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Old 05-30-2005, 11:00 AM
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Question Are we really a pack?

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. )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?
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Old 05-30-2005, 01:28 PM
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Doberluv, this is interesting. I'll get back to you when I have some time that won't be interrupted . . .
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Old 05-30-2005, 07:27 PM
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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. 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.
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Old 05-30-2005, 08:19 PM
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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.
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Old 05-30-2005, 09:41 PM
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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.
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Old 05-31-2005, 12:53 AM
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that got me thinking, maybe we arnt a PACK but definetley a FAMILY
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Old 05-31-2005, 06:13 AM
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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.
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Old 05-31-2005, 08:28 AM
casablanca1 casablanca1 is offline
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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.
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Old 05-31-2005, 08:49 AM
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Quote:
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.
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.
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Old 05-31-2005, 09:05 AM
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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.
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