Dogs are not solitary animals. By nature they prefer to live within a family pack structure.
The pack provides moral and physical support, and also protection for its members. For dogs below the rank of pack leader, the pack also supplies leadership and direction, and takes decisions for its members.
Dogs respond very well to being provided with a framework of guidelines within which they must live. The dog which is allowed to do just as it likes is not a happy dog.
When a dog lives within a canine pack it will dominate some of the pack members but will defer to others which are above it in the pack hierarchy.
Ambitious dogs and bitches will make intermittent bids to improve their ranking, even challenging the pack leader, with the hope of usurping the position themselves.
Domestication has not altered the dog’s desire either to be in charge or to accept being dominated by a person it respects.
The pack of the pet or companion dog is its owner and the immediate family of people and animals with which it lives.
In a wholly canine pack, leadership is somewhat flexible, in that a slightly lower-ranking dog than the pack leader may assume leadership in some particular situations.
In the domestic pet we see a typical example of this in the dog which is dutifully obedient within the home but which pulls continually on the lead and so dominates a walk when out of doors.
The dog is taking decisions and imposing its will on the handler -this dog is pack leader in taking a walk.
It is important that the dog’s owner shall be the pack leader in all situations and be aware that dogs of all sizes and characters may make periodic bids for supremacy, especially during adolescence.
The concept of pack behaviour and submission to the pack leader is inherited by puppies at birth, and is reinforced by their mothers.
While the litter is in the nest, the mother is the only pack leader and all the puppies defer to her.
But in adult life in the full canine pack, and in a canine/human pack family situation, there will be several individuals who are above the dog in ranking and yet who also defer to the pack leader.
It is important that in the canine/human pack, the dog should not be allowed to consider itself superior to any of the human members of the pack.
If other animals are kept, the dog may assume dominant or submissive ranking with them, but it must not be dominant to any human.
The bitch is able to use sharp and immediately physical punishment, often preceded by warning growls at her puppies.
An adult pack leader subdues and disciplines the pack most frequently by eye contact and body language, with some vocalisation (growling) and there is rarely need for physical conflict except where an individual makes constant bids to assume power.
By observing the way a canine or wolf pack is disciplined we can discover how to build a rewarding and agreeable relationship with the family pet.
Puppies are born relatively immature compared to a human baby. In the first 4 weeks of life they develop eyesight, hearing, mobility and adult vocalisation, as well as their first set of teeth.