Category Archives: pack leader

Do Wolf-Dog Hybrids Make Good Pets?


By Linda Cole

I had an opportunity to see a wolf-dog hybrid several years ago. He was a magnificent animal, taller and heavier than a wolf. His father was a pure black wolf with intense amber eyes that followed my every move. The breeder who had the wolf and a dozen or so hybrids, told me not to let them know I was scared. OK, I wasn’t afraid until she said that. It was obvious she knew her animals and what she could expect from them, but do wolf-dog hybrids make good pets?

A hybrid pup comes from two hybrid dogs, a wolf and dog, dog and hybrid or wolf and hybrid. The breeder answered all of my questions and was frank about the erratic temperament of wolf-dog hybrids. When asked if these dogs made good pets, her emphatic response was no. It takes a strong person who understands how to read a dog’s body language and understands completely what they are getting into when accepting the role of pack leader to one of these animals. Her concern was selling a hybrid to someone who was only looking for a “cool pet” to show off and had no idea how to handle an animal that is half wolf and half dog. She had buyers sign an agreement to return the dog to her if they could not handle the dog once it reached adulthood. She didn’t want the hybrid released into the wild by an irresponsible owner.

Like any animal raised by humans, wolf-dog hybrids have never been taught how to hunt and have no idea how to catch their own food. A lucky one might learn as hunger awakens his wolf instincts, but there’s no guarantee and most would likely fall to the same fate as a dog who has found himself on his own with no hunting skills. A hybrid on its own is also more dangerous than a wolf because the dog traits can work against a wolf’s natural fear of humans.

It’s important to understand that wolf-dog hybrid breeders never know which characteristic or behavior will show up in the pups. One pup could be more like a dog whereas a sibling could be more like a wolf. Either way, a hybrid dog will never score bonus points in a dog training class. They do not make good guard dogs and, like a wolf, are more likely to retreat and let you deal with a burglar on your own. If no one is at home, he would probably watch quietly from his hiding place while you were being ripped off.

It’s not impossible to train a wolf-dog hybrid, but close to it. They are quite capable of learning commands, but respond more like a cat than a dog to training. You know the attitude of a cat, “I’ll think about it and get back to you.” We are able to teach our dogs to obey us, their pack leader, because a dog’s behavior is similar to an immature wolf. Dogs rely on us for food, shelter and protection. In return, they learn our commands and show their loyalty by protecting us and their home. A mature wolf doesn’t have the luxury of playing and no one commands them. They have to be independent in order to survive.

Wolf-dog hybrids will never fully accept a new dog into the pack. Because of the territorial nature of wolves, a hybrid sees a new dog as a threat. It’s the dog who will suffer the consequences of an uneducated hybrid owner who attempts to socialize a new dog with the hybrid. Forget about cats or other small pets, and never leave a child alone with a wolf-dog hybrid.

Wolves are beautiful animals that have gotten a bad rap throughout history. They have been blamed for attacks made by wolf-dog hybrids who have been released or escaped into the wild. There has never been a verified recorded attack on or death of a human by a healthy wild wolf in the United States. I admire the wolf who has managed to survive despite human interference, but I would never want one as a pet.

Hopefully, those who would like to own a dog with wolf-like traits will do extensive research before bringing one into their home. They need to consider all safety issues as well as the added expense in insurance cost and potential fines from accidental bites and howling at 3 in the morning, along with other possible fines. And then there are the costs related to properly containing a hybrid and even the cost of destroyed furniture and walls if it’s not kept outside, but it’s not a good idea to keep one inside.

Wolf-dog hybrids do not make good pets for a variety of reasons. However, a responsible pet owner with expert knowledge of how to be a strong pack leader as well as an understanding of a dog’s body language and what to expect from a wolf-dog hybrid, can make owning one safe for all family members.

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.

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How to Break Up a Dog Fight


By Linda Cole

If you have multiple dogs, sooner or later you will have to step in to break up a dog fight. I have two Terrier/mix sisters who are the best of buddies. However, sometimes, out of the blue, one will be on the other in a flash. A fight has to be broken up quickly to avoid injury to them. The challenge is breaking up a dog fight without getting bit yourself.

Obviously, the best solution is to avoid a fight to begin with, but dogs are like people. One dog just rubs the other one the wrong way for reasons only they know. It can be a threatening glance or body bump one finds intimidating or a dog attempting to establish his/her rank in the pack. Perhaps it’s a jealous or possessive reaction to a toy, food or your attention to another member in your pack. It could even be a simple lack of exercise or stimulation. A dog’s mind is just as difficult to read as your kids sometimes.

