Can Dogs Live in Groups?

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Introduction

There is a lot of debate regarding whether domestic dogs are pack animals or not, and today we are going to dive a little deeper into the subject. Since dogs are thought to be descendants of wolves, they are instinctually pack-animals (according to one school of thought). 

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

Today, the domesticated dog is largely reliant on scavenging/receiving food from humans, not hunting alongside other dogs. Dogs display numerous behavioral patterns that are similar to that of wolves, but thanks to domestication, dogs have learned other ways to communicate and thrive. This means that dogs have become quite adaptable and, over time, have found ways to live and co-exist with humans as their companions. 

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. 

Body Language

Here are some signs your dog can live in groups:
  • Wag tail
  • Tail up
  • Licking
  • Play bowing

Other Signs

These are other signs your dog may be able to live in a group:
  • Submissive to Dominant Dogs
  • Happy to See Other Dogs
  • Playful and Nonaggressive
  • Shares Toys

History of Dogs Living in Groups

As we discussed earlier, there is a lot of debating surrounding dogs as pack animals that live in groups. If you adhere to the dogs as descendants of wolves - therefore instinctual pack animals - theory, the historical support is endless. Some of the most popular studies involving wolves and then dogs as pack animals can be traced back to the 1970s.

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

Famous dog behaviorist Cesar Millan is a strong advocate for the pack theory, stating that because dogs are descendants of wolves, they naturally look to join other dogs when a pack is nearby. He says this perfectly explains why dogs get along so well with other animals, even those outside their breed. 

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

If you believe your dog is equipped to live with other dogs, it is important you take your time and make sure they are properly trained. The last thing you want to do is introduce your dog to other dogs, only to create an unpleasant home life for one or more animals. Observe your dog's behaviors - on their own, around you and other humans, and with other dogs. This will give you invaluable information and help you assess if your dog is ready for some other furry friends! 

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

  • Stay calm!
  • 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.
  • Pay attention!