Category Archives: pack leader

Do Pack Instincts Influence Dog Behavior?

By Linda Cole

Humans are a complex species; we have different views on issues, which at times can turn into heated arguments that divide us. We also have the ability to evaluate different situations to make our own choices. Dogs on the other hand, react to situations based on pack instincts that were hardwired into them eons ago during the domestication process. These innate pack instincts guide and influence the behavior of dogs in their everyday lives.

Instinct isn’t knowledge that needs to be learned. It’s an automatic intelligence present at birth in all living species. It’s what guides migrating birds and butterflies on marathon flights in the fall and spring, and it’s how squirrels and other animals know when it’s time to stockpile food for the winter. It’s the survival instinct that ensures continuation of the species.

The variety of jobs canines have been bred to do is based on their natural abilities and pack instincts. A sled dog team is able to function because they work together as a team. Each member knows his place in the group, and follows instructions from their human leader. One reason why our relationship with dogs has been so successful is because we share the importance of the family unit and the social bond that binds members together.

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What Eye Contact Means to a Dog

By Linda Cole

I love to sit back and watch my dogs interacting with each other. When I watch them playing and wrestling with each other, I’m reminded of a wrestling match between humans. It’s fascinating to see how dogs jockey into position with similar moves that humans use. What’s most interesting, however, is how they use their eyes to communicate with each other, just like human wrestlers. Eye contact is important to a dog, and we need to learn how to be respectful with our gaze and not stare.

Watching a dog’s eyes gives you an idea what they are thinking and how they are feeling. It can also signal that a potential dog fight could be brewing between two dogs. A dominant dog may feel challenged by direct stare and a submissive dog can be intimidated with the eyes. But when you stop and think about it, eye contact between dogs isn’t that much different than it is between people.

People who are shy or intimidated by someone direct their eyes away from a more dominant personality. The idea of confronting someone is distasteful and something they will avoid at all costs. Unless they are challenged or forced to stand up for themselves in some way, they are happier if no one notices them. The confident and dominant person isn’t afraid to make eye contact. Their eyes are generally relaxed, open to the world and friendly looking. They aren’t looking for trouble, but they won’t back down from it if they find it. A more aggressive person has a hard stare and his eyes are narrowed. They may be angry or looking for a fight and their stare is meant to be intimidating. Someone who is fearful is wide eyed and their pupils are dilated. Dogs that are timid, fearful, dominant, friendly or aggressive view eye contact in the same way, and react to the eyes like we do.

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How to Be Your Dog’s Leader

By Linda Cole

Taking charge of a dog can be intimidating for some owners. If you start off on the wrong foot and the dog gets the upper hand, that’s when behavior problems begin to show up, which can lead to an unhappy dog and owner. It’s important for you to be your dog’s leader no matter what breed or size your dog is. Picking the right dog for your lifestyle is important, but equally important is picking a dog you can and will manage.

I had a neighbor who had a Rottweiler he walked every day – or rather, the dog would drag him down the street. He was a muscular fellow, but he couldn’t control his dog because he wasn’t in command. She was a well socialized dog, but didn’t listen to her owner. He never established himself as the leader of his pack. Most dog owners are responsible and caring, and want to do what’s best for their dogs, until it comes to taking the lead role.

Behavior problems in dogs can be quickly turned around if you are their leader. Dogs are social animals and expect us to lead them. In their mind, there has to be a leader and if their human doesn’t do it, they will step up and take it. Not because they want the job, but because it’s a role that must be filled. As far as they are concerned, someone has to set the rules, make the decisions and maintain the peace in the dog’s social order. Dogs understand and recognize the qualities of a strong leader and when you’re in charge, it’s easier to correct bad behavior.

How to take the lead role

Establish your role by teaching your dog what you expect from him. Body language is something all dogs understand. They are experts at reading other dogs, other animals and us by how we move, our expressions and our tone of voice. They know if we’re happy or displeased with them by our body language and voice. There’s no need to hit, kick or yell at a dog to get your message across. Positive reinforcement gains his trust and proves to him you are worthy of being his leader.

