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Dogs and social behaviour

This is a discussion on Dogs and social behaviour within the Training and Behavior Stickies forums, part of the Dog Training and Behavior category; "mob mentality"... thats a better way of putting it. thank you. ive always looked to say it another way, but as long as i have ...

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Old 07-02-2011, 06:12 AM
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"mob mentality"... thats a better way of putting it. thank you. ive always looked to say it another way, but as long as i have been working with dogs, its been known as "packing up", so i guess i never thought too much about repharasing that.

thanks also for answering that other question. thats basically what i was going to say, but i felt like "just because" would be what it amounted to... and i wasnt sure if thats exactly the truth. lol
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Old 07-02-2011, 08:35 AM
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Okay, here I go....

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Originally Posted by Blue pup View Post
If anyone could help me this would be awesome. My question: what are dogs?
Dogs, very generally, are traditionally referred to as a subspecies of the grey wolf (Canis lupus). Wolves and humans came into contact and built close social bonds, either through companionship, or initially teamwork in hunting and protecting goods. There are many theories on how initial contact was made, although the most supported seems to be that wolves scavenged on human food waste, following groups of hunter-gatherers around.

This close relationship flourished and new forms of wolf-like canids formed. Humans began distributing themselves around the world, taking their dogs with them, which them bred with other indigenous wolf populations, whilst also being selectively bred by humans. It is very hard to pin down one typical 'wolf' or 'dog' due to the high amounts of crossbreeding that occurred between different populations. The expected time of domestication (humans artificially breeding and dogs' genetics actually adapting to the human environment) was, until very recently, believed to be around 15,000 years ago. However, recent archaeological evidence shows that a dog skull was said to be found 32,000 years ago. However, it is still difficult to be sure as, although dogs and wolves have different morphological measurements very generally, it is still difficult to discover what's a dog skull and a wolf skull due to the amounts of crossbreeding- a larger dog skull, a smaller wolf skull?

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I grew up being taught that dogs are pack animals - like wolves. However as I did more research I found info that said that dogs are actually more like scavengers and more independent - since having to share food would be a disadvantage in this case.
Yes, wolves are typical pack animals. But dogs, as research on feral dog populations has shown us, are more scavenger like, do not form strict social groupings like wolves, have different mating patterns and cycles etc. Check out Bradshaw et al (2009) for a good synthesis.

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I also wonder why do dogs do the things they do when with other dogs?
Why are some dogs so dog agressive - is it genetics, the fact that they didn't recieve much socialization, or that they were taken from their litter too early?
Most likely mixes of all three, plus detrimental learning experiences and traumatic incidents. Genetics does have an affect on personality, however the ontological process seems to shape phenotypes and behavioural traits more so.

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Why do dogs hump other dogs - do they consider this fun, are they trying to get the other dogs attention? (as well as the fact that it is a life skill )
Humping is a Fixed or Modal Action Pattern- an innate behaviour that is crucial to survival. Others include fight, flight and freeze. Humping comes under another 'f' word...

Humping is quite an automatic process in dogs, I think. When they become over-aroused (in play, sex, over-stimulating environments) they may use humping to be able to engage in some behaviour and calm themselves down.

Quote:
Why do some dogs bully certain dogs and not others?
Social ineptness. Usually something lacking in their socialisation, which makes them unable to communicate and interact with other dogs sensibly. Like the school bully, something deeper is probably wrong in their lives to make them do what they are doing, and I think it is the same in dogs.

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What exactly is "dominance"? What roll does it play in a dogs social behaviour. Why is it often thought that dogs are trying to "dominated" others (dogs/people) while they could actually be playing?

I just would really like to undertsand a dogs behaviour in general a bit more... Especially so called "pack" behaviour...
Okay, 'dominance' has a number of definitions, which is why people get confused and use it so incorrectly.

In ethology, dominance is a description of relationships, more specifically, a role in a relationship. It is not to do about personality, as personalities change the whole time and a dog classified as 'the dominant' in one relationship, might be a 'subordinate' in another. For something to be classified as a dominance-subordinate relationship, there needs to be a equally-valued resource at stake- both parties must want it and, through agonistic body postures and vocalisations, one dog may 'win' the interaction consistently.

If that dog does 'win' (the issue of 'winning' is something that has never been really defined) consistently (e.g. a dog wins a bone 20 out of 20 times) that dog could be classified as fulfilling 'the dominant' role in the relationship, as the other member in the dyad will consistently defer to the other member. Deference is the most important aspects of relationships, as this is how relationships are maintained...not through physical dominance and intimidation (although this may be an aspect of the relationship).

