The Pack Instinct: No Such thing?

by Ellie Goldstein

Three's a pack

In my search for a reasonable definition of what constitutes a “pack,” I discovered that some researchers feel there is no such thing as a “dog pack.” Wolves, on the other hand definitely do pack; that is, they form a group based on hierarchy with dominance, sub-dominance as well as submission to be seen among the group members. This behavior is based on routine or ritual and the order remains the same until an occurrence rearranges the group hierarchy.

If there is no such thing, then, as a dog pack, what is the explanation for the “unpet-like” behavior sometimes displayed by a number of dogs (generally more than two) coexisting under one roof?

Some of you will say, “Hey, I’ve got more than two pets living in my house and they all get along just fine.” Others of you will agree with me in saying that our pets bear some close watching to be sure that peace reigns in the household.

As it is with children, what one dog would never consider doing, a number of them might. They seem to draw courage from each other and we see the old adage about strength in numbers at work.

How smoothly a house full of pets functions is based, for the most part, on the personalities of the individuals within that house. A group of laid back dogs with no member caring to dominate creates a quiet, peaceful household. If, however, one or two of the members is vying for top-dog position on a fairly regular basis, than a less stable atmosphere exists.

Dogs of the same breed living together seem to establish hierarchy more readily than those of different breeds, probably because of the differences in basic breed temperament. Unneutered/unspayed vs neutered/spayed dogs also has bearing on the “pack” structure.

Of utmost importance in the multi-dog household is the necessity for “alpha,” the leader, to be a person. Alpha, establishes and enforces the rules and must not be displaced by a dog in the pack that tests for authority. What Alpha says, goes! Total and everlasting harmony may not always be possible, but conditions can be comfortable for all members of the household with this kind of pecking order established.

A person who does not accept the leadership role paves the way for a dog to assume this position and life can be difficult for all concerned, whether we’re talking one dog or many in the home.


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This article and any photos or artwork contained within may not be reproduced or reprinted without express written permission from the author, artists, and/or photographers. 

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