Notes on the Domestication of Dogs

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Notes on the Domestication of Dogs

This is a discussion on Notes on the Domestication of Dogs within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Myself and my family of 8 are the proud owners of seven wonderful dogs on ten acres of land. We have also pet-sat for a ...

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Old 12-06-2015, 11:57 PM
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Notes on the Domestication of Dogs

Myself and my family of 8 are the proud owners of seven wonderful dogs on ten acres of land. We have also pet-sat for a number of other dogs from a variety of situations, breeds, and owners. I am very interested in animal behavior and have studied it for quite some time, learning to read their body language and learn the reasons behind their reactions, so I just thought I would share what I have learned and some of my theories (SOME OF THIS IS THEORIES, NOT FACTS) and also see if I could learn more from some of you guys out there. Thanks for reading!


Lets start by saying this, all animals are different, as species, subspecies, breeds and individuals. They each have a different way of being put together and how they were raised and learned is different, so even instinct driven animals will differ in their behaviors, reactions and all together personality. Because of this, while many animals differ greatly (one of the reasons they are so much fun), you will find many similarities. For example, all vertebrates have a similar build of two eyes, one nose, a mouth (usually with teeth), a spine, usually either four legs or two or more flippers, or two wings. Many also have tails. So even though these animals may be furred, scaled, or feathered, they all have similar bones in similar places, similar organs in similar places, and a similar brain. Brains and nerves are placed in the same way in animals a they are in humans, even if they serve different functions or are different sizes. So while we see an instinct driven lizard as nothing compared to the intelligent chimp, they have the same fundamental instincts and probably thought processing because of this similar build.

With all that said, we can expect similar behaviors from animals that are more similar to one another. Not to say that all animals that look alike will act alike. Chimps and bonobos are a good example, as chimps are far more aggressive and more likely to fight with one another and less likely to work together than bonobos. However, they are so similar that when studying behavior, you'll mostly note the same things from one another, even though they are completely different species. Same with chimps and gorillas, chimps and orangutans and chimps and even monkeys and apes.
In saying all this, now I'll get to my point. Dogs have been domesticated from wolves for thousands of years, but they are still fundamentally the same thing in their brain, behavior, and even body. For example, a bulldog is only so different from a retriever because it suffers from a mutation called dwarfism. It was not slow selection that led to their shape, it was probably with-in one generation that the short nose and wide-chest appeared. So dogs are not really too different from wolves in that prospective.
Also, in looking at the true domestication of the Russian Fox (a domestic form of the Red Fox) you can see it only takes around 50 years and 35 generations to produce an animal even more trusting than a domestic dog. These foxes don't even need handled when young to be trusting of humans when older. This selection involved a lot of inbreeding, and studies are still being done, but it proves it doesn't take that long to change the behavior of an animal genetically (which is what domestication is).

Animals are domesticated so that humans can get what they want from them without having to shape it after birth, but so it is programmed into them. Instead of painting an animal with spots, they can get a spotted animal. Practically, if not all, domestic animals have a spotted form, from rabbits to gerbils, cattle, chickens, fish, and dogs. They may not be the same genetically, but it is seen. Similarly, most domestic animals have a form with floppy ears, a curly tail, a white body, a black body, many have dwarfisim. Also, many domestic animals are trained to be less likely to spook (their adrenaline pumping organs are bred to be smaller) and they are bred to act more passively around people and one another. So chickens can live in large flocks rather peacefully, dogs are less likely to fight than wolves, and cats can even learn to get along (wild cats are vicious little monsters).
Also, domestic animals are selected not only for ease of working with (trusting behavior, less fear of people), but also for some kind of work or production. Cattle are bred mainly for meat and milk, but are also kept for namely draft purposes in other countries, and feral cattle often adapt back into a similar shape to their wild ancestors, the Aurochs, and even similar behavior.
Dogs were bred for more than one purpose. It is thought that likely wolves were like coyotes, slowly learning to trust people as they realized they could get food from them and so they passed on the genetics quickly to their pups that fear was not needed around people. And in this way, dogs could eventually be handled in a way similar to wild squirrels that learn to take food from people.
Dogs were then kept for purposes such as guarding, hunting, tracking, retrieving, flushing game, fighting (even in wars), foot warmers, draft, meat, shepherding, herding, companionship and eventually show purposes.
Lets take a look at the behaviors needed for each individual group of dogs and see how it affects them for a moment.
Guard dogs very in their type. Mastiffs were often kept for the purpose of attacking intruders such as poachers, and so were bred to be large, but also silent, stealthy, aggressive, and frightening. They had to be in good shape, but they didn't have to be that fast or agile.
Guard dogs for sheep and cattle, however, had to be agile enough to keep up with the herds, to fight off packs of wolves or even bears, and still manage to survive in all forms of weather.
Pointers and flushing dogs were bred to want to track prey, they were meant to have good stamina, be persistent and patient while retrievers had a similar function but were trained to enjoy carrying things, and this was even bred into them.
Hounds were bred to track and tree animals, they were bred to love to follow their nose, but they had to be fast and have a good long, loud bay that could be heard from far away. They had to work well in large groups, but they also had to not tear their prey apart upon cornering it.
Catching prey was the job of terriers mainly, though lion and wolf hunting dogs would also take down their prey. Terriers were meant to have no fear, to be fast but also small enough to fit in tight spaces. They would go after pest rodents, as well as go after badgers and foxes in burrows once the hounds cornered them.
Sight-hounds are said to be almost cat like, in that they are often aloof, are very, very fast, and follow their eyes. They are built like a cheetah, which is also a cat that follows its eyes more than its nose. They are meant to run fast and have great agility.
Huskies and other dogs bred for the purpose of draft were bred to be strong, pack oriented, good around people, but also very, very tough. Huskies often had to hunt their own food, were born onto ice, had to walk or run miles a day, live out in below freezing weather without shelter, and often were also used as hunters and herding animals.
Foot-warmers kind of work with companions in that they were bred to be small, easy to feed and handle, to stay around the palace, house, ect, and be willing to sit by your side for long periods, or rest at your feet quietly. They were often bred for watch dogs, which were small but loud alarm sounders, or from terriers, which were also small. You will often see companion animals fit into other categories. French Bulldogs are bulldogs/mastiffs, maltese likely came from terriers, toy terriers came from terriers, pugs came from bulldogs, yorkies from terriers, and many other small dogs the same. They are a bred down version of working animals, and often carry those same behaviors even into a small size.

