Sadly the method that I teach sometimes gets criticised by people who refer to it as pack theory dog behaviour training, and claim that this is a dated method and dogs do not think like that. First of all, I would like to make it clear that I do not profess to teach pack theory dog behaviour. I teach Amichien Bonding. The technique of communicating with your dog in a language that it understands, and the natural instincts that it possess, which resolves behaviour problems. Many of the key points of this do concern a dogs understanding of it’s place within the dynamics of the home – which some would refer to as pack theory. It does not however (as often stated in texts against this natural technique) claim that dogs can’t tell the difference between dogs and humans. Dogs do not think we are the same as they. They are trying to communicate with us, and they get very mixed signals in return, because we are not the same as them! It is these mixed signals which lead to the problems which cause dog behaviour issues. What I do is teach people how to communicate with a dog in its own language, so it then understands what is expected of it.
The pack theory dog behaviour school of thought is that if your dog knew that there was a hierarchy in place, then know that it wasn’t the top of that hierarchy, then the behaviour problems would be resolved. There is a significant truth to that. Dogs do understand pack dynamics and they do need to know that they are not at the top of it, as this will keep them from being stressed. It’s the stress that is the main cause of the dog behaviour problems, and the dog’s instinct that there is a survival issue at stake, and that the one who is in charge of the pack is responsible for keeping the pack safe. So even if you have a ‘submissive’ dog, there are still going to be survival issues which (in the dog’s eyes) need to be dealt with. If you don’t deal with those issues in the way a dog understands then problems arise.
A large part of the information that your dog needs to see from you is consistent boundaries in place (like a child would), reassuring behaviour at certain key times, that there is a meaningful consequence if they step out of line, and they need to know that they are being looked after (not vice versa). You could refer to this as pack theory dog behaviour if you wished. It is a highly effective and very kind way of communicating with your dog, enjoying your relationship with them, and respecting the differences between you and them. With this clear understanding, everyone in the household is happier and less stressed.
Recently on a trip to Sri Lanka I saw numerous dogs operating in packs, as well as ones that were on their own. Which ever way round it was, their key concerns were getting food and warding off dangers from their territory – this is their natural instinct. Understand the instinct, understand the dog. There will always be people who don’t agree with pack theory dog behaviour because it isn’t the way that they have learnt to bring up a dog. The question I always ask myself is “do they actually understand what we teach, or have they just written it off regardless…?” Sadly, the latter I think.