Remember, dogs have an instinctive sense of social order in the pack. If one feels no one is in charge, he or she will take that as a sign of weakness and attempt to take control of the pack. Whatever the reason, you have to break up a dog fight quickly. Unlike the alpha male’s corrective posturing of making a pack member submit to his command, a full fledged fight is meant to cause pain and injury and can be deadly.

Breaking up a dog fight is a dangerous situation for everyone. Never allow children to get into the middle of a dog fight. They may be seriously injured by the same dogs who snuggle up with them at night. Fighting dogs hear, see, smell and feel nothing except the dog in their face. At this point, they are no longer your pet. In their minds, they are in a fight to the death. Make no mistake about that. Do not attempt to break up a dog fight by pulling on their collar, and forget about calling their names.

Thinking about how you will handle the situation is your best course of action. You need to remain as calm as you can and having thought about what to do will help maintain your composure if and when a fight breaks out. Your immediate purpose in breaking up a dog fight is to get them to release their hold on each other and get them separated. Not an easy task. It’s like trying to pull apart two vise grips locked together.

There is no silver bullet in breaking up a dog fight. That’s why you need a plan. If the fight happens outside, a garden hose can help dampen their spirits enough to get them apart. Spray directly into the eyes and muzzle/nose area. Once they have released each other, get between them using the hose as a barrier. Don’t stop spraying until both have backed off and you have secured at least one away from the scene. If a hose is not available, find something large you can use to separate the dogs, such as a trash can lid or folding chair. The idea is to put a barrier between them. This works better with two people; it’s much harder if you are alone.

Have a pair of sturdy chairs you can place over the dogs, laundry baskets you can use to trap them in, a large piece of plywood to put between them, or large blankets you can throw over their heads. Anything you can find, besides your legs and arms, to get in between the fighters to block them. These suggestions may sound harsh, but when it comes to breaking up a dog fight, they will cause far less damage than two out of control dogs can inflict on each other if the fight is not broken up quickly.

Smaller dogs can be grabbed and pulled up out of the reach of the other one. However, if they have a death grip on each other, you still have to get them apart. A squirt bottled sprayed directly into their eyes and nose should help break their grip on each other.

Never try to break up a dog fight by hitting dogs with a stick, kicking them or yelling. This will only raise their level of excitement. Your job as pack leader is to know each individual dog. Pay attention to body language, growls or snaps which can be early signs a fight is brewing. Step in with a stern no. Get their attention immediately to stop any impending aggression. Avoiding a dog fight is much easier and safer than trying to break one up.

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.

Jealousy and Possessive Behavior in Dogs


By Linda Cole

Possessive behavior in dogs is actually quite common. We often see them guarding their favorite toy or sleeping spot, or making sure other pets in the house stay away from their feeding bowl or treat “cookie jar.” In a way, it’s hard to blame them for protecting what they believe belongs to them, and that includes their human. After all, we display the same tendencies toward other people. Being possessive of a toy or favorite resting area is one thing, but if your dog is jealous, that’s another ballgame that can quickly get out of control.

Jealousy in dogs is not cute, and we unknowingly encourage bad behavior each time the dog is allowed to display this emotion with no correction from us. Jealousy can occur when you bring in a new pet, start a new relationship, have a baby or when there is any other change in your life which takes your attention away from your dog. In his mind, he has stood by you through thick and thin, and given unconditional love— and now you are giving your attention to someone else. How rude.

Kelly is my alpha female. She’s an adorable 14 year old terrier/mix who has eyes only for me. As far as she is concerned, I belong to her and it’s her duty to protect me. I didn’t realize she had taken on the role as my protector until the day she actually nipped at a friend who took one step too close to me. With my eyes opened, I began to notice it wasn’t just my friend. Kelly was also protecting me from the other dogs and cats in my pack. The change in our household was a job that required a lot of overtime. I also was caring for my father who had fallen and was recovering from a broken hip. They did not get along; his walker scared her, and he was afraid of her. I had to confine Kelly when I was at work, and her little heart was broken.

Jealousy and possessive behavior in dogs can be a serious behavior problem. Some dogs will exhibit signs of depression or a loss of appetite. They may be withdrawn or show signs of aggression that you’ve never seen before. Kelly would lie beside me on the couch, and if another dog or cat came too close, she would leap at them with a high pitched warning bark. She was like a rattlesnake lashing out. This stressed out not only her, but the other pets and me as well.

So how do you deal with jealousy and possessive behavior in dogs? The solution isn’t as difficult as it may seem, but it requires consistent dedication and a calm steady hand. Whether you know it or not, before your dog became jealous, the two of you had a daily routine. Perhaps it was a morning walk before going to work, playing ball after work, or a relaxing ear scratching session while watching TV. To a dog, routine is important because he sees any change as him losing his place by your side and in your heart.

