As descendants of wolves, dogs are instinctual pack animals. They instinctually seek to join whatever pack is nearby. This explains why dogs can get along so well with so many other animals, especially other pack or herd animals like horses, cows, and sheep. There’s even at least one case of a dog and elephant becoming best friends.
It’s also why dogs have bonded so well with humans. We too are social creatures and dogs instinctually sense that and seek to join our pack. We humans have become ‘ or should be ‘ their Pack Leaders now.
In a dog pack, there are three positions: front, middle, and rear. The dogs in front lead the pack in search of what they need to survive: food, water, and shelter. They both direct and protect. The dogs in the back are the most sensitive, and their job is to alert the pack to danger.
The dogs in the middle are happy-go-luck mediators. It’s their job to maintain stable energy between the front and the back of the pack ‘ and to settle down packmates that start to show unstable energy, You can easily spot middle of the pack dogs in a dog park ‘ they’re the ones that rush over and break it up when two or more dogs start to play a little too rough or get into a fight.
Every dog can’t be a leader of the pack. Most dog packs have very few leaders, meaning the rest of the dogs are followers. That’s the model for us we bring a dog into our human packs. It’s essential that the humans be Pack Leaders, with the dog following.
If a dog does not have strong pack leadership from its humans, it may become unbalanced, which can lead to confusion, anxiety, or aggression and behavior problems in the dog. A dog can only be balanced and secure when it knows what its humans want and receives very clear and consistent direction.
By bringing dogs into our lives, we make the promise to fulfill their needs, and having a strong Pack Leader meets a dog’s most important psychological and instinctual need.