So, you see the reasons these breeds were originally created and why they show some of their behaviors such as lots of energy, strong prey drives, a need to follow their nose above the voice of their owner, or nipping at animals heels to herd them. However, all these behaviors stem from the behaviors of wolves which have just been bred to be stronger instincts than before. For example, a wolf will track an animal like a hound, flush it like a pointer or spaniel, swim for it if need be, chase it down for miles, often herding it towards a trap with eye-contact or nipping, bring it down and kill it like a terrier or wolf hound, and then bring back bits of it to their puppies to eat or play with.
So, there are no truly new behaviors seen in almost any domestic dog except the occasional odd-breed out. A breed of dog is not the same as a species or subspecies, they are man-made in most cases, or sometimes feral. For example, the Longhorn cattle were originally feral cattle that adapted to near perfection in their environment, perfect for the hot, dry grasslands where they lived for generations. Same with the dog group called Pariahs. This includes chihuahuas, Dingoes, New Guinea Singing Dogs, Carolina Dogs, and many of the strays seen in India, Mexico, and Africa. These dogs are adapted to perfection for their environment. As new dogs escape or are let loose, new genetics are added, but they will usually return to a similar shape. Sleek with a semi-curled or straight tail, short fur, long legs, a long muzzle, perked ears, and some mixture of brown, white, black and yellow.
New Guinea Singing Dogs have adapted enough to behave different than other dogs and even wolves towards one another in the way they interact and communicate, but they adapted on an isolated island, which can lead to some very odd breeds indeed.
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Old 12-06-2015, 11:59 PM
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Now lets begin to compare these behaviors seen in dogs to other wild animals. They live in groups, a social group. Now, animals live in a variety of social groups. There are llamas, seals, fish, turtles, lions, monkeys, hyenas and foxes.
Wolves in the wild live in a varying sized pack of mainly related individuals, like lions. The pack may have started with a take-over from a sibling or grown-pup, it may have been a wanderer who came in and took over, it may have been two wanderers met and started a new pack. Lions do a similar thing. A female and her sisters get kicked out of a large pride and a male and his brother or brothers are kicked out. Now, the male works in his coalition to find a new pride. He may take over from another male, he may find a lone female or a small group of females, but generally they avoid staying in their old pride not only because their father kicks them out, but because of the inbreeding that would occur if they tried to mate with their mother or sisters.
Hyenas, however, while looking more like a wolf, are not similar to wolves in their group behavior but more like primates. They live in large, extended clans, far larger than any wolf pack. They hunt in small groups or alone, getting meals stolen from then by lions as often as stealing from them. They hunt with their eyes as well as nose, often running their prey down instead of using surprise, like the lions do, which can only run for a few yards before exhausting. In the spotted hyena clans, the females lead. A cub gets the position right below her mother and the alpha male gets the position right below the lowest ranking female. They are strict and harsh with one another, but even after a take-over will not force the old leader to leave. Cubs are born ready to dominate one another, a female cub from an alpha will try to kill her sibling the day she is born, even though she is just a tiny thing.

And now we can turn to the African Wild Dog, or Painted Dog, which lives in a pack like wolves, but often larger than a wolf. Now, their position in the food-chain is different from wolves because they coexist with lions and hyenas, as wolves once did in North America and Europe during the Ice Age. Painted Dogs live in more closely knit family groups, where the youngest eats first, fighting is rare, and they work like a well oiled machine. Their packs can get far larger than wolf packs, and when they decide to drive off a predator they are VERY determined in it. They have a strong killing instinct, but with their own kind, they are far more loyal than a wolf (which may kill another pack member).

And now we can finish up this discussion (a long discussion, I know, but I just love to write about animals!) with a word on the dominance of dogs. There has been a shift in the idea that dogs live in a pecking-order type dominance hierarchy as of late, but I believe there is some confusion in what is being said. I have learned a lot from the research I have done on whether or not dogs have a dominance hierarchy and how their pack works together, why they live in packs, and more. And in studying other species, and looking at varying situations and techniques, you begin to see the full picture of the truth behind the behavior of the domestic dog.

