Dominance and hierarchy

Of what I've read about dogs in books/websites and on the Dogster Forums, there seems to be a debate about whether humans should respect the hierarchy that dogs establish among themselves or if humans as pack leaders should set the order.

Some believe that if you own multiple dogs, you should simply let the dogs figure our their own order and then respect that order. And by "respect that order", I mean feed the more dominant one first, greet the more dominant one first, etc. I've read claims that if you don't respect that order, more fights may ensue.

On the other hand, some (like Cesar Millan) believe that the human as the pack leader sets the hierarchy.

Yesterday, I witnessed some interesting behavior at the dog park in favor of the Cesar Millan camp. Loki was humping a Jack Russell Terrier. A slightly larger black dog (it kind of looked like a Jindo to me) for some reason didn't want Loki doing this. I have no clue why the Jindo didn't like this, but it clearly didn't. The Jindo was about 30 feet away in a separate cluster of dogs and people. As soon as it saw Loki start humping, it raced across and herded Loki away from the Jack Russell Terrier. And every time Loki started going back for the Terrier, the Jindo would herd Loki away again. After a couple times, Loki just stopped going for the Terrier.

It seems to me that if a more dominant dog does not like some behavior (such as Loki humping the Jack Russell Terrier), it can and will stop it. I don't know what motivated the Jindo to do this. It didn't want to hump the Jack Russell Terrier and it also didn't want to hump Loki. The Jindo just didn't want Loki to hump the Jack Russell Terrier. And after it was done herding Loki away, it went back to its original cluster of dogs and people.

One possibility is that the Jindo and the Jack Russell Terrier are in the same family, so one was protecting the other. But they didn't appear to hang out together much. And it didn't appear to me that they were owned by the same human.

To me, this behavior was evidence in favor of the pack leader having some limited ability to establish it's own hierarchy. I say "limited ability", because while you can make a more dominant dog exhibit less dominant behavior, you can't make a more submissive dog exhibit more dominant traits.

1 comment:

Briana said...

A very interesting post.. I've noticed in my own little family of mismatched pets (2 cats, one bird, and now my shiba) that i've been able to keep the oldest cat roughly at the "top" by making sure he gets to keep his favorite place to lay down and feeding him separately (sometimes first, sometimes last). If I had just left them all to their own devices and never interfered, he'd be at the bottom based on his personality. Same with the bird.. they all know to leave her alone cause she's "mine." That's not to say that they havent' had time to figure out each other boundries on their own, they just know not to go too far.

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