Wolf and dog pack dynamics

photo by samantha irizarryDeb D’Andrea, Nederland.  Over the years we’ve dispelled many notions associated with wolf and dog behavior. Back in the 1930’s, Rudolph Schenkel studied captive wolves and observed their behavior as a way to determine wolf pack dynamics. In 1947 he published “Expressions Studies on Wolves,” a then groundbreaking paper.  The now antiquated notion of fighting for alpha dominance was born; and since has been disproved. Wolves have been observed in the wild showing that these previously though ‘alphas’ are actually the packs parents or breeders.

Unfortunately, in the 1970’s another book by L. David Mech, “The Wolf: The Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species,” reinforced this incorrect perspective of the alpha and wolf pack dynamics. Fortunately, twenty-nine years later, and many dog trainers and books later, in 1999 Mech published “Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs.” In this paper Mech shared his discovery that wolves do not have a sense of rank, and the alphas of the pack are what we call “parents.” Mech found that wolves live as families with offspring naturally following the parents as most species do.

As with any species, dominant behavior is situational, or per se alpha, beta and omega struggles. Kids will be kids, play fighting to learn, picking on their parents and pushing till the other is standing over them growling, saying ‘enough!”

Many of us witness similar parallels between wolf and domestic canine behavior, but upon further research, they are found to be quite different. There are many studies that have been completed showing how different the domestic dog is from a wolf. For instance, one study where a wolf and a dog were both placed in separate cages with food present but impossible to reach. The wolves were almost always intent on getting to that impossible treat, not giving up; the dogs would try for a spell and then look at the human as if to say, “hey you with opposable thumbs, can you push that over here?”

When working with your pup, instead of instilling the fear alpha dominant tactics of years past; be the caring, loving parent they want you to be and lovingly show them what you want.

Till next time. Deb D’Andrea, founder of 4TheLuvOfDogz & the Caribou Dog Ranch is recognized by the State of Colorado as a Certified Canine Massage Therapist and will visit your home or Vet’s office to work with your dog. Canine Agility may be offered at the Caribou Dog Ranch in 2017 if there is interest. Deb currently has limited availability for new Petz Nanny Clients; and she bakes up fresh dog treats & doggy birthday cakes per order.  For information contact Deb at 720-675-7078 or email: info@4theluvofdogz.com.

Deb D'Andrea

Deb D’Andrea, columnist for The Mountain Ear, and founder of 4TheLuvOfDogz & the Caribou Dog Ranch is recognized by the State of Colorado as a Certified Canine Massage Therapist and visits your home or Vet to work with your dog. Canine Agility may be offered at the Caribou Dog Ranch in 2018 if there is interest. Deb currently has limited availability for new Petz Nanny Clients; and she bakes up fresh dog treats & doggy birthday cakes per order. For information contact Deb at 720-675-7078 or email: info@4theluvofdogz.com.