Lets begin by saying that while dogs are a domestic form of the wolf, their main difference is not that they are more "in-tune" with humans or more "tame" but that they have been bred to have a form of neoteny, or when an animal is bred to behave and look like a juvenile its whole life. You can see this in tail wagging, barking, play behavior, the rounded nose and head, short muzzle and legs, and other such signs in dogs. Neoteny means that a dog will act more like a puppy in its behavior even when it matures, even though it breeds and has its own pups, it still treats you like a parent. This is different then a wolf, who will look at you more like an equal, someone to be challenged. Wolves can turn suddenly on keepers and attack for seemingly no reason, because they wish to keep command, to get what they want, because they see the person as weak and the weak are punished in the wolf society.
Now, with dogs, the weak may be targeted for attacks, seen when one dog is more prone to being bitten then another while in the dog park, because of its insecurities. Another example is our dog, Cedar, who suffers from anxiety. When bullied by the others dogs in what we called "corner-the-cat", where they would bark at him and pin him against a fence, he became scared of them and nervous. He was targeted because he was more insecure than the others.
So while dogs show very similar behavior to wolves, they still remain acting like a puppy in many ways as well, in their trust (puppies are more trusting), play (puppies are more playful), barking and tail wagging (behaviors seen in the Domestic Fox and not the wild fox, as with the Dog and Wolf).

It has been said, because of domestication, dogs have learned better how to communicate with people, better than a wolf. However, specially bred wolf-dogs show a stronger intelligence and note of human body-language, according to those who use them as guard dogs for their families, than the average dog. This means a wolf reads body language too, and that domestication as not created a dog that is somehow more "in-tune" with people, though dogs are much better around people than wolves, and do seem to understand them more.

The argument that dogs do not have a dominance hierarchy I say is half true and half false. Why? Because dogs don't seem to have a hierarchy, but they certainly have dominance. Let me explain.
Using chickens for an example, I'll get across what a pecking-order is. A pecking order is when the top hen pecks all hens and is not pecked, the hen below her pecks all hens except the top hen, and so on and so forth, down to the lowest, who is pecked by all and pecks no one. However, I have over 50 chickens that I watch and have named and see their behaviors. When I keep multiple roosters in the flock, such as when I had Dominator (a large rooster), Flo (a medium), Acorn (a small), and Smaug (a large rooster who was full size but younger than the others) this is what I saw. Dominator chased Flo and Acorn, but treated Smaug like his own son. Flo chased Acorn. But Acorn chased Smaug. Flo worked together with another rooster of similar size named Azul who was in a similar position as him. Azul was older, but Flo was more agile, however, it is near impossible to ever tell who is the boss, because both crow, both breed with the hens, and both feed together. So the big rooster chases the medium rooster who chases the small rooster who chases the big rooster. This is not like in the military, where you are placed directly in your spot, with those above and those below, and this does not change. Animals seem to work it out differently.
It is similar with dogs. We have a pack of seven dogs. We got two brothers, than a year later got two brothers, than a year later got three puppies a few months apart. We lost one of the first two and got another puppy years after the others. So now we have a pack that has finally learned how to work together, and a new dog on the street.
We have seen the ups and downs of our pack. You see the shifts in behavior. The "alpha" of the dog pack is the one who stays outside the most, marks the territory, watches for coyotes at the back door, holds his tail high. He has responsibility, and you can see that switch from the two oldest brothers between one another and the two middle brothers. They all have complex relationships with one another, but dominance is seen. However, it is more like that seen in a sports team, instead of, for example, the military or in a prison. In prison, you are ruled through fear, not team-work. In the military, you are ruled by strict rules. In a team, you each find your place, which may be that you give orders to the one who gives orders to the one who gives orders to you. You feel things out and find your place, its not rigid.

So, when we got our first two dogs, Arby and Rax, Rax showed a strong desire to be the leader from the start. And here is where my claims of dominance behavior are best proven, in that Rax regularly would put his head over his brothers shoulder, bite his neck, force him to the ground, steal his food, attack him for rights to his food, and mount him (dominance behavior in dogs). Arby would always put his head down, sometimes arguing back. So this was a relationship that included dominance, but it was not a hierarchy.
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Old 12-07-2015, 12:00 AM
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When we got the two young pups Cinnamon and Cedar, Rax took on the roll of playful father and Arby was the tender mother, grooming them and protecting them. Cedar grew up in higher command then his brother, Cinnamon, even though he suffered anxiety. Cinnamon, however, always walked with head and tail down, and would show his teeth in a "submissive smile" at the slightest provocation, while cedar walked all the time with his tail up, head up, and would ask to go out back to just sit and watch for any signs of trouble. Cinnamon did not seem to need this.
Arby and Rax would switch back and forth every few weeks or months, and when their hips got bad at winter, Cedar would take their place. When Arby died, Cedar had panic attacks that sent him shivering into corners so badly we thought he was having seizures, and so at that point the alpha position was a little messed up.
However, long before Arby died, we got Esther, Kitty and Gerbil. We (niavely), tried to breed the young trio, but quickly gave up when they got obessesed about breeding with one another even though they were too young. We got them fixed without any puppies, but Esther entered a false pregnancy. After that, she would enter heat even though we tried getting her spayed a second time. For this reason, when she would enter heat, the male dogs (while all neutered) would follow her and she was more prone to fighting with Kitty.
Kitty constantly tried to fight with Esther, she followed her around with ears and tail up, but you could tell she was not in charge by the way Esther shook it off, and how she watches over the house, takes in new puppies, and her all around personality.

