Category Archives: pack hierarchy

Do Cat Families Have a Pack Order?

By Julia Williams

Is there such a thing as an “Alpha Cat” in a multi-cat home? And do the cats fight for dominance, to be the pack leader? Is there “pack behavior” or a “hierarchal structure” in a group of cats who live together?

I used to believe the answer to all of those questions was a resounding no. Many people still do. There are plenty of people who are adamant that cats are not social creatures, and that there’s no such thing as an Alpha Cat or a pecking order among felines. They maintain that only dogs and wolves form packs and defer to the pack leader.

While it is true that felines are not “pack animals” per se, many cat owners (myself included) will tell you that in their own household it does seem like the resident cats actually do establish a pecking order. Perhaps not every feline family forms a hierarchy, but some do. Not in the same way that wolves and dogs do, but in a uniquely feline way.

As I said above, I always found the notion of an Alpha Cat improbable. What changed my mind was that I read what other cat-knowledgeable people said about it, and then I began to consciously observe my own cat family to see if what they said held water. Truth be told, I was surprised by what I saw when I actually studied the behaviors of my cat family.

Cats have been an integral part of my life ever since I was a young girl. It’s kind of funny to me now, that in all those years I never really saw certain behaviors. However, I’m certain it’s not because the behaviors weren’t there, but that I just wasn’t paying attention. When I began to really look at how my cats interacted with each other, I saw their relationships in an entirely different light.

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The Importance of Play Dates for Dogs


By Suzanne Alicie

You can take your dog for a run or enjoy a game of fetch in the backyard to provide him with much needed play and exercise, so why would you go to the trouble of arranging play dates for your dog? Don’t you have enough to do with kids, work and home? Keep reading to find out the importance of play dates for your dog.

Imagine that you are walking your dog in the park; suddenly he sees another dog and goes crazy pulling on the leash, barking and dragging you along as he runs after this other dog. This can lead to reluctance to take your dog anywhere he may encounter other dogs. The fear that your dog will attack another dog or even a person can lead you to feel much safer playing with and exercising your dog at home.

This is where play dates come in. Dogs are social animals, and many of their behaviors that may seem threatening are simply their pack nature. Dogs are either submissive or dominant, and in any group of canines there will emerge a natural alpha dog. By setting up play dates and allowing your dog to indulge in the sniffing and romping that is normal for him, you are allowing him to be a dog.

Dogs need to be socialized not only with other animals, but with other humans as well. A dog who is isolated and only interacts with their own family will tend to be more high strung and vocal when he encounters other people or animals.

Early socialization helps puppies grow up to be amiable and cooperative around other dogs and people. If your dog is already grown and hasn’t socialized with other dogs and people very much, it is important to start slowly to socialize him. Arrange to meet a friend to walk your two dogs together at the park. If your friend’s dog is used to other dogs and not afraid, it will be better for your dog to adjust to.

Muzzle your dog to prevent any accidental damage should he become frightened or aggressive. When you meet your friend, allow the dogs to do their doggie thing. Give them time to sniff and become accustomed to one another before beginning your walk. Don’t despair if your dog growls or even cowers from the other dog in the beginning. He is simply reacting to the other dog and after a few moments will take his behavior cues from his new friend. This is why it is important to introduce your dog to another dog that has been socialized. Bringing two un-socialized dogs together can be chaos.

As your dog becomes more accustomed to his new doggie friend, find a few more people that you know with dogs to join you on your walks. Over time your dog will grow to look forward to the time he gets to spend with his canine friends. You will be able to remove the muzzle and in certain situations even unleash the dogs and allow them to run and play together. These play dates make for dogs who aren’t timid or aggressive with new dogs or new people that they encounter.

Your dog will thrive and be much happier if he is allowed to play with other canines. While interaction with people is important, dogs need time to be pack animals, to find their place within their circle of friends, and to learn more about being a dog as well as a pet.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

How to Introduce a Second Dog Into Your Home


By Ruthie Bently

When my first dog became a senior citizen, I knew I didn’t want to live without a dog so I began looking for a second dog to introduce into my household. I thought my first dog would be able to help me teach the new dog and that it would be good company for him, since I worked all day. My friends with multiple dogs assured me that owning two was no harder than owning one. I did some research before I got my second dog though, and learned that while it can be a rewarding experience there are a few guidelines to follow to make it as easy as possible for all concerned.

