If you think about it this way, it makes sense why most dogs are able to get along well with other animals. Power in numbers, right? However, many believe the notion that dogs are pack animals because wolves are is simply not true. Many early pack theory studies were conducted on captive wolves, where the animals had no choice but to live together.
So this leaves us in a bit of a tough position. There are great arguments on either side of the "can dogs live in groups" debate, making it difficult to take a strong stance either way.
The bottom line? Yes, many dogs thrive in groups and feed off of the energy of other animals, whereas other dogs do better on their own. It is up to pet owners to understand their dogs and what is best for them. Don't simply make the decision for your dog to live with others based on the pack theory. Get to know your dog and do what is best for them.
Signs Your Dog Can Live in a Group
So how do you know if your dog is okay to live with other dogs? First and foremost, it is important to observe your dog carefully and never take risks. If you think your dog may welcome other dogs into your home, experiment a little before making a final decision.
Introduce them to other dogs and pay attention to how they react when there is a group of dogs around. Do they become territorial? Are they aggressive? Or do they happily run up to any new dog and make friends? These are all important signs to look for and will help you determine if your dog is equipped for group living.
- Wag tail
- Tail up
- Play bowing
- Submissive to Dominant Dogs
- Happy to See Other Dogs
- Playful and Nonaggressive
- Shares Toys
History of Dogs Living in Groups
We mentioned this study earlier, but many have debunked the pack animal theory based on the fact that the study used captive wolves that simply had no other choice than to live in a group. This makes it difficult to trace the pack animal theory as applied to dogs.
However, there are TONS of studies out there that can provide you with more information regarding the pack theory and where it stemmed from if you so desire.
Science Behind Dogs Living in Groups
Furthermore, Millan believes this is why dogs have become so bonded with humans. As the pet owner, you are the natural pack leader. In this same theory, there are three positions in the pack - front, middle, and rear. As you probably can guess, the dog in the front is the leader and more dominant of the group, whereas the dog bringing up the rear is submissive to the pack and the middle dog is the happy mediator without a care in the world.
Not all dogs are or want to be the leader of the pack. In fact, when dogs live in groups, there are usually very few leaders. There is an instinctual hierarchy that we may not even be able to understand. When we bring a dog into our 'human pack', it is important to establish ourselves as the pack leader. Again, this is just one theory, albeit a very popular one.
Training Your Dog to Live in a Group
When it comes to training your dog to live in a group, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Make sure your dog has basic obedience training
- Walk your dog on a leash but make sure the leash isn't too tight
- Walk your dog with a basket muzzle (this can help calm some dogs)
- Practice avoidance when other dogs approach
- Try introducing your dog to several new dogs at once in a controlled environment (this could help if your dog is territorial)
How to React When Your Dog Meets New Dogs
Use basic obedience commands.
Reward your dog for good behavior.
If your dog becomes aggressive, remove them from the situation.
Safety Tips for Helping Your Dog Interact with Other Dogs
Be patient and observe your dog closely.
Never pull too hard on their leash.
If you notice an aggressive dog, calmly remove yours from the situation.