We took in a mother dog and her pup from our cousins, after they had bred her and found it to be far too much work and just not for them. We thought we could try breeding her to a pup we got. Her name was Cleo, the male pup was Jingle and Cleo's daughter was Chipsie. Needless to say, Jingle had not been properly socialized as a puppy. We unknowingly got him from a puppy-mill and he had likely been removed from his mother far too early. He never figured out how to behave around other dogs or how to breed for that matter. We found him a wonderful new home where he learned to settle down a bit, as before he constantly caused nervous, uncertain behavior among the dogs because he didn't know how to behave correctly around them. He would leap on them without thinking, get in their face without respect, and come near them when they had food. He was not showing respect, and dogs in a pack always demand respect from one another over food, toys, and personal space.

Anyways, Cleo and Esther entered heat at the same time. My mother, who had recently broken her back (but was able to walk, she just wasn't able to lift anything) took the dogs out into our two acre fenced in backyard for them, so they could get some exercise, play, and use the rest-room. Cleo's tail went up and she began to enter the "red-zone". Mom told her no, but Cleo knew that Mom wasn't strong enough, and she went in for the attack. Esther had lay down on the ground gently or lowered her head, trying to ignore and avoid Cleo every chance, but today, even though she posed no threat, Cleo attacked for the kill. She moved in, biting at her back-end, almost as if to purposefully make it so she could never have puppies. Kitty, the crazy terrier like dog she is, instantly took advantage of that moment and began to bite Esther on the back, leaving wounds all over her. The other dogs wanted to settle things down, but their barking and jumping in and out of the scramble didn't help.
If it hadn't been for me looking out the window, seeing Mom trying and keep Esther safe and yet unable to lift her, then she may have had worse damage. We ran outside, way angry that our precious, sweet Esther had been attacked when Mom, the obvious Mother and alpha female of the pack, had told her strictly no. Ever since that fight, Esther and Kitty never played again. Cleo went to a wonderful home with her daughter, Chipsie, who is now the boss of her. Cleo is very sweet and submissive, highly fearful even, around people. This is because she was raised outdoors as a pup, around other dogs, and so understands the outdoors and pack life better than the chaos of people and indoors.
They are happy, Esther did not need to got to the vets, and Mom didn't hurt her back (thank goodness). The pack settled down and got back into the groove.

Cleo and Chipsie still come over to be pet-sat, and they do not fight with Esther, but Kitty and Chipsie have argued a lot, as they are both very dominant dogs by nature. Females seem to naturally be more inclined to fight. For example, Arby and Rax fought over food and toys, and never drew blood. However, Kitty and Esther, when they fight over food, do draw blood.
Oddly enough, Rax is the adopted father of Kitty, and Arby of Esther. Esther and Gerbil were mates and so they are good friends. So, when Gerbil and Kitty got in an argument, Rax rushed in to attack gerbil and protect is little girl. Esther came in to protect Gerbil, and Kitty attacked Esther. The boys fight was over fast, the girls drew blood and Kitty still has the scar from it.

Now, I know dogs are different from people, but you can see a similarity there in how dogs have a complex social system of bosses and followers. It isn't a strict list of who is where, but it seems to be more of "I'm the strongest, the girls like me, I'm the oldest".
It has been said that a wolf pack is run not by boss and follower, but by whoever wants something the most, so emotion instead. This is called the Immediate Moment theory and it claims that if an omega wolf is hungry and has food, he will growl at the Alpha. This is true, however, because you can pick out an Alpha so easily by how they stand, how they walk while they travel, and that they are the only one to have pups, it can be noted that they do show the leadership role in the pack.
It has also been claimed that a wolf pack only has leaders because the top male and female are parents, and so they will lead the others because they are older. This is true in many ways, as with dogs, a pup is bound to follow its parents. However, packs will attack and kill their alphas if they find them weak, old, or just unlikeable. In one case, the alpha female got the rest of her pack to kill her mate so she could be in complete control. This is, again, a sign of ruling or dominance behavior in wild wolves.
Captive wolves may be raised differently. They have pent up energy, they may be fixed, they may be brothers and sisters or not even related dogs, many times they are bottle-raised by people and so they may not have the same social skills they would with their parents. However, in captivity as well, the alpha dog has been killed so that another could have her spot (makes you afraid to try to be alpha dog with wolves, doesn't it). Cleo attacking Esther shows this as well. Cleo saw a threat to her place as the one who could have puppies and wanted to end the competition.