The first thing to consider is the gender of the dog you are going to get. If you have a female already, it’s better to get a male and if you have a male, try to get a female. Two dogs of the same gender in one household will have more dominance issues than a pair of the opposite sex. Even if you think that a mother/daughter combination might work, chances are it won’t.

There is a theory that if a new dog of a same sex is neutered or spayed before it arrives in your home, you may have fewer dominance issues. However, if the new dog is not altered before six to eight months of age you will probably still have dominance issues in a same gender household. The dogs will get along better if they are of opposite sexes. It’s also a good idea to visit a potential new dog in their current surroundings to see how they interact with other dogs they live with. Even if the dog is in a shelter, you can usually tell if they have dominance issues by the way they treat the dogs around them.

The age of your dog should be considered if you already have a puppy and are considering another puppy. Two puppies will bond with each other and will be harder to train when they have each other to play with. If you have an older dog, consider getting a younger dog; if you have a puppy consider getting a dog that is at least a young adult. If you are adopting an older dog, it will hopefully be well trained and can help you train the younger dog.

It is important to introduce the dogs to each other on neutral territory before you bring them home. You can judge their personalities and interactions and see if they would get along together on a daily basis. If you are getting a dog from a breeder, ask them if they can bring the new dog somewhere off the kennel property to meet your dog. If the potential new dog is on its own turf, it may feel dominance over your original dog, and you don’t want to give either dog an advantage. If they are both on unfamiliar ground you are apt to get a better sense of how they will do together.

You should have separate supplies for each dog: food and water bowls, leashes, collars, toys, crates, and beds. You shouldn’t make your new dog eat or drink out of the same bowls that you use for your original dog. You will only create undue friction between them, which may lead to dog fights. Dogs are pack animals, and when living together they will determine their own pack order. You can help maintain the pack hierarchy by feeding or giving treats first to the dog that displays dominance, even if this turns out to be the new dog.

Make sure your first dog gets adequate attention and let them know they are no less important even though they are now sharing their house and you with a new dog. Sometimes when we bring a new dog home the original dog may feel left out. By giving your original dog the same amount of attention and play time that you did before, you will help them accept the new dog faster and not feel left out. You want both dogs to like being with each other and feel comfortable when they are together. When your two dogs are being friendly to each other and playing well together; make sure you speak to them in a happy, positive, upbeat manner. This will help them adjust to each other as well and want to be with each other and you.

You may experience a few squabbles between them from time to time and there will be a period of adjustment. As the past owner of several dog pair combinations, I can tell you that it will be well worth the effort you put into it, and the lives of you and your family will only be enriched in the process.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Do Dogs and Cats Like to Be Hugged?


By Linda Cole

To us, a hug is a natural human reaction that shows affection. We don’t hesitate to throw our arms around the neck of a special friend or family member we haven’t seen in a long time. Unfortunately, our pets aren’t human and probably have no understanding of what a hug means. When we give our dogs and cats hugs, it won’t ruin a friendship but we might have just ruined the moment for them. Hugs can be a touchy situation for most pets.

Cats and dogs use body language to interpret the intentions of other cats and dogs. Dogs understand social order in the pack and which actions signal dominance and aggression. When one dog puts a leg over the back or shoulder of another dog or mounts him with both legs on his back, this is showing that the dog on top has dominance over the other one.

There’s a similar social order for cats, but it’s defined more by the sex of the cat and reproductive status. A pregnant female has a higher social rank than a neutered male. It’s also more complicated than the dog hierarchy because it can change depending on where the cat resides. For cats who live with humans, we are seen as the alpha if we are providing for their care. The one who cleans their cat pan and feeds them, as far as they are concerned, is the boss. However, cats and dogs view hugs in about the same way.

