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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This may seem like an outlandish idea but please bare with me :)

I am looking for some dog pack organisational structures for a dog sanctuary. This may be of use in general for dog sanctuaries and would be of use to me in the sanctuary at which I am currently volunteering.

Approximate details of the sanctuary as are follows:
  • 100 dogs
  • cages of 1 to 3 dogs
  • new dogs are added as they are presented
  • dogs are homed in batches every few weeks
  • 4 full time staff members
  • small regular volunteer group
  • large irregular dog walking volunteer group
  • vet mostly offsite
  • dogs are typically walked by cage group with limited socialisation with other cage groups while walking
  • volunteer walkers typically do not walk the same dogs on each occasion
  • some dogs with particular challenges have been resident for a long period of time
Additional details of the sanctuary are not provided as this query is unofficial and I am not part of the organisational team.

I am hoping someone has some organisational theory (links) or practical advice to allow dogs to rehabilitate faster though novel methods e.g.
  • socialised or calm dominant dogs to socialise other dogs.
  • selection/rotation of cage occupants to develop calm nurturing spaces and balancing dog energy
  • sub packs within sanctuary consisting of a number of cages to generate a stable hierarchy across the whole sanctuary

Rather than volunteers working with individual dogs or cages of dogs I was wondering if a culture could be brought into existence within the pack of the sanctuary and that the humans could facilitate the dogs to propagate and develop this culture.

I am generally curious about the following
  • how big a dog pack can get and function
  • if the level of calm socialisation with humans is inversely proportional to the size of the dog pack
  • what the factors are effecting the rate at which socialisation can occur
  • any case studies which have been completed to put these or similar theories to the test.

Thank you very much for you time and consideration. I understand that you are very busy people and I am very appreciative.

Alex
 

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Hi, and welcome. Its an interesting question but I'm not sure if any of our regular members have experience of working with large numbers of dogs (i may be wrong).

My first thought though is what the dogs are being rehabilitated from, and what the end goal is. For example, some dogs are more dog friendly than others, some are more reserved. There is nothing wrong with either of these things (provided the friendly one is not allowed to make a nuisance of himself) so it isn't a problem that has to be fixed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
@JoanneF thanks for the great reply.

End goal: socialise dogs enough that adopters can easily visualise dogs in their human family pack. Dogs who do not gain access to a human family pack due to injury/behaviour/other factors that they have a good quality life with a dog + staff/volunteer pack.

I agree, dogs all have their own personality and may need to be supported in different ways. Allowing this work to be achieved by setting up a pack of socialised dogs and incrementally adding new non socialised dogs to this cultural pack might be more efficient than trying to achieve this in small groups where social norms are much less clear. Allowing fearful/energetic(friendly) dogs to integrate with pack culture over time may normalise certain behaviours to limits that human families might be more comfortable with.

Larger pack would might have the following risks:
  • more complex dominance hierarchy which the dogs would need to resolve occasionally though conflict/negotiation
  • increased speed of disease spread
  • increased separation anxiety when homed with humans
  • competitive feeding

N.B. I am a new volunteer and may be confused :)

@BigBlackDog thanks for sharing the link. I will give them a call later today and see if they can explain to be the risks and rewards of this model.

I have been a university lecturer for many years and the lack of learning support BETWEEN students has always been a pet area of development for me, I guess now that my students have 4 paws I wonder how it transfers 😂

Thanks for all your help and any other suggestions welcome!
 

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Its a complex issue. The first thing for me would be to ask what is the source or cause of the fear.

If the fear is of humans, I'm not sure that putting the fearful dog in with a pack of more confident dogs would help resolve that fear. The dog might bond with the other dogs and then have no emotional or psychological 'need' for humans. But I am speculating, I don't know this for a fact.

If the fear is of other dogs, putting a dog with other dogs is similar to throwing someone with a fear of snakes into a snake pit (I'm guessing that isn't your plan though).
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
@JoanneF thanks for the words of wisdom. I think treating individual needs of the dogs would indeed help.

I am interested in how the pack can assist a dog as their time commitment to a dog is much greater than a humans.
I contacted the sanctuary in Costa Rica so I will see if they get back.
 
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