According to the Immediate Moment Theory, if a young dog and an older dog are put together, they will switch roles through manipulations of behaviors. This can be seen with our new dog, Epsilon, who is part Aussie. He shows disrespect towards the dogs when he steps on them instead of dodging around them, and he shows herding behavior as well as control when he nips at their heals even when they snap at him or growl. He will run in front of them and stare, forcing them to stop. This shows that while they are the dominant one, he will yip like a puppy if they snap, he still manipulates them and constantly searches for a way to get more control over the others. It has been said a puppy gets an adult to do what he wants by playing the prey animal, which is to submit or to run, and this in turn is showing control over the other dog. However, if you watch closely, there are subtle signs of who is in control by body language. Watching the ears, tail, eyes, posturing, territorial marking and more shows who really has the say in important situations. Rax is still the one who gets first dibs on food, space, or petting. He will push the others out of his way and they obey. However, with people, he is always sweet and acts like a little submissive puppy.
Submissive behavior, however, is not just a manipulation. While it is not known if dogs feel guilt or not, a dog that cringes and shows its teeth (submissive smile) is showing that it is giving control to another dog. Our dogs show a submissive smile to us and we saw the same with the wolves at the zoo and the wolves in wildlife documentaries. A pack that knows where they belong in the relationship and what their control is will be content. Wolf packs often fight over kills, just like lions, while hyenas and wild dogs do not. Lions may cause large, bleeding wounds in their fights, and low ranking members may starve, while the lowest ranking members of wild dog packs get to eat first. So you see, the stress of a wolf pack is how they live, but this does not mean their life is easy that way.
Wolves like to build energy to get one another interested in a hunt, they will wake up and begin to play, they howl to show they are a unit. They work together to hunt and to raise their young, to protect their young and one another. They feed those who are injured, just like hyenas and wild dogs (not so much lions). They learn to focus on one mission, and when on that mission, it is not so much the alpha that leads, but the most experienced in many cases. Lions, wild dogs and wolves all set up ambushes, in which one animal chases the others into a trap, but this does not seem set on who is in charge. However, the alpha wolf is often the first one to grab the prey to take it down, showing experience and determination.
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Old 12-07-2015, 12:01 AM
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I do believe animals feel the need for control, for stability, to know what to expect in their relationship amongst a group. Even lizards show submissive behavior towards those more powerful then them, when kept in a group. From day one, the hyenas attack one another in what seems a merciless fashion. Wolves are constantly biting and bullying one another, lions attack one another all the time, males will kill one another and one anothers' cubs, wolf pups fight over food and begin to show growling and snapping at a very young age. Strays are often killed for wandering into a territory. All this is part of how these animals work, how they keep control of their territory, their food source, a denning ground. All animals have the goal of reproducing and surviving, from the ant to the elephant. And all of them have complex behaviors upon meeting one another, and in their relationships with one another, such as those with mates, young, and strangers.

So how do we put all this (TONS) of information into our every day life with dogs? First, dogs behavior is too complex for us to emulate. They behave most naturally with their own kind, and often times with a breed that behaves similarly. For example, a sight-hound and a playful terrier mix might not get along the best.
When we keep any animals, train any animals, we should first look at how they behave in the wild. A hamster explores miles every day, so a large, interesting cage is important. Parrots bond with a mate for life, and all others they tend to want to stay away, which is why they often show aggression towards all but one member in the house-hold.
Putting these things into perspective is hard to do, and even hard to explain. You have to learn about your breed or mix-breed, your individual dog, and see how you can work it into your lifestyle, family, and with other pets or dogs. All dogs are still dogs, we must understand that and not ask them to be anything else. We can call them our babies, but to ask them to be humans is far too much. They are not wired that way. Instead, we must find a way that two species can coexist together.
To be the leader of your dog is not to be cruel. Some claim you must be harsh with your dog and it obey all you ask, others say you should not do such a thing and a dog should have what it wants. Dogs want stability, they want to know they have a good leader. To be the leader of a team, to be the leader of the pack, is to be strong, calm, and trustworthy. You do not want a dog to fear you, but you do want their respect, just like in all other animal societies. Without this balance and understanding, a dog feels lost and confused and tries to do something else with its nervous energy.

Speaking of energy, we have to remember that wolves ran miles every day, and that our dogs were bred for a purpose. The purpose of a wolf is to raise a family, and to do so, they must hunt. So the purpose of a wolf is the pups, but the purpose of the pack is the food. They are not there for companionship, more like elephants or chimps may be, they are there to work as a team to reach a common goal, to feed the future of their pack, the pups.
To have control of a dog is to guide it, not force it. For example, goats have an alpha female that leads the herd. Instead of trying to chase them from the back, if you take a bucket of food and lead the goats, they will happily follow you, knowing their alpha leads them to food. A herd of goats has a hierarchy, even though they are prey animals that may not seem to have complex interactions. Even cattle have this system, the alpha cow wants to get in to be milked first and becomes angry otherwise if a lower cow cuts in line.
Training animals you can use positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is using rewards for a good behavior, reinforcing it with treats, praise, or even just by letting the dog outside when it sits for you. This tells the dog it gets a good experience from that behavior. Negative reinforcement is when you use a bad situation to stop a dog from doing something. For example, if a driver doesn't buckle and breaks their arm in a crash, they are more likely to buckle. Or if a dog learned that a skunk sprays, it will avoid the skunk. Something bad teaches that animal to avoid that situation again.
Both of these are important for pets because that is how they work with one another and how they learn in the wild. Both good and bad teach them. It is opinion which method to use in training, but to simply ignore bad behaviors will not let the dog know they are bad. A mother cat will discipline her kitten for biting too hard, but she is still its mother, and it still trusts her. If she didn't do this, the kitten would never know better, not even if rewarded for biting softly.

