things and their own space...that I feel no human being can fully understand or completely enter into that space. I respect that space as long as it doesn't interfer with the running of the whole scheme.

    Because of our different nature and instincts....and that we are different species, how can we REALLY be a total pack? I do consider it a family or group, but there is some disorganization under the surface which makes me reconsider that idea that dogs and humans form a pack. Or is this merely a case of definition of terms? LOL.

    What do you think?
     
  2. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    Doberluv, this is interesting. I'll get back to you when I have some time that won't be interrupted . . . ;)
     
  3. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    I'd really love some opinions on this....Creature Teacher? What is your understanding? Are you clear with it? For some reason, this idea has me twisting and turning in my head. LOL. :confused: I thought this might make for some lively discussion. I know there is some controversy about this.

    Maybe ya'll would rather leave well enough alone. ;) LOL.

    Renee, take your time. Finish the potato salad.
     
  4. CreatureTeacher

    CreatureTeacher New Member

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    Personally, I think the idea of a human-dog "pack" is not really realistic. And a lot of unethical treatment comes when people try to behave like dogs. That's why I'm very careful never to use terms like "alpha" or "pack". I say "leader" and "family group".

    Dogs aren't stupid. They know we aren't dogs. They react to our behavior in vastly different ways than they do to other dogs, just like we react differently to them than we do to other humans. And they tend to misunderstand our intentions when we try to mimic more complex social behavior. People try so hard to make things simple: If I speak Dog, the dog will understand. This is true to an extent, but our accent in their language is almost debilitating. And we can't expect dogs to learn the deeper intricacies of our language, either.

    So a successful relationship with a dog involves a whole new dynamic, a mesh of two different forms of communication. It takes cooperation and a willingness to learn on both sides. The most important thing to keep in mind when you're trying to communicate successfully with a dog is to believe that he has something of value to say. If you can't cultivate an interest in the value of the dog as an individual and his thoughts and perceptions, you will miss out on a deep personal connection that allows for a cooperative relationship.

    The thought that we have to "show them who's boss" has led to a lot of abuse, especially by people claiming to be experts and professionals. I find the "If It Works, Use It" ideal applied by dog trainers and behaviorists absolutely deplorable. The idea of using physical domination to control a dog is shameful. They don't want, need, or expect us to be the alpha dog. They expect us to be successful, strong, and fair leaders. There is a huge difference. Social behaviors between dogs are between dogs. Social behaviors between humans are between humans. There's a completely different social dynamic when you cross species boundaries and develop a relationship. The rules change, and people have to adapt to them.
     
  5. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    I agree with you CT. I too have tried steering away from referring to us as alphas, but instead leaders or Moms. (lol) And we do live in a family or group which in some ways resembles a pack and there lies the confusion, probably. But there are inherent differences in our families and a dog pack, just like some you mentioned. I think some of our ways can mimick to a certain extent the overall attitude of an alpha, but when you get down to the intricacies....no. So comparing humans too much to an alpha wolf in more than a very general way, is pretty much out there. Yes, we are our dogs' leaders and guides. But we can't compare scruffing their neck with our hands and a wolf grabbing hold of another's neck. We don't know exactly when that occurs and in what circumstances. We don't know what comes before that, what leads up to it. We don't know much at all, whether it's been "observed" by "experts" or not. We can't get all the way inside their heads. So, we should give up that notion that we are a member of their pack.
     
  6. mrose_s

    mrose_s BusterLove

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    that got me thinking, maybe we arnt a PACK but definetley a FAMILY
     
  7. oriondw

    oriondw user not active

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    We are a pack. Dogs have no defination or understanding of family. That is a human concept and while you may consider your dog a family member he/she will consider you a member of his pack, family.

    Dogs are pack animals and when you take them in you adopt them into the pack, they learn the social structures of this human pack, etc.

    CT, i dont think its important what words you use when they have the same meaning. As long as you dont do stupid things thats what counts :) You do have to show them who's boss, only not through force most of the time.

