Monday, April 30, 2012

What is a Pack?

I have avoided writing on this subject for a very long time... and mainly because what is written in text, holds you accountable, even if the matter of the subject was misinterpreted by the reader... but its time I give it a shot. It's not just this question I have avoided... amongst other "avoided topics" are, what is dominance? What is drive? How do you build drive? I may tackle all of these over the next few blog posts... but back to what is a pack? Where ever I go, I here people referring to themselves as leader of their pack, or having a stable pack, or a completely disorganized pack... and I say to them "What the heck are you on about?" Literally. I define a pack as a group of animals that "survive" as a family unit. That is the most simplest definition I can provide. By survival, this family unit practices the art of survival, through play, hunt (food), seeks shelter, and bonds through various routines such as "grooming" or "licking" etc. These bonding exercises are more for comforting and assurance, as well as status assurance, while play exercises teach them to develop skills that will later assist in daily life and survival. The practice of all these derive from an animals natural and innate mechanism called Drives. A pack is a blood family unit, until an animal reaches sexual maturity and goes out to look for its own partner, and than strives to procreate and start its on family. Not every animal has the ability to do so, this is dictated by many things... natural selection. A pack can be formed by non blood family members, but a groups of animals is only defined as a pack, if they practice the art of survival together. For example, a family with four dogs does not necessarily have a pack of dogs just because they live together. Many times, these animals can learn to co-exist amongst one another, but not as a unit called a "pack." Pack animals are very much team oriented. When separated from one another, they will call for one another, seek one another, and many times you will find that the members of that pack have emotions that we will not see in groups of dogs that are not Pack units. These emotions are elicited through the art of survival, and is not seen in groups of dogs. For example, at Doglando, many people comment on how stable our "pack is." The term "pack" is used very loosely in dog lingo... but has a very valuable and in depth meaning. Our dogs at Doglando are nothing more than a group of dogs, that is taught to coexist, and socialize... they practice no other drive together, than the drive to play. But, even this practice of building upon the "play" drive, is not developed like the play drive of a pack of dogs, because the dogs are constantly changing. Within our group of dogs, you will may see a pack... but that is rare. As a matter of fact, out of all the hundreds of dogs we see a week, many of whom belong to families with multiple dogs, there is only one true pack of dogs I can recall. These are the Whitley dogs, Honey, Theo and Mattie. Their story is fascinating, but without going too deep into that, what is incredible is how cohesive their unit is, and how structured it is. Although they are fixed, and their lack of sexual drive disables them from practicing the entire art of survival, they act most pack like than any other companion group of dogs I have seen. I think in companion dogs, because we do not allow pack development; where dogs are separated from their family units from an early age, then altered preventing them from starting their own family unit, and additionally not allowed to practice hunting for their own food... which also kills their play drive, and predatory drive, we have created mis use for what may still be instinctual, now resulting in unbalance. Packs are not dysfunctional units, they are very functional units with common goals in life = Survival. The align themselves to be the strongest team possible, and they spend a lot of time developing relationships within, cohesion, structure and trust, so that should they need to defend, protect or hunt, they know exactly how its done. Its is not then that they determine their roles, or practice their feat.... animals that hunt are creatures of conservation... they don't waste energy. Packs are also not made up of individuals with different agendas. For example, many of our multi dog households are comprised of groups of dogs that vary in breed. Each one of these dogs have different desires, and may have very different ways of surviving. I believe this dynamics is correlated to why dogs redirect or displace aggression, because in packs, this would not happen. Its not inhibited through fear or aversion or so called "dominance" or "alpha/pack leader" its inhibited through trust and respect. This is another reason why our entities are not packs, but rather groups of dogs that have learned to co-exist. Can these groups learn to perform as in a pack dynamics? Yes, if they practiced the life skills needed for Survival together and their dependency for each other was based on survival rather than emotional support only. This dynamics is complex... it is not as simple as it is referred to especially in our world of companion dogship. IMO.

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