Not all behavior that is unwanted is dominance behavior, however. A dog that jumps on you to greet you is happy to greet you and exhibiting a learned behavior that was reinforced with something in the past, such as praise or a treat. Dogs love to sniff breaths, and so they jump up to get closer to your face, as they would sniff and lick one anothers' faces in a wolf pack when greeting.
When a dog pulls on a leash this may or may not be dominance behavior. When a guide dog takes lead, it is working as part of a team. When a tracking dog takes lead, again, it is working with its owner for a common purpose. All dogs long for a purpose. They can get as much physical exercise and stimulation as they want, but mental stimulation, a purpose, a goal, a reason to do what they do is what drives a dog, truly drives them. This is why you can see the excitement, love and purpose in a dog at an agility course, or a dog on the hunt, or a dog that is tracking down some-one who is lost. He/she is doing what wolves do, working with his/her team to accomplish a common minded goal.
However, a dog that wishes to get to a squirrel faster while the owner just wants to get home probably is disbehaving out of lack of respect, because the two are not working a steam. They are not common-minded in what they want. The dog likely does not feel a strong enough purpose, has not had adequate exercise, and is feeling slightly neurotic from boredom or lack of balance. The dog may not have another dog to stay with and is left alone for hours, and so chews up the house. The dog may show aggression towards food because they never learned to respect the person giving it to them, only learn to fear the food is going to be taken, and learn to protect as in a wolf pack. Communication with a dog is through energy more than words, almost more than body language. A dog can sense things you can, they can smell all those emotions, they can feel your tension, they watch all the little cues you give if you are angry or frightened or happy. They can tell if you are frustrated with them, or if you do not respect them as a member of your team.

Discipline for respect is different then instilling fear. Asking for a dog to work with you instead of against you is different then asking a dog to work for you.
A team works together, often without words needed. A herding dog and a shepherd, for example, are a true team. While people in the past were not always gentle with dogs, the fact that a dog was loyal and loving towards their owner proved they trusted them and adored them, that they were part of a team and had a purpose. A dog that is given all it needs but not given the feeling of being on a purposeful team, whether that purpose be playing with a ball, keeping someone calm, guiding the blind, protecting the home, they want to work with a person or else they begin to make their own rules for control, such as neurotically chasing a shadow, barking at a sweeper, forcing you out of a room by barking or jumping on top of you so you can't watch the tv but have to pay attention to them.

Learn to communicate with your dog, to understand them, to read their own subtle cues and to reward as well as find balance, control, and respect. To be a leader and guide, the alpha parent of the pack, is to not cause anxiety or phycological damage to a dog, but to let it be who it really wants to be. Dogs love to follow when given directions, they love to work with someone, they were bred for a purpose. A dog that is only a companion or show dog may develop anxiety, fear, hyper nervousness. More and more behavior and health problems are cropping up the more we try to breed them away. Why is this? Because we need to make sure that we are still letting dogs be dogs. Select for the healthy, not the best looking, select for the one that works in a team, not the one who demands cuddles the most. If we learn to do this, to work with dogs and give them what they want and they need, we will see a drastic change in the neurotic, anxious, fearful or aggressive behaviors. We don't want dogs obsessed with their owners or fighting with one another, we want dogs that are happy. You can see it, in packs such as Cesar Millan's. He grew up with dogs all around him, and when you grow up with dogs in a pack, you learn to see what a happy dog looks like. You can see just how happy his dogs are, how they feel a balance in their relationships, their purpose, and they are calm and get along.
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Old 12-07-2015, 12:02 AM
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Dogs are wonderful, we all love our dogs, and we all have different opinions and methods, we still have so much to learn about them. But our goal is that in this pack, in this human and animal relationship, we find the right balance in how we treat and train them. Whenever we lean too far towards one side, things get messed up. It's like finding the right balance in a recipe. You might like sugar, but you can't have a good cake if the whole thing is sugar. Flour and baking powder may not taste that good on their own, but you've got to find how to turn that pack into a team, for your own sake, and for your dogs sake.

I hope this has been nice reading. I certainly did not mean to insult anyone, and I know it was really long, so if you made it this far, thanks so much!
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Old 12-07-2015, 07:48 AM
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Please accept my apologies, but I have the attention span of a gnat and huge blocks of text are a huge turn-off for me. But I assume this is all about dominance and pack leader stuff.

Back in the 1960s a biologist called Thema Rowell was already questioning hierarchies in animals, she studied baboons and said they didn't seem to exist in the animals she studied. In the 1970s, Shirley Strum went either further, claiming dominance hierarchies were a myth.

It gets more interesting, in her book The Concept of Social Dominance (1974) Thelma Rowell wrote, “The experimenter will report that his trials have demonstrated a dominance relationship between the monkeys while in fact they (the trials) have actually caused it.” (p. 136.)

Rowell goes on to say that dominance hierarchies only exist where the observer creates them.

I don't have time right now to write an in-depth post on this subject as I have a child to drive to school and other things to do. But I will try and get back to this topic later. You have written a tome and I will do my best to read it and comment.

I will also add, wolves are quite unique predators, they hunt prey far larger and more powerful than themselves. The only other species that do this are humans and Orcas. The hunt is the defining aspect of wolf sociability and the reason dogs became dogs.

