You’ve heard of the wolf pack model, and how it’s been debunked as not relevant? Let me address this understanding a little in this article today.
So in answer to the question about the wolf pack Vs family life – while the method that I teach (Amichien Bonding) was certainly developed from watching the wolves in the wild, I don’t really look at what I am teaching as following a wolf pack model. I work with what I see in front of me day in, day out. Stressed out dogs.
The way I see it is like this:
A dog’s priority is knowing that they and you are going to survive. Putting them in a house with a family doesn’t remove them from this being an important consideration. They don’t naturally know that everything is safe and they will come to no harm, so they are keeping their wits about them and wondering where a danger could be coming from. Without us showing them otherwise they will continue to do this until they either work out for themselves that a given thing is okay, or their stress starts to show in a way that we identify as not being right and we do something about it. However (unless it becomes obviious) we aren’t seeing it like this, so it looks different to us. We have created human explanations for a lot of dog behaviour, rather than seeing the fundamental survival instincts at work.
Personally I have been to Yellowstone Park and watched the wolves and spoken with the wolf research team who were also involved in rescuing the domestic dogs after Hurricane Katrina. These dogs, who had only ever been domestic animals, within 48 hours of the storm hitting had already formed packs, with hierarchies and were hunting. This to me absolutely clarified the instincts of the dog. Yes they might never have to follow these instincts if they live with a human family, but that doesn’t mean those instincts aren’t there.
We inhibit the behaviour of a cat a lot less and a lot of them go out hunt, even though they are being fed at home. Most of us have never had to fight or strive to stay alive in our westernised lives, but if push came to shove, our survival instincts would kick in. Even on these survival television programmes, they know that they can get out of their situation as soon as they make the decision to leave – so what we see then is only a fraction of what humans would do if they couldn’t be sure of their survival.
The true nature of a dog could not be clearer to me, but we as a society are programmed to see things differently. When we see the truth, we can empathise and help.