    Although, in my breed intact males, if a owner is not fit in eye's of the dog, WILL challange the owner for leadership of the pack. I've seen it happen numerous times and some inexperienced owners will go get something like a broom then come back. In dogs mind it has won the argument and when human comes back to challange it again... people get hurt.
     
  8. casablanca1

    casablanca1 Happy

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    I don't think dogs consider us pack, because dogs just aren't wolves and pack is a wild animal's philosophy. Think of all the problems we have with family members who
    harass or irritate our dogs - there's no similar ongoing struggle in a wild pack. There's a human/dog partnership within a human family structure. If you're raising big dogs in remote areas, maybe they do look something like a pack, but that's a bizarre and highly artificial environment for a dog. Just as it would be an abomination to have a wolf behave like a dog, a dog who behaves like a wolf is a failed dog. The nature of dogs is decency, a civilized trait wolves do not have.
     
  9. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    The thing is here, domestic dogs DO have a concept and ability to adapt. And over thousands of years, recent evidence shows as much as 30,000 years they have gone from wolf or wild dog to something quite different, albeit, genetically still very close to their ancestors. This domestication has changed their pack structure. Non conspecifics do NOT form packs. So, while they may not have the same definition or understanding of a family in human terms, they do have an understanding of our familiies by their definition, interpretation or perception. And obviously, they do understand and adapt to many, many of our social ways. That's why they're domestic and wolves are not. There are remaining many instincts and social ways that are not our ways and visa versa. But again, no members of unlike species form packs.

    If this is a case of confusion about definition of terms, then lets take a look at those: When I think about family where dogs are included, I mean my human family and my dogs, cats, horses....whatever....we're family, my human house, my human couches, my piano, my car. We all live together in this man made enviornment with man made rules and social structure. We do make consessions for our dogs' ways but we expect them to make more changes in their behavior to suit our ways. And they're very, very good at it. They've had 30,000 years of practice. If you take a wild animal with no domestication in it's genes and try to incorporate it into your family, I think you'll find quite a difference there in how smoothly things run.

    Of course, dogs have to learn to adapt as puppies too. They need guidance to learn. But they have a talent for this because it's in their genes from domestication. We need to be something like an alpha to them, just as we have to be to our human children. Someone, naturally has to be in charge. No one said they didn't. But we cannot emulate a wolf's behavior closely enough because we are not wolves. So, right there the communciation stops. Anyone who thinks they can mimick a wolf specifically is kidding themselves but not fooling their dogs. Yes, we are in charge and we bend over backward to make them understand what we want and we even throw in some half attempts at doggie language to help them. But I think they're much better at learning new languages than we are. They've gone from wild to domestic in a relatively short evolutionary time frame. We have not made such great changes.

    A wolf pack has only wolves in it. A wild dog pack has only those dogs in it. A herd of horses has only horses in it. A pride of lions has only lions in it. These "packs" (we can call them all packs, can't we for all intents and purposes?) are consisted of the same species. There are no human beings in them. There are no other animal species included in them. They make their own social structure and they hunt for their food. No human being brings them food or expects them to adapt to their ways.
     
  10. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    OK...that looks like word salad, doesn't it. Well, I'll put it this way: A pack is sort of like a family, but not exactly. We are sort of like an alpha wolf, but not because we're human. Our dogs interact differently with each other than they do with us. My dogs have a social structure between them. They have another kind social structure between them and me. They have between them a pack. They have between them and me more of a family. I do not act like a wolf. They know I'm not a wolf. I am in charge, make rules and they know where they stand in the family. My Chihuahua is the most submissive (probably because of her size) to me. I tower over her. She, however is appearing to be quite in charge of the other dogs in lots of areas, not all, when they're interacting between themselves and when I'm not involved.
    There are two different entities going on here. That's why I see it as sort of a pack within a pack and definitely NOT one pack.
     