In hierarchies, the parents (breeding pair) are the dominant animals (with perhaps the male being the 'most dominant'). However, when it comes to domestic dogs, these labels get blown out of proportion. For their to be dominance, there has to be a hierarchy. Without a hierarchy and consistent relationships, dominance cannot exist. So the two dogs who meet each other in the park as strangers, or even once or twice a week, cannot be said to have a dominance relationship as there are no resources at stake, no consistent relationship and, most importantly, no hierarchy...presumably because there is no need for a hierarchy.

Dogs have all their resources controlled for them. Their lives are not at stake, they have vet cover, they get fed consistently, they don't need to compete (although some will RG, this is a training and socialisation issue primarily).

People who follow 'pack behaviour' fall into the pitfall of misunderstanding dominance. People think that dog packs are controlled with aggression and force, thinking that only the strongest individual can lead the pack/group. However, we know that packs are family units, controlled by age and perhaps sex. The older you are, the more privileges you have. Dominance is just a way of objectively labeling a members role in the hierarchy, not to imply one animal physically aggresses towards others to take the leadership role. Structure and roles are not fought for. A breeding pair have their offspring, that offspring will leave the pack around 2 years of age, with some females helping raise the new offspring. In effect, all members have the ability to become dominant animals if they secure a mate when they leave a pack.

Hope this is was helpful, sorry for the long post. I felt like waffling

Last edited by Rottiefan; 07-02-2011 at 08:38 AM.
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Old 07-02-2011, 10:30 AM
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Thanks for the info! Things make more sense now!
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Old 07-02-2011, 10:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GreatDaneMom View Post
finally i got my computer up and running so i can reply to this.


this is a pretty general question that could go in a lot of different directions, so i cant really answer that too well.
how they are raised for the most part. if you have a dog who is 6yrs old and never been around or played with other dogs, theyre most likely not going to behave as appropriately (or at all) as a dog who has been around other dogs their entire lives and learned what is and is not appropriate social behavior. as much as dogs come with a certain amount of "hard wiring", there is tons about social behavior that they need to learn by being around other dogs. such as when another dog has had enough and are giving them warnings. this is something you see at the early puppyhood stage.... puppies push the buttons of older adult dogs and seem to ignore their warnings (growling, avoiding the puppy, etc) that say they have had enough. a well socialized adult will proceed to give the pup a good warning, good being that they may snap and growl at the pup, but they do not harm the pup- just scare it. an adult who lacks social skills may bite and hurt the pup right away. and this is where a pup will learn "ok that means they dont really want to play with me anymore" and learn to stop their behavior at this point. just an example of learning appropriate social skills.
i agree with this. BUT i do think there is a certain level of pack mentality held in their hard wiring. here is an example: a group of 30 dogs at daycare. a fight breaks out between two of them, the effect? when you watch this its like all the dogs are pieces of metal and the fight is a giant magnet that was just turned on. the dogs swarm to the fight an all put in cheap shots and try to get in on it. same as if a dog screams in pain in a group of dogs, they all rush to it and attack it. theres just an example of that pack mentality that seems to be somewhere in their brain.

same as above. socialization or lack of. genetics and breed play into it. you will see boxers who will jump and play with their paws "boxing" another dog, which is just how boxers play... now you may have an aussie on the recieving end of that who would rather run than rough house and become angered by this style of play. hard wiring and fixed action patterns also play into social behavior.
usually its not that they were taken from their litter too early. this typically ends up in poor bite inhabition, fear issues, etc. not so much dog aggression. genetics do play a role. i hate to use this as an example but its a good one at this point: say you have a pit bull who is from fighting lines. the pedigree is all dogs who have faught. you have a high chance of that dog being dog aggressive because its in the hard wiring of that dog. i hate using pits as an example, but its just an easy one to understand. lack of socialization can play a role, but its not so much that the lack is what causes the aggression. the lack can cause inappropriate play leading to constant bad expieriences when playing with other dogs (dogs always get annoyed and correct that dog, fights begin because the dog ignores the warnings of other dogs, etc.) now that dog begins to be on the defense when around other dogs because nothing good ever happens to him, and from there the aggression (which really is fear) builds. one bad expierience with another dog can also trigger that: *enter stage left, my dog Chloe.* she was a well rounded pup, played well with ALL dogs, happy, great social skills. one beagle attacked her. she didnt fight back, and he just kept going... he left punctures on her muzzle and ears... from then on, my dog is dog aggressive. its not that she hates other dogs and just feels the need to rip them apart, but its a fear. shes scared the dog will hurt her, and what runs through her mind is "i have to get them before they get me".

