Pack Leader, Explained

There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about training your dog and how to become the “pack leader”. When I received my personal protection dog years ago from CC Protection Dogs, the trainers went into detail about how my dog was trained. In addition, I remember a story they told me about another trainer who called them for advice on how to work with a dog who had reached a learning impasse.

During the discussion with the trainer he explained his attempt to become the “pack leader” over a dog that had a variety of behavioral problems. One method he employed was biting the ear of the dog. Another ritual he adopted as a training technique involved “alpha” rolling the dog, like wolves in nature. The trainer was correct in his desire for control but his misunderstanding of the dynamics of the human/dog relationship means he was going about it the wrong way.
I’ve heard other people advocate this type of training and I’ve come to the conclusion that dogs understand their role in the human world better than humans understand it. Simply put, they don’t view humans as other dogs. I’m certain my executive protection dog doesn’t!

Actually, it’s a good thing. Considering the complexity and intricacy of canine interactions, it is arrogant to think that humans are able to accurately replicate it. Given that dogs are masters when it comes to body language, they view human attempts at imitating canine behavior as abnormal at best. When a dog bites another dog’s ear there is much more going on than meets the eye, more than we understand.

Observing wolf behavior highlights the differences between wolves and dogs. Dogs are not wolves. The ways in which wolves interface should not be applied to our own interactions with dogs; nor should the way dogs interface with each other. The differences are apparent. While wolves do all that they can to avoid humans, dogs readily leave their littermates to join them (the reverse of the pack instinct). Dogs will even defend their two-legged human companion against another dog. They are fully committed to defending their human handlers whereas in nature pack leaders often have to defend their position from members of their own pack. These behaviors, a few of many, demonstrate that dogs view us differently than they view their own kind.

So when asserting yourself with your Personal Protection Dogs or canine companion, please keep in mind that he or she does not see you as another dog. Dogs see us as something they think is even better: a human.