All our domestic dogs have descended from wolves, and have retained about 85 per cent of their behaviour patterns. As pet parents, we need to appreciate that they are members of a different species which have different needs and abilities. Some basics on pack behaviour...
In a wolf pack, there is a definite hierarchy with a dominant male and female breeding pair, and the rest arranged in order after them. This is similar to how the human pack should be: adults first, then children, then the dog. Dogs are very conscious of hierarchy and will attempt to find their own place if you do not do this for them.
If your dog considers himself to be at the bottom of the pack, he will view humans with respect and do as they say without a fuss. If you are on equal terms, he will not think you have the right to tell him what to do and will be disobedient. If he sees himself as superior, he is likely to bite you if you insist on doing something he does not like.
That’s why it’s important to make it obvious to our pets that their place is at the bottom of the human family pack. The best way to teach this to your pets is to follow the method wolves use to maintain their hierarchies. This is the natural way and one that dogs seem to understand instinctively.
The 4 Golden Rules
1. Sleeping place and territory:Territories carry great significance for any animal. Dominant wolves in a pack choose the best den in the territory in which they raise their cubs. They might even drive out other animals from the chosen spot if needed. The dominant animals instigate movements around the territory. Ensure dogs sleep in their own bed.
2. Feeding: In a pack, it is the right of the dominant animals to eat first. The subordinates get the leftovers. To be a good pack leader, you should control the order of feeding. Try to feed your pet after the family has eaten. This will also discourage the unpleasant habits of begging at the table and drooling and dribbling over people who are eating.
3. Attention and grooming:Dominant wolves decide when they wish to have attention from their subordinates. At other times they remain aloof and independent. In order to maintain high status, humans in the pack should initiate most of the interactions with the dog, rather than the other way around. The pets that are happy to be touched and handled by humans will be more trusting and likely to stand still when they need veterinary attention.
4. Toys and games: Playing games with your pet is a great way to strengthen your bond. Play time enables you to learn about each other, builds trust, and aids communication. Playing games (like tug of war, fetch, etc.) that pit a dominant dog’s strength against yours may encourage rowdy or aggressive behaviour, especially if he initiates and frequently wins the game (ends up with the toy).
If your pet enjoys these games, it is important that you stick to certain rules. Keep all toys used for playing to yourself so that you are the one who initiates the game. Play as often as you can.
By keeping these rules, your pet will learn that although you may not be physically stronger, you are mentally stronger and in control. He/she would consider you as the leader of the pack and treat you with respect. Dogs learn by trial and error. If they are rewarded for doing something they are more likely to do it again. If their actions bring no reward or result in something unpleasant, they are less likely to repeat them.
Unlike us, dogs need to be rewarded as soon as they have completed the required action. Although they can remember what they did earlier, they cannot associate the praise or correction unless it immediately follows their action.
End of the article
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