its a fixed action pattern thats for sure. you mentioned that so im sure youre aware of the connection of FAPs and playing. another thing is that its a way to release energy while playing. like barking, running, etc. everything a dog does when it plays is releasing a certain amount of energy.
this i dont know how to really answer.....
it depends on the dog. some dogs are very soft and dont really get mad... like my Lexi. she can be annoyed to no end with a dog whos not reading her signals correctly, and she will just stand there, head hung low looking at me to remove the dog. she just doesnt react. some dogs react from seeing other dogs reacting, etc. its individual to the dog.
i dont hear so much anymore that a dog is trying to dominate another one. i hear more of dogs being "aggressive" when they are just playing (ex: your vocal players are sometimes percieved as aggressive when they are just playing) while i dont believe in dog/human dominance, i do believe there is dog/dog dominance, but i dont see it often. dominance is just really a social ranking, but even looking at true pack animals (like wolves) that ranking is not permanent. its ever changing. i dont think dominance is easily defined, its not about what dog goes through the door first, or guarding toys, or who plays on top or on bottom. i think dominance between dogs is few and far between. in daycare i have dogs who want to correct the other dogs and police them all. most people call them dominant, i dont. i see an ego trip or a dog who thinks their helping and doing a job. but thats just how i feel about dominance in dogs. im no scientist or anything, i just can only say what i see.


well... i hope this helps you a little... and i hope i was right about SOMETHING in there lol
Awesome post! I agree.
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Old 07-02-2011, 10:31 PM
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I must say I pretty much agree with everything posted (and after so many years here, I must say how happy it makes me to see what a knowlegable board this place has become )

anyway, heres my crack at it
Quote:

My question: what are dogs? What is a dogs social behaviour/structure based around? I dunno if I'm sounding complicated -I'm trying to word things right, so sorry if I'm being complicated...
I have seen it described as "fleeting friendships" and I must agree with that. They are scavengers. Domestication has changed dogs in so many ways. Recently I read about a bird species that had shown an evolutionary divergence from wild type in about 33ish generation of being fed by humans. Both physically and behaviorally.

Evolution and artificial selection can change things VERY quickly. People think it takes an eternity to domesticate som'thing.. The fox experiment also proves that domestication happens quickly.




Quote:
I grew up being taught that dogs are pack animals - like wolves. However as I did more research I found info that said that dogs are actually more like scavengers and more independent - since having to share food would be a disadvantage in this case.
the long history as scavengers is also why I believe that dogs are omnivores.


Quote:
I also wonder why do dogs do the things they do when with other dogs?
Why are some dogs so dog agressive - is it genetics, the fact that they didn't recieve much socialization, or that they were taken from their litter too early?
Genes are huge. That said, they have found that clones grow up with different skill set and behavior, I wish I knew how much. Which I find interesting. Generally its a combo of genes, experience, etc..

another thing I must add, I guess this falls into enviroment, is that they found stressing the pregnant bitch also affects the temperament of the puppies.
Quote:

Why do dogs hump other dogs - do they consider this fun, are they trying to get the other dogs attention? (as well as the fact that it is a life skill )

Life skill!!!

It feels good, and play. Its a FAP. The others explained it to a T so I wont bother.


Quote:
Why do some dogs bully certain dogs and not others?
I think they pick up on the other dogs mannerisms, I think it can be experience. I do think that the term "bully" can be construed differently, and most bullies are simply rude/unsocialized or are frustrated the other dog wont play. This is where I see most bullying amonst dogs. One wants to play and the other doesnt. Ah, love.
Quote:

What exactly is "dominance"? What roll does it play in a dogs social behaviour. Why is it often thought that dogs are trying to "dominated" others (dogs/people) while they could actually be playing?
its a romantic idea to primates who by nature are one of the few animals that have non ritualistic violence. Dominance in tech terms is not a fixed personality trait. One bone, two dogs, one dog gets it. That dog is dominant. Same situation, next day, the other dog gets it, now that dog is dominant. Its about competition over resources. Thats it. It really is a useless term when used correctly.
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Last edited by Criosphynx; 07-02-2011 at 10:33 PM.
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