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Dogs Are Pack Animals

German shepherdDogs are pack animals by nature. A pack is a group of animals that live together for survival. Because dogs were domesticated from wolves, the twentieth-century dog still exhibits many pack behaviors similar to the wolf. In both the wolf and dog packs, there is always a number one or alpha dog, that is considered the top of the pack. The pack looks to that individual for leadership, structure, and protection. If those functions of the pack do not occur, a lesser alpha dog will challenge for that position.

When we bring a dog into our home, whether there are other animals in the home or not, the entire human family becomes part of the pack. When you bring a dog into the family, how well the early training phases go will determine how well your dog and family get along. Whether it is a little or large dog, it is usually a good idea to go through some type of training classes or bring in a personal trainer to help do things right.

It is essential that you and the entire family understand what leadership consists of in your canine’s eyes. The pup needs to know his place, his limits, and the rules of the household.  How you interact with your dog will give it a sense of order.  Patience and consistency are a must. When a pup or dog gives a low growl, a gentle nip, or marks in the house, it is trying to determine what is allowed or acceptable. Firm guidance, redirecting and learning basic training will allow you to teach your dog what is okay or not. If you ignore this behavior, it is quite likely you will have training and later control problems. Dogs, if they do not learn what is expected, will do whatever they want and likely not respond to commands; they rush through doors, ahead of their people on walks, growl over their food or toys, won’t allow being brushed, may interfere with the owner’s interactions with other people, etc.

Teaching manners and rules helps to insure your role as someone your dog should respond to and will help your dog behave properly. There is no need to be heavy-handed. Using positive reinforcement training will make your dog want to do what is asked and to behave properly in all situations. He needs to listen to your words, focus his attention on you, and you need to earn his respect. When this is accomplished, there will be a mutual trust and bond that will last a lifetime.

A dog’s needs are very simple. Canines need rules, exercise, education, a balanced diet, shelter, and companionship to make him feel happy and secure. Remember, no other creature will admire you the way he will, so be fair, be firm, correct him when necessary, forgive him rapidly, and love him well.