The Importance of Understanding Pack Mentality

By Leah Friedman – March 3, 2022

Most pet owners are keenly aware of how love is an action. Giving to our beloved hounds fosters feelings of fondness. Affection grows day by day through each expression of care. Dogs express their love freely through the knowledge of who is their caregiver. 

However, great leaders are not born out of love. Rather, respect commands cooperation. This is what canines need in order to follow. Just as in any human group, if the leader can’t do the job correctly, no one will participate. 

We all know dogs live in packs, but what exactly does that mean? Well, there is a pecking order in any pack — it’s the leader who does most of the provision and protection. This leader must be strong enough to meet every threat or challenge the pack faces while maintaining control and a sense of calm at all times. 

Become the Alpha

Dog profile.

After the “Alpha” dog has been decided, every pack member negotiates their place within the hierarchy. In order to establish your place as the “Alpha” in your own family pack, you must display all the necessary qualities so your dog can follow you. After all, how would you feel if you could not count on your leader? This makes for a calm, safe and obedient dog. 

Additionally, every member of your family must illustrate to your dog that they are above it in the hierarchy. This will ensure your dog will not become aggressive with any member of the family pack. 

Animals, in general, demonstrate dominant and submissive behaviors. Because of this, it’s not unusual for your dog to exert dominance in any or all situations. Despite this instinct, it is possible through patience to convince your dog to submit to your will, along with a treat or two. The character traits that are necessary for this include trust and consistency. 

Be trustworthy and consistent

The most important attribute any dog relies on is trust. If it knows you will take good care of it and will protect it, it will be inclined to obey your commands. However, in addition to being consistent with meals and any bonding time, your dog needs to know that you won’t succumb to any outside threat. If it feels you are not up to the challenge, it will inevitably take on this protective role itself thus putting it dominant. Additionally, it will challenge your position in the family pack. 

The first step in cultivating trust in this canine-to-human relationship is to be consistent with commands and expectations. If your dog knows what you expect from it — that you will be there when it needs it — it can relax and let you lead. 

Dog with owner.

Pay attention 

There are many dogs out there that display signs of aggression. These can include barking at every stranger or passerby, turning or walking away from its leader or family members, growling, snapping, barking and biting. You must truly understand how to read your dog’s ear and tail placement as well as general demeanor.

It takes time to understand what your dog is communicating with all these little signs. Therefore, it is critical to learn each of them so you can be the best leader possible for your canine. Communication is key in every relationship and even more so with your dog because it does not speak a human language. Ear placement, eye intensity, its nose, tail and paws will let you know your pooch’s feelings, thoughts and wants.

There are times when I am out with my dog, and I can tell she senses something I don’t. Her tail drops down nearly between her legs, she’ll sniff, back away, and sometimes, refuses to move. From these cues, I can tell this is not a comfortable location for her. 

Other times, her eyes look wild, and she is excited about seeing some fauna to the point where I must create distance and make her wait to calm down. Her ears can also alert me to what she might be sensing and whether or not she is relaxed. Yawning is another great sign to let you know your dog is letting out stress or anxiety. 

The dance of trust we do with our pups is a two-way street. I always try my best to protect my dog from any possibility of danger just as she would protect me if there was a threat I could not detect. This loyalty and mutual awareness is just another measure of the mutual esteem we have for one another. 

Patience will advance respect from any dog. Commands given with calm confidence will encourage your dog to obey because it will know with certainty that you are in control. Watch the worry, stress and any sign of aggression fade from your dog’s demeanor when it knows that, as the pack leader, you have everything under control.


About the Author

Leah Friedman smiling.

Leah Rachel Friedman holds a Bachelor of Arts in Recreation and Health Education. She is also a certified Medical Exercise Specialist/Personal Trainer/Group Fitness Instructor. Leah has traveled the globe training and teaching in every venue of fitness for decades. Some of her personal training includes proprioception designed to target the part of the brain responsible for balance. She works with all medical conditions including ADHD.


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