  11. Athe

    Athe New Member

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    I never really took any advise from any one who referred to the owner as being Alpha ;) I have owned many dogs, a dog is more like a child. You establish rules in the household so the dog knows what his/her limits are. This is not establishing Alpha status it is only merely showing the dog what the rules of the home are. I have used NIFIL policy with fearful dogs with great success, aggressive dogs, terrorizing maniac dogs etc. Dogs need rules to follow and to be happy. In the wild, dogs would never have the rules in place that a human would :D

    As for wolf packs, after doing reading on wolves etc. they act much differently in a conservation wolf park opposed to living in the wild. In a park where they have to live with other wolves not in their immediate family they have to have rules and some wolves can be more dominant. In the wild, wolves have a family pack consisting of a mating pair (a wolf biologist discussed this just recently - can't think of his name off the top of my head) this biologist is not using the term Alpha any longer. It is now the mating pair and offspring. Wolves do not often run in the wild with unrelated wolves. The offspring are of course not allowed to breed with the parents, this takes care of inbreeding and why it doesn't happen in the wild. ;) When the pups get old enough usually 2 years of age, they leave the parents and find their own mate and start their own family. Some times in some areas, some wolves do not form packs, and in some areas depending on the size of the prey; coyotes which are normally not pack animals will form a pack to take down large prey. It's interesting as well to find that some DNA studies show that many wolves have been descended from coyotes, and some wolves have actually descended from domestic dogs. Interesting.

    The same for dogs, Raymond Coppinger- biologist, studied natural domestic wild dogs...these dogs are probably the forefathers of our current purebred dogs and all other domestic dogs. Any way, these domestic wild dogs which look similar to hound dogs live within villages of people living off discarded human waste. These domestic wild dogs do not form any sort of pack instead choosing a semi solitary existence. The only reason a Canine has to form a pack is if they are hunting big game...living off discarded human wastes does not require packing behavior of any kind. For these dogs for a human to try to take them in and enforce alpha rules would be very confused.

    This is exactly what happens with many problem dogs that I have met. People get this grand idea that you need to have pack rules, alpha rolling to show who is boss, neck scruffing, physical punishment for things dogs do naturally...all they are is creating a confused dog which will turn out to be more of a challenge and problem at the shelter it will eventually end up at.
    I own 5 dogs, I do have the NIFIL policy in place simply for the fact that my dogs need rules. These are human rules that the dog learns to abide by, not Canine rules. Having a dog sit before feeding would never happen to any wild Canine. Dogs are opportunist animals and would steal food and not sit and wait for another dog to eat first. Even the most timid dog would try to snatch a leftover in the wild and try to outrun a dominant dog before it would allow another dog to eat before it does...it's called survival.

    I am very happy with my dogs and how well behaved they are. I train only with positive training as most things I want from my dogs are not normal doggy behavior (heeling, come and sit, long down, long stay). I am certainly not going to reprimand a dog for doing some thing natural. I am just going to show the dog the way I want it done, when the dog does what I want praise and treats follow. This is in no way treating my dogs like a pack of wolves (at least the image of a pack of wolves that some people portray). My dogs are happy because they know the human rules I kindly showed them, never forced. I would consider my dogs to be my children with rules of my house hold.
     
  12. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    I think much of our desire to see ourselves as part of a 'pack' is a primal yearning to identify with the power and freedom of the romanticized world of the wolf. For dog-people, the wolf is the ultimate totem.

    It's a matter of how we choose to perceive ourselves. In the microcosmic world that encompasses our dogs and us, we try to recreate a semblance of that romanticized existence. That's fine as long as it's kept inside our heads and we don't try to impose it in practice! Our dogs aren't wild animals. They are domestic. There is a thread that runs through their being that is other than domestic - an ability to move between worlds, as it were, but by and large they are domestic. They have adapted and transmogrified through eons to become what they are today - companions, helpers, friends, part of our very existence - and they live lives that are a far cry from the wolf pack. Even dogs who become feral - and very few dogs can actually survive in a feral existence - don't have the ability to function seamlessly as a community like the wolf.