Reassure him with extra attention and maintain a daily schedule of walking, feeding, talking to and playing with him. Encourage positive interaction between him and any new member of the pack, whether it is human or another pet.

Reestablish basic training ground rules. Your dog may need to be reminded who the boss is. A jealous or possessive dog needs to be watched and as the pack leader, you need to step in and control any signs of aggression or negative behavior before they get out of control. Make sure to reward desired behavior with a yummy treat (like CANIDAE® Snap-Bits™) or extra back scratching time. Your dog is just looking for reassurance that you still value him.

Kelly is still jealous of the other pets, but she has realized her role in the pack has not changed. I started a new routine: walks with other members of the pack, special time set aside just for her which included head scratching and girl talk, along with appropriate pack leader discipline from me when needed.

Dealing with jealousy and possessive behavior in dogs is ongoing. It’s worth the effort to maintain peace in the family for their well being as well as our own. Besides, our dogs think we are the most wonderful creatures around and want to please us. The least we can do is be responsible pack leaders and set rules that are consistent and clear. In doing so, our dogs will understand their place in the pack and know what we expect from them.

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.

Understanding Dog Pack Hierarchy, and Why it Matters


By Linda Cole

Dogs are social animals with a well defined pack hierarchy. Like the wolf pack, each individual in the pack has its own place in that social order. Without a leader and parameters, a dog pack is confused, unstable and in constant conflict. Whether you are a pack of one dog or multiple canines, it’s important to understand the structure of the pack in order to maintain your role as leader.

As pack leader, it’s up to you to set rules and limitations for your dog. They are looking to their human alpha leader for consistent guidance and behavior you deem appropriate. A stable relationship is created when your dog understands what you expect from them.

A wolf pack hierarchy is made up of one alpha male and an alpha female. Next in line is the beta, and the omega is the lowest member of the pack. The other pack members fall in between the alpha and omega. The alpha male is the only one who leads and makes all the decisions that the entire pack follows, such as when and where to hunt, and when the rest of the pack can eat. He takes the best sleeping spots and is the only one allowed to mate with the alpha female. Any individual member who fails to obey the rules will be dealt with in a swift and appropriate manner. Those who refuse to follow pack laws are sometimes driven out in order to maintain stability.

Our dogs operate under the same hierarchy. They are born with an instinctive sense of pack mentality. Observe any litter of pups as they grow and mature. Dominate and submissive personalities begin to show as they play and interact with their litter mates. Mom keeps them in line with little nudges and nips around their neck and ears. These gentle reminders and punishments learned as pups will remain with them throughout their lives.

To establish yourself as top dog in the pack hierarchy, you have to first know which animal in your pack is the alpha. A female can be recognized by the pack as their alpha leader. Observe your dogs to see which one shows dominate behavior over the other dogs or yourself. Dominate behavior will include bumping, blocking, moving in between you and other dogs, standing alert with their tail held high (a sign of confidence), low growling whenever another dog comes near or making eye contact and holding it. Control the alpha, and you control the rest of the pack.

Never yell, hit, kick or spank any dog. It is not something they understand and will only create a more aggressive or fearful dog in the long run. You will certainly not gain any respect or trust. Respect can’t be forced; you have to earn it by controlling your pack on their terms. You become the alpha by making all the decisions for the pack. You eat first, go through a doorway first, determine which dog gets attention and when it’s given, win the tug of war game, sit and sleep in the prime spots, “move” a pack member out of your way instead of walking around or stepping over them. In other words, you establish yourself in the pack hierarchy as the alpha by controlling their basic needs and desires.

Dogs want to please us and be our protectors and companions. We create and allow unwanted behavior each time a member of our pack is allowed to misbehave with no consequences from the boss. A true alpha leader in the social order of the pack hierarchy would never allow misdeeds to go unpunished. This causes confusion and a breakdown in their social order which in turn creates an unstable pack.

The best way to show our pets just how much they mean to us is to treat them as rightful members in the pack hierarchy. Each one knows their place in the pack and you, as their alpha leader, have set the parameters and rules they will abide by. Stay calm, cool and assertive when you need to remind a rule breaker who the top dog is by administering appropriate and fair discipline. By learning how to lead, you are creating stable dogs who know their place and obey the wishes of the one who controls the pack.

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.

Body Language of Dogs


By Linda Cole

As pack leader of multiple dogs, it’s our responsibility to keep our animals stable and free from aggression by other members of our pack. We can hear a bark, growl or whimper which can signal a change in a dog’s temperament. Body language will also give us a clue something is wrong that has upset or frightened a member of our pack. Just as we display happiness, anger, fear and even aggression in our face and body language, a dog will also have visible signs showing how they are feeling.