Cats can be more standoffish than dogs; that’s just their independent nature. Like dogs, cats feel threatened by other cats and even their human standing over them, especially if eye contact is being made. In both the dog and cat world, eye contact can mean aggression and most cats become uncomfortable when we stare at them. When we wrap our arms around our pet’s neck to give them hugs, most pets would prefer that we didn’t, if they had a choice. That’s one area where dogs and cats do agree.

Like dogs, most cats don’t like the confining feeling that comes with one of our loving embraces. A cat will react in the same way as a dog when we drop our hand down toward their head. It’s seen as an aggressive move on our part. A cat will generally let you know when they want attention, and it’s usually on their terms. Plus, very few cats or dogs like to be held down against their will which leaves them with a feeling of no control over the situation.

Of course we want to give dogs and cats hugs, and some pets do seem to enjoy them. The more pets trust and respect us, the more apt they are to “allow” us to wrap our arms around them in an embrace. But since there are no hugs in their world, they are confused about what it is or how they should respond to one. So they react accordingly.

Children should be taught to never hug dogs or cats they don’t know. When hugging a family pet, they need to be careful not to squeeze the pet too hard. For most dogs, the shorter the hug, the better. Like us, they need their space, and when we wrap our arms around their necks, we are violating their space. We don’t like having someone standing with their face close to ours during a conversation and that’s how it likely feels to a dog. You know your dog better than anyone else. It’s up to us as pack leader to help our dogs understand that hugs are not threatening and that we mean them no harm. Dogs and cats who trust their owners are more likely to tolerate hugs.

There’s nothing wrong with giving your dog or cat a loving embrace. I hug mine all the time. Some pets do seem to enjoy a hug now and then as long as we don’t get carried away with our affection. By all means, hug your pet! Just keep it short and sweet because even though we enjoy hugging our pets, for the most part, it’s not their favorite way to spend time with us.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

How to Stop Puppy Biting Before It’s a Problem


By Linda Cole

Most puppies gnaw, chew and bite everything in sight, including our fingers, hands and toes. They have an unlimited supply of energy when they are awake, with a playful spirit that only adds to their cuteness. Puppy biting may seem innocent enough, but if it isn’t addressed early, a bigger and more aggressive adult dog could accidentally hurt a family member during play. It’s up to us as the pack leader to set rules and limitations for our dogs, and it’s important to stop puppy biting before it becomes a problem. Luckily, there’s a simple solution that’s safe and harmless for the pup, and easy to learn.

The first step in stopping the behavior is to understand why puppies bite. Each dog has to learn their place in the social order of the pack. Puppies play fight and bite their litter mates in order to determine where they fit in. A more aggressive biter is showing he is more dominant which could make it harder to stop your puppy from biting.

As the pack leader, it’s up to us to teach a dog what our pack rules are as soon as possible. Nipping and grabbing hands or noses during play may seem cute until someone gets hurt. It’s best to correct now what will be unacceptable behavior when the pup grows up. Consistency, patience, staying calm and never hitting the dog is the key to training a puppy or an older dog. We may have a dog’s unconditional love, but we also want his respect and trust. If you lose your dog’s respect and trust, it will be a constant battle every time you try to teach him anything.

It may take some time to teach your puppy not to bite. Normally, this can be accomplished in two weeks up to a couple of months, so don’t give up. The first thing to remember is not to scare the puppy. You want to correct a behavioral problem, not make him afraid of you. Every time your puppy bites or attempts to bite your hand, look directly at him and say “Hey” or “No” in a stern voice. Don’t use your hands to push him away. He thinks your hands are paws and you are still playing. Break eye contact with him and turn your side to him or simply get up and walk away. By ignoring him and leaving the puppy with no one to play with, you are teaching him that biting is unacceptable. This is how he learns what you expect and what behavior is acceptable. When he plays nicely and doesn’t bite, be sure to praise him for good behavior.