Last edited by Gnostic Dog; 12-07-2015 at 07:56 AM.
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Old 12-07-2015, 08:04 AM
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I'm not a proffessional biologist or behaviourist, but I'd say wild wolves are more living in families, that consist of for a big part biologically related individuals, which makes them different from the "packs" of non-related Wolves that were studied in the 70ies and 80ies.
Because of that the social dynamic is different too. "dominant" and "submissive" behaviour changes from situation to situation and while there may be an animal in the family that is more likely to show dominant behaviour, this doesn't mean that this is the "Alpha" of the family.
It is a more fluent and situational thing of individuals that know each others personality, weaknesses and strengths very well, not a trict hierachy. How i interpreted the sources.
It is more likely that their interaction partner isn't as interested in a resource or that they just don't want to be involved in a situation and that is a reason why an individuals seems to be "stronger" or "dominant".
aggression is actually relatively seldom in wild wolf families. it is much more likely to happen when there's an outsider involved.
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Old 12-07-2015, 08:22 AM
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EDIT:

see it like this:
I'm living in a human family. I have 3 silblings and we know each other very well.
there are situations were we "fight". they are short, and most of the time they are just pretended fights, because we don't need to seriously fight.
I have a favorite seat at the dinner table and if my sister sits on my seat, i will send her away.
she'll nag about it, but she'll go to another seat, because she knows, I'm lefty and hate sitting at the right side of a right handed person. they bump into me with their ellbows and I hate that.
So in this situation this specific seat has a higher value for me, than for her.
you could say in this situation, from an outside perspective, I was showing dominant behaviour.
the truth is, that she if I'd take a ressource, that she values more than I do, I would go away (and mope around while doing so) and she'd look like the "dominant" one.
this is not about a hierarchical system of dominance it is actually about communication inside a family.

this is also important for things that one individual can do better than another.
one of my sisters is better at organising. So when there's a party to organise, she's the one giving orders and we others listen to her.
she seems dominant the situation, because we, as her family, know she can do it better that we can...or we just don't want to do it, because it's annoying.
if there's something to carry, I'll do it because I'm the tallest and strongest and I'll send the others away. If there a stranger, it is very likely that our youngest will talk to them, because she's good with people...that doesn't mean that she's the dominant one inside our family.

Things aren't that simple.
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Old 12-07-2015, 10:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mathilda View Post
EDIT:

see it like this:
I'm living in a human family. I have 3 silblings and we know each other very well.
there are situations were we "fight". they are short, and most of the time they are just pretended fights, because we don't need to seriously fight.
I have a favorite seat at the dinner table and if my sister sits on my seat, i will send her away.
she'll nag about it, but she'll go to another seat, because she knows, I'm lefty and hate sitting at the right side of a right handed person. they bump into me with their ellbows and I hate that.
So in this situation this specific seat has a higher value for me, than for her.
you could say in this situation, from an outside perspective, I was showing dominant behaviour.
the truth is, that she if I'd take a ressource, that she values more than I do, I would go away (and mope around while doing so) and she'd look like the "dominant" one.
this is not about a hierarchical system of dominance it is actually about communication inside a family.

this is also important for things that one individual can do better than another.
one of my sisters is better at organising. So when there's a party to organise, she's the one giving orders and we others listen to her.
she seems dominant the situation, because we, as her family, know she can do it better that we can...or we just don't want to do it, because it's annoying.
if there's something to carry, I'll do it because I'm the tallest and strongest and I'll send the others away. If there a stranger, it is very likely that our youngest will talk to them, because she's good with people...that doesn't mean that she's the dominant one inside our family.

Things aren't that simple.
I love your examples! They're awesome.

Its kind of like I was saying with a team. All the team has a part to play. However, a team still has a leader (the coach) and a family still has a leader, usually the father or the mother. A wolf pack is more like a family, where as dogs are unrelated individuals introduced to one another, so more like a team.

.......
I did want to add that Cleo would not have attacked Esther had Kitty not made things worse by causing Esther to snap at her, which made Cleo thing Esther was fighting back.
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Old 12-07-2015, 11:43 AM
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So, to add on to the information I wrote last night, I just thought I would mention a few more things about the social structures and reasons behind social living in other species of animals for a comparison to dogs. Again, I'm really just enjoying sorting this all out and sharing it with others, so thanks for enduring my long writing.

I mentioned hyenas, lions and wild dogs above. Lions social structure being that they can hunt better in a group, while leopards hunt solitary. This way, the two predators don't compete for the same food source. Lions go have zebra, buffalo and wildebeest while leopards go after impala and smaller gazelle.
Lions social structure seems not to include too much dominance, though it certainly does. The oldest, smartest, most experienced lionesses are the best hunters and so will often lead the others. However, they do not show the high stance or low submissive behavior of dogs when greeting one another. Cats social structures are far different from dogs in many ways, such as with groups of feral cats seen together. They are not programmed to develop a social system but instead just have relationships with one another, either good or bad, with the more dominant and aggressive and strong cats being the least afraid and getting the most opportunities in the territory.
Lions social structure is based on sisters and daughters, while the males are brothers in a coalition. The males do not fight one another for access to females and females do not fight one another while greeting, they have to greet one another confidently as showing fear can lead to aggression. However, the males have dominance over females and the females have dominance over the cubs. The cubs show some of the strongest dominance in that older, larger cubs often bully the smaller ones. They get more food, and they get to say when they want to play or not.
However, around a kill, its every lion for themselves. The males are the strongest, so they get first choice. Cubs may be given a chance to eat with the males, or they may be left to eat last. Fighting is very common around the kill.

