The Dog is a Wolf – Oh No He’s not! By Sally Gutteridge

Dog training takes many forms, it can be bullying a dog into carrying out or stopping a certain act or it can be understanding the dog and actually teaching him, or her, the most helpful way to behave in any given situation. A common tactic towards training dogs is that of the ‘be a pack leader’ school of thought.

The collective group of dogs is called a pack, we know this, yet we should not automatically assume that the word means that dog behavior is similar to the behavior of a wolf. For the following reason.

The Real Wolf Pack

Pack Dynamics Has Been Misunderstood. The wolf, untouched by humans, has a very specific pack dynamic. It is the fully functional family group that is managed carefully and perfectly by its parent members. The wild wolf pack stays clear of humans and rather than dominate their young they introduce and utilize a kind discipline and respect. The parents lead the hunt and will feed first if they desire, this is true, however they certainly do not rule by fear or physical threats. Within the perfectly functioning wolf pack there is rarely ever a need for aggression or threats.

This is information that we are still gathering as members of the human species that is finding ever increasing ways of observing completely wild creatures and the way that they behave.

This knowledge on the affairs of a wild animal has not always been ours to utilize. We initially began to study wolves in a very different circumstance we or more accurately the science behind the theory of dominance, started by studying wolves behind fences.

Many of the animals in the study were not bonded and were certainly not a family group yet we trusted them to act as a natural, wild wolf pack would act.

Naturally the animals squabbled, were insecure, worried about resources and became aggressive on a regular basis. The behavior, at this point was misinterpreted as natural wolf/dog acts carried out to become the ‘leader’ of the pack. This is the situation and resulting theory that led to a wave of ‘pack leadership’ based dog training.

Sadly the results of this theory, although never proven (as theory never is) and actually disproven time and again still shapes a lot of dog training practice. This practice takes dog owners and trainers further away from understanding their dogs for the following reason.

Dogs are not wolves and their behavior is very different to wolves based on thousands of years of separate evolution, artificial selection and genetic modification.


Leave a Comment