For most puppies, walking away from them works well. If you have a more stubborn pup, you may need to be more assertive to stop them from biting. If after a couple of weeks he still bites, continue with the stern “No” or “Hey” and if he doesn’t stop, use a spray bottle filled with water and squirt him on the nose. It won’t hurt him and the sudden spray should get his attention. If he continues to bite, give him another squirt and then get up and leave or turn away from him. He will learn that if he wants to continue playing, he can’t bite. Of course you need to remember that a dog at any age will use his mouth or bite to communicate with other members of his pack and we are considered part of the pack. Sometimes a nip is meant to tell us something important we need to pay attention to.

Any puppy or dog training needs to be done while you are calm and patient. If you get excited, so will the puppy. Just like kids, dogs need direction so they can understand what is expected from them. Consistent and calm repetition is the best way for your puppy to learn. Make sure everyone in the family uses the same method to stop your puppy from biting.

A puppy has sharp little teeth and can do a lot of damage, especially if they chomp down on a child’s hand. The sooner you stop a puppy from biting, the better. Never yell at or hit your pup because this can lead to other behavior problems as they grow into adults, and you risk losing their trust and respect. He’s only behaving like a normal puppy should. It’s our job to teach him that although we love him, there are things we, as his pack leader, won’t accept and biting is one of them. Most puppy biting will cease naturally as they get older. But if it doesn’t, you need to stop it before it becomes a problem.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Are All Dogs Descendants of Wolves?


By Linda Cole

Through responsible breeding and centuries of domestication, dogs are certainly man’s best friend. But how much of their ancestral instincts have dogs maintained even with continued breeding that has calmed ancient instincts? I sometimes wonder as my dogs lay sleeping if there is a quiet and secret wolf at my side. Are wolves and dogs close relatives?

Scientists have discovered that the DNA of wolves and dogs are identical. They share certain traits as well as a knowledge of pack hierarchy which provides each animal with a place in the pack along with protection and defense of the pack and their territory. Although scientists are uncertain whether man domesticated the dog or they tamed themselves, we do have evidence that dogs have been living with humans for centuries. What is known is that dogs have an instinctive knowledge of their wild counterpart, the wolf.

Wolves and dogs belong to the same family, Canidae, and come from the same species, Canis lupus. All dogs from the tiniest Chihuahua to the massive English Mastiff are related to wolves. Although most dogs look nothing like their wild ancestors, they do share a few qualities that have not been completely lost through responsible breeding.

Like wolves, dogs are loyal, protective of their pack and home, and they want to be near their pack leader. Both dogs and wolves are social animals who want to please the one in charge. But that is where similarities end. Shy and recluse, a wolf’s instincts tell him to avoid humans. They would not make a good or safe pet, especially if children are involved. Wolf sightings are rare in the wild and if you are ever blessed with an encounter, you will be among a privileged group.

A pack of wild dogs, on the other hand, are more dangerous than a wolf pack as far as humans are concerned. Wolves prefer the secluded safety of the forests, but wild dogs have no fear of man and are more likely to invade our space as they search for food. Where a wolf pack is stable and more predictable, the wild dogs roaming in packs usually have no clear leader and can be erratic in temperament and reaction to situations they encounter — including encounters with people.

I’ve always admired the resilience of wolves, their intensity and intellect to function together as one for the common good of the pack. However, a wolf is not a pet and belongs in the shadow of the mountains and forests. My dogs are pets and in reality, no longer share much of their ancient past. Breeding has removed most wolf tendencies and my sweet dogs have the ability to protect those who make up their pack and give us their loyalty and trust, but have very little in common with today’s wolf.

Wolves also differ from dogs in that our pets would not be successful on a hunt. They have lost the concept of working together for the take down. Like wolves, dogs are scavengers if necessity dictates, but most dogs would have a difficult time trying to survive on their own. A dog is described by some animal behaviorists as being similar to an adolescent wolf because our dogs exhibit the same maturity as a young wolf by playing and licking our faces.

In the long run, it doesn’t really matter. Even though wolves and dogs belong to the same family, the few traits dogs have retained from their early ancestor is what makes dogs unique in their own right. As I watch my dogs sleeping at my feet with one beside me resting her head on my leg, I know they share the DNA of a wolf, but if there is a wolf hiding inside, they aren’t aware of it, and only their dreams hold secrets to an ancestor they no longer know.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.