    It is a testament to the adaptability of the dog that they function so successfully in our world and understand and adapt to us much more easily than we do to them. We do meet them part of the way, trying to understand the way they sort things out among themselves and achieve a sort of order in the world they live in.

    Are we a 'pack' in the classic sense? No. It's a term we use because it appeals to us and gives us a verbal skeleton to describe - and romanticize - our human/canine relationships. Like so many of the terms we've embraced to define dogdom - aggressive, alpha, dominant - it's a grossly inaccurate terminology, but we just love to think of ourselves and our dogs in those terms.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2005
  13. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    Good post Athe. Yes, I've seen programs and read some of that which you described regarding packs and how they aren't the glue that some people think they are. Coyotes definitely are not "pack" animals. But will on occasion, when needed group up. They are more solitary than a lot of other canines. And I saw that about the scavenging animals which were not in packs and because they hadn't lived in packs did not exhibit that kind of behavior that occurs in packs. It's somewhat of a learned thing and not an intense drive. That's why we don't see much of that behavior in our domestic dogs. So, for us to be so presumptuous as to think we can join into a pack of dogs when they don't even think they need to all the time is ridiculous. I bet they'd be laughing all the way to the next piece of road kill.
     
  14. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Renee! You're brilliant. I love your post. You are so right on.
     
  15. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    And when I say that my dogs have a pack between them, it is in no way like a pack would be in the wild....obviously. They don't have to hunt. They don't have to fight for a date with my female. They don't need to set up too many rules between themselves. They do display some natural tendancies and instincts. But by and large, they are not unlike having children. For me, that is, that they are taught things, expected to follow certain rules, privileges are taken away if they're naughty, but they do not need physical domination or abuse to follow the rules. (neither do wolves) They "behave" and they get rewarded. They don't follow rules, they don't get rewarded. LOL. As long as we're on our toes about training...positive training and paying attention to how we interact with our dogs, we can have beautifully behaved and happy dogs. Domination, abuse and thinking that is how wolves behave (they don't) or thinking we need to disguise ourselves as wolves is ludicrous. Dogs aren't dummies.
     
  16. CreatureTeacher

    CreatureTeacher New Member

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    It matters quite a bit when you're working with people who have preconceived notions of what the words mean. When people hear you say, "You have to dominate your dog," they attach all those negative connotations and feelings that come with the physical training most of us grew up with. It's important when you're working with an owner to be perfectly clear in the words you use and how you use them. Words like "dominant", "submissive," and "alpha" are accurate and have their place, but through negative use they've come to mean something different than they should. If you want to escape punishment-based training, you have to disassociate yourself with the punishment-based trainers. That means finding a new dictionary to help average dog owners to see what you're doing differently and why. I agree that it shouldn't be that way, but unfortunately it is.
     
  17. CreatureTeacher

    CreatureTeacher New Member

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    I think it was very eloquent!

    ...and yes, a little. ;)
     
  18. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    Amy, my friend who did the Fila site I refer people to most of the time (http://www.mindspring.com/~anableps/fila.html) refers to her "pride" of Fila. I love that expression.

    Another term I'd like to see take a much needed break from the canine lexicon is "aggressive." It is dangerously overused and misused. Defensive dogs are labeled with the term 'aggressive,' a complete misnomer. There is a vast difference between a dog that is defensive and the rare aggressive dog.
     
  19. GSDFan05

    GSDFan05 New Member

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    That's very true, it's frustrating to see all 'aggression' lumped into the same category and attributed to 'bad dogs'. Unfortunately sometimes a fear-biter can be even more dangerous because they truly do feel like they're fighting for their lives. Nothing makes me sadder than seeing a beautiful dog that is reduced to a basket of volatile nerves in many situations just because its owner never took the time to socialize it.
     
  20. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    There really needs to be more care taken with words in the dog world. Fear biting is lumped into the 'aggressive dog' label, as are dogs who are defending. Even dogs that are giving warning growls or even a warning stance get tagged as aggressive dogs, when aggression has nothing to do with what's going on. Makes it far too easy for the breed ban neo-fascists to incite fear.
     

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