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Five Popular Dog Breeds From the Movies


By Linda Cole

You know when a dog movie is a success because people rush out to get the latest popular breed from a recent movie. It’s great to add a dog to your family, but only after you’ve done the homework to make sure a popular dog breed is really the right one for you and your family. Any breed of dog can be aggressive and hard to handle if left to their own devices. Below are characteristics of five popular dog breeds from the movies. The dogs on this list are intelligent, energetic, tenacious and loyal, and would be a good choice as a family pet – with the right pack leader.

Dalmatian. Disney’s 101 Dalmatians was an adorable film filled with black spotted puppies running all over the place. This popular dog breed was bred to run along the side or under horse drawn carriages. They get along well with other pets, especially horses. They’re a strong willed and muscular dog with lots of energy. They need an owner with a firm and consistent hand to take the alpha role. A Dalmatian is intelligent and will find ways to burn up excess energy if left on their own. This dog makes a fine family pet as long as he has lots of exercise for his mind and body to keep him from becoming high strung and excitable. Supervise young children around this dog.

Chihuahua. The Legally Blonde movies made people rush out and get their own cute little pup, but even these small dogs need the right family. This dog can be possessive, yappy and not a good pet around kids if their owner lets them get away with things. The Chihuahua is a popular dog breed who will take over as pack leader if given a chance. Just like big dogs, they need exercise that provides them with enough stimulation to keep them from becoming bored. A Chihuahua needs to be treated like a Great Dane because that’s how they see themselves. When well socialized, they can be an excellent pet. Children need to be taught to be gentle with these dogs.

Siberian Huskies. Snow Dogs and Eight Below are two good movies about Huskies. A Husky is a great dog. I had two of them and wouldn’t hesitate to open my home up to another one. This popular dog breed requires regular grooming especially in the spring and fall. Huskies love to run and as working dogs, they’re happiest doing what they love. Aloof towards strangers, they are strong willed, but make a great family pet. If you’re looking for a watchdog, forget about a Husky. They rarely bark, preferring a mournful howl, and see everyone as a friend. If you have cats or small pets in the home, never leave them alone together when you’re gone. A Husky is loyal, happy, laid back and intelligent. You have to be this dog’s pack leader, otherwise he’ll try to take over and ignore your commands.

Jack Russell Terrier. The Mask and the TV show Frazier made the Jack Russell Terrier a household name. Bred to hunt fox with an eagerness to burrow underground in pursuit of prey, these terriers are as tenacious as they come. They are hardy dogs that can do well in most any climate. Like the Chihuahua, they need to be treated like big dogs with proper exercise to stimulate them, mentally and physically. They can be aggressive with other dogs and are not afraid of fighting. Jacks have a strong prey drive and you shouldn’t trust them around small pets in the home. As long as they understand who the leader is and have been well socialized, they are fine with other dogs and children. These little dogs are excellent jumpers and climbers, making them great escape artists.

Border Collie. Air Bud, Snow Dogs and Because of Winn Dixie showed the athletic ability of the Border Collie and why they’re at the top the list of most intelligent dogs. This popular dog breed can be sensitive and loves lots of praise. They were bred to be a farmer’s “right hand man” and they love working and playing. If you don’t have time to properly exercise a Border Collie, this dog won’t fit into your lifestyle. They need a firm hand, especially pups, and are eager to please their owner.

Small children should be supervised at all times around any dog. If a popular dog breed fits into your lifestyle, you can’t go wrong adopting one. As long as you understand what you’re getting into and have the stamina, commitment and patience, any of the above popular dog breeds would make an excellent pet with proper training, socializing and exercise.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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.

Signs That Show Your Dog Respects You


By Linda Cole

The loyalty of our dogs cannot be questioned; they will stand by us through thick and thin. Dogs can be well behaved and guard our homes and property, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they respect you. You can tell if your dog respects you by how they interact with you.

Happy tail wagging, ears laid back and submissive body language when you return home is one sign your dog respects you. Lip licking, grooming you and even a kiss on the cheek are signs that they recognize you as their leader and respect you.

In the dog world, the leader always goes first. A dog who races to the door ahead of his owner is showing disrespect, and doesn’t see the human as the alpha of his pack. When your dog respects you, he stays calmly behind you and waits for you to walk through the doorway first. Whether you are going outside for a walk, up or down steps or someone has knocked on the door, a respectful dog will never push ahead of his owner.

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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.