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My Dog and I: “Pack” Your Dog is not Alone

His brain, personality and behavior are defined by the group he finds himself living with.

This could be one half of a pair or part of a diverse family of pigs, goats, humans and horses.

They could all live together in a house (well, maybe not the horses), or share a common area but the daily space that everyone inhabits and how they all work together is where the fun begins.

The essential nature of your dog and how he relates to his experience of life is going to have a lot to do with how he interacts within his “pack”.

If he is a confident, interactive pleasant member of his community, chances are these traits will carry out into the world and he will be happy to encounter new experiences with a positive attitude.

If he is bullied by the other dogs, marginalized or has no clear concept of his role within his home group, he is likely to be a fearful, defensive and untrustworthy guy to run into on a dark night…

It is essential, therefore, to establish some sort of organization within the “pack”. Who is the “food procurer”? Who decides where everyone will sleep? Who takes everyone out on the “hunt”(Walk)? Whose feet should be avoided? And on….

I often ask owners who they feel is “in charge” of the household and it is so interesting to hear the responses. There are specific areas that are assigned to different members with female members regularly given the feeding and nurturing tasks and the males in charge of discipline and training. (Apologies for all generalizations). But the truth is to be found somewhere in-between and without a cohesive leadership (sound familiar?) there cannot be a peaceful kingdom.

Divisive behavior (my wife /husband always lets the dogs jump on her in greeting) and blame (the children weren’t paying attention so the puppy peed on the floor) is a completely ineffective way to run any small country and most of the dog problems that come my way have their root firmly in the health of the “home government”.

Guys!!! It is perfectly OK to make rules and instill rewards and consequences. There is a place for everyone in a family and if there is not, there should be a contingiency for re-assignment.

Sometimes, another dog is the perfect solution to balance the dynamic…Sometimes, four dogs, three kids and a full time job is simply an unrealistic equation. It doesn’t matter what your “family” looks like. The question is always, “what is in the best interest of the “Pack”?

Everyone should have the same set of expectations and standards.Even the “newbies” and the babies should be working towards the goal of the common good. Old guys can be given space to retire without stress and those that don’t have the rules down yet should have extra guidance and supervision until they understand how to work together.

As the humans are most definitely in charge of the bank accounts, our dogs must learn how to operate within human constraints and it is our job, as leaders to educate all our family members. Do not expect to have a conversation with your new rescue pup about what you want. You will have to show him and then be the benign enforcer.

We humans do try to do our best to make sure our dogs’ lives are good but there are some confusions between child raising and puppy raising that can set us up for a hard road. There is a great emphasis on individual achievement and competition within our culture and this has led to a spill over onto our animals.

Because the health of the dog group at large depends on everyone working together, competition and individuality are counter-productive and can lead to dissention and anxiety. Add to that, dynamic leadership by an alien species and you can be looking at a very confusing picture for the dog.

So try to form a bi partisan governing body and then pay attention to all the members of your pack, not just the cute ones. Maintain your vision, with an eye on the big picture or…hand over the reins to the Yorkshire Terrier and May the Force Be With You….

– Janine Lazarus, Hashtag Lewisburg City Paper, September 2020. Follow Janine at Goodladd.net and on facebook @goodladddogtraining. 

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