Unlike the lion, the spotted hyenas (unlike the striped or brown hyenas which live in pairs like jackals and coyotes) are female led. Females have far more testosterone, are larger, stronger, and far more aggressive. Cubs inherit their mothers rights and the more dominant females have rights to bully lower ranking animals. The cubs regularly bully one another to prove they are the strongest and toughest and, in turn, get the best food, shelter, and protection. When the mother of high ranking cubs isn't around, low ranking mothers will not show the same amount of respect towards these cubs as when she is around.
All females in the clan give birth, though the higher ranking females cubs are more likely to survive. However, in wolves and wild dog societies, it is the alpha male and female that breed and have pups, raising them, and not the other members of the pack.

Dholes, Bushdogs, and Ethiopian wolves all live in packs as well, but they differ from wolves and wild dogs also. Ethiopian wolves tend to hunt small prey alone, before returning to their social group. In Bushdogs, I think it is the females that are in control. Dholes are strong enough to hunt tigers if they want to, and so they are forced to be reckoned with when working together.

Jackals and coyotes, however, tend to live in pairs or alone. A mated pair raises their young but tend to hunt alone. Most dogs live in monogamous pairs, including most foxes. Sometimes, a female from last years litter stays to help raise the new young. This is more common in the more social Arctic Fox and Fennec Fox, which almost show a pack like structure in some cases. However, again, these animals forage for small prey on their own. The reason for this social structure is for protection, to raise young, and perhaps just for companionship and a feeling that another has your back if you are injured or if a predator comes around.
Coyotes will join together in packs, particularly the coy-wolves found in the eastern states of the US, when snow is deep and small prey is scarce but will split apart once small prey is available, forming pairs that raise pups alone. More and more coy-wolves are replacing the Eastern Wolf as top predator and is getting bigger, bolder, and more prone to working in packs as they adapt, just like the Red Wolf, which is actually a mix between the coyote and wolf as well.

Looking at other social animal species, you can see some animals live together just because they share a territory. Turtles and frogs may be seen basking near one another regularly, but they do not actually show true social interactions with one another, they just share the pond and basking spots. However, crocodiles show complex behaviors towards one another and have a dominance system based on size, age, and strength. Crocodiles are also one of the only reptiles to remain with their young and assist them after hatching. The males even do it in some species. Their brains are more complex then other reptiles and they are more intelligent, some even forming packs, such as the highly aggressive and intelligent Cuban Crocodile.
Monitor lizards, one of the most intelligent lizards, show a similar behavior when seen together in groups foraging together. They are smart enough to learn simple tricks from a trainer, and seem to enjoy coming to their owners to be petted and sitting with them. Some will ride on their owners shoulders, and they will learn to eat from their owners hands in a trusting manner.

Horses and other prey animals often live in groups because it is how they remain safe, to have as many pairs of eyes and ears as possible. Some prey animals are more social then others. For the most part, guancos (wild llamas) don't like to interact socially, and neither do camels. They don't groom or cuddle with one another. However, donkeys and horses form strong bonds with one another and have highly complex behaviors in their interactions. The lead mare is the experience matriarch and usually takes the front of the herd while the stallion is the boss of the herd, herding them from the back to keep them away from other males.

Chickens, another animal I study a lot, tend to form a hierarchy based on age, even before size. I mentioned that my tiny, bantam rooster (a third the size of a regular rooster) could chase and frighten the younger, but far larger Smaug away from food and females. Hens usually get the position of pecking order based on when they joined the flock. If you start a flock with a rooster and some hens, likely they will stay high in the pecking order as you add new chicks. Low-class hens are usually left to be bred by low class males, while the top rooster keeps close his favorite hens, usually his original ones. Size can affect things among hens, often more than among roosters, where small hens are treated somewhat like outcasts if not raised with the standard chickens themselves, like siblings.

Rodents have very complex social systems. Again, dominance is seen in males, as the males fight for breeding rights and the dominant male is the strongest, most aggressive male who claims ownership of the females. Some rodents live alone, such as the highly antisocial Syrian Hamster, while others live in huge groups, such as rats and mice. Others are in between, such as degus or gerbils and jirds, which may share burrows or territories. Degus even share burrows with other species and will communally nest with them!

Meerkats show female dominance, though there is also an alpha male. The alpha female, however, is the aggressive one, the leader of the group and the one to raise her young. She generally does not tolerate others having pups as well and may attack them or kill the others' pups.

And then come the primates. There are certainly more dominant and less dominant chimps or macaques or baboons, and it often depends on connections. The one who gets along well with the others and is liked, tends to be happier and higher in the social system. The lower-ranking animals get less grooming, and so build up stress more easily.
In such systems, males will fight one another for dominance, but females tend to be more complex in their behaviors towards one another. I don't study primates as closely as a I do carnivorans, but their social systems are very interesting.

How does this all tie in with dogs and wolves? Well, we can look closely at the interactions these packs or teams have with one another and see why one may be more likely to get the right to breed, to feed, or to a warm spot on the couch. Who is the oldest and most experienced in a pack? Why does one individual tend to attack prey first? Why does the alpha pair have the pups and what makes one pup tend to win in play-fights more often then others?
Wolves differ from all other canines, just as all canine species are different from each other. It's what makes the animal kingdom so interesting!
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