Dogs communicate and interact with each other through body language. They use this knowledge with us, as well. My pack understands when it’s time to go outside because of certain movements and actions I take. That’s the signal they are watching for and they respond with no spoken words from me.

People, especially children, can be injured when they don’t understand what the dog is trying to say to them. Children can and should be taught how to determine a dog’s state of mind by observing its body language. Watch your dogs closely when any children, including your own, are playing with or simply petting them. Not all dogs like to be petted, especially around the head and ears. Some feel intimidated with a hug, being laid on or wrestled with. Bites can be stopped before they happen when you and the child recognize and understand when the dog is saying, “I’ve had enough and it’s time to back off.”

A dog who rolls over on its back with the tail tucked between his legs is in a submissive position. Lip-licking helps reduce stress and show others they are being compliant. Crouching down with their butt in the air says “I want to play.” Eye contact, especially if it’s intense or an actual stare, can indicate this dog is ready to rumble. A dominate dog is always ready to challenge authority in the pack, but they will respect and honor commands as long as your body language indicates you are leader of the pack.

A confident dog holds his tail erect with a gentle slow wag. He stands or sits tall and erect, head held high. You can see his ears are pricked up as he listens and the eyes are relaxed looking with no “whites” showing. The body language of this dog says “Everything is cool and I feel good.”

An aggressive dog stiffens in his body and legs. His tail will be lower and held out straight. He may or may not signal his displeasure with a growl. Ears are flattened against his head and the head will be lowered. His hackles, the hair on his back, rump and around the shoulders, will be raised. Angry eyes stare intently and become narrowed. The lips may be curled into a snarl.

The fearful animal may be hard to predict. Fear in any species can make that individual unpredictable and potentially dangerous. A fearful dog has its tail tucked between their legs or it may hang straight down with a wag that is fast and uncertain. The back is arched and his head and rear are lower. The legs are slightly bent. He may turn his head away and look out of the corner of his eyes showing the whites of the eye while trying to avoid looking at what’s causing the concern or fear.

A strong pack leader understands members of the pack need to be allowed to settle small differences on their own. However, when a dog’s body language indicates a fight could be brewing, it’s time to step in and remove the offending dog for a brief cooling off period. It’s a refocusing of the mind, if you will.

Dogs are only concerned with what’s going on right now. An aggressive or fearful dog can return to a confident and feeling good pet in a matter of seconds. Dogs will respect a pack leader who stays cool under pressure and responds to the needs and safety of the group by being assertive, consistent and fair to all members of the pack. Understanding body language of dogs allows you to step in and stop problems before they arise. Maintaining a healthy, happy pack is as simple as watching what your dog is trying to tell you.

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.

Agility Abilities

Have you ever thought that agility training might just be your dog’s thing? How do you tell if your dog has what it takes to succeed in agility competitions? The answer probably lies in your understanding of the dog. Those who are very athletic, eager to please and who have a wonderful relationship with you are the best candidates. 
History of Agility 
Agility training began in England not long ago and was fashioned after horse show jumping. After making its UK debut at Crufts in 1978, agility became the fastest growing dog sport. Not only is it popular among caretakers, its also very popular among spectators, the action is fast and it is always entertaining whether the dog does as the handler asks or not. It’s fun for everyone. 
Does My Dog Have What It Takes?
The only way to find out if your dog has got what it takes to do agility is to try it out. Find a good agility club in your area where experienced instructors can teach you what you need to know. This will help you avoid injury to your pup. You will want to learn new tricks in a controlled environment that facilitates good training practice on agility equipment that meets safety criteria.
Pursuing the Sport
Once you establish that you and your dog love the sport, it’s worth it to purchase an agility course, or join a club who has the equipment available. You can find some inexpensive equipment online at Amazon, Ebay or even Craigslist, but if you are purchasing used equipment through these sources, ensure that you use a light solution of bleach and water to thoroughly clean the equipment prior to use. 
Purchasing Agility Equipment
There are many different types of agility equipment available. If you’re just starting out in the sport, you will want to stay on the conservative side of purchases. A complete agility course can be very pricey, so wait and see if it’s something you and your dog really want to pursue. 
Once you’re convinced that this is the sport for you, go ahead and purchase the basic pieces of equipment. These include a bar jump, a tire jump and a tunnel. 
Agility can be a very entertaining sport that’s exactly what your dog needs to release excess energy. It can create a strong bond between both you and your dog, not to mention, it’s great exercise for both of you. 
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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.