The Science Behind the Pack Mentality of Your Dog


You may notice that your dog is always under your feet. Most dog owners say the same thing. Dogs seem to be hard wired to follow their owners around whenever they can. Most must be trained to stay off the furniture and to sleep by themselves. Many people add another dog to the family just to keep the other company. Your dog is not trying to get on your nerves. Their natural instincts simply tell them to stay close to the pack, especially the leader. The next time you are invaded in the bathroom by your furry friend, try to be a little more understanding. That closed door may be causing them some anxiety. Here’s what is really going on while you are followed around all day.

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Hierarchy
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When there are no other dogs around it can be easy for your pet to look for an alpha, or leader. You do need to establish this role before they try to take it on, as this can cause aggression. The fact that you feed them and dictate the majority of their activities is usually enough to get this started. Some may need more convincing with strict expectations before they are given food or any privileges.

Dogs are intuitive. If they see children in a home looking to an adult for direction and basic needs, they often follow suit. They begin to depend on you for everything. When you disappear behind a closed door, they cannot look to you to dictate the next move. This can cause some anxiety, as packs in the wild rarely separate.

Sleeping

As alpha, you can train your dog to sleep wherever you dictate. However, you may notice that the natural tendency is to curl up with the humans. This is especially apparent if there are no other dogs in the home. Animals in the wild curl up together to stay safe and warm. They can easily fight off colder temperatures or predators when they stay close to each other. Many people eventually choose to let the dog in the bed with them or the children. This isn’t all bad. It helps the dog feel safe and offers natural stress relief for the humans.

Territory

It happens every morning, you let the dog out to use the restroom and they go on a never-ending barking spree at sounds they hear beyond your fence. Dogs easily learn where they live. In the wild it would be in a den. Their goal is to always protect their space. They do this to ensure that they have a safe place to sleep and eat. They are protecting their survival resources. There are many debates about training a dog to stop barking. It is their natural way of alerting you of danger. This can be extremely helpful if someone breaks into your home. Their protection of property within the home is called resource guarding and can become dangerous if you do not stop it early on. Usually you may just get a growl if you get near their food bowl or toys. In severe cases, biting may be an issue. Take things from them regularly to get them used to you stepping in as alpha. Many starts when they have young puppies, by taking the food bowl while they are eating or putting toys away when they begin to growl at a human.

At Your Heels

You may feel like you are being headed around your home at times. Some breeds, such as shepherds, really do follow family members around nipping at the heels of them to get them to go a certain direction. Shepherding dogs do this when they heard sheep together, as well. In the wild when a wolf Is separated from the pack, it puts them in danger. This may be why many dogs suffer from separation anxiety. When they are trained early to stay home alone, or go into a crate, it usually goes much better. Dogs that have been denied basic needs, such as rescue animals, may be more prone to anxiety when separated form the safety of their family members. Go ahead and leave the bathroom door cracked so they can see where you are. Don’t be surprised, however, if they jump in the shower with you!

Time to Eat

Yes, your dog is begging for food if they won’t leave the kitchen while you prepare dinner. They may have to wait for food from higher members of the pack in the wild. The ones in charge usually eat first. This is how they ensure the survival of the leaders and hold their place in the hierarchy. When your dog goes past sitting and waiting, to pawing at you, they are challenging your authority. This should be discouraged.

Many people put their dogs in a separate room when it is time to eat to avoid this behavior. You may need to enforce your place by feeding them after they see you eat dinner. You can also require them to sit and perform a task before you had them their food bowl. Simply show them the bowl of food and teach them the shake hands or turn in a circle before you put it down on the floor.

Dogs, like humans, have specific needs that must be met. Humans have the need to be in groups, as well. It just isn’t to the same extent. Your dog is looking out for their own personal well-being, as well as that of the pack. Your dog is acting in a way that many wild animals act. They are genetically set up to move as a group. There is safety in numbers. Be patient with your pet as they follow at your heels. They think they are doing the right thing. They are protecting themselves, as well as you and the rest of the family. You can easily train dogs to keep a distance, but why would you? They can be the best snuggle buddies.

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