Dog Pack Dynamics and Compatibility Concerns

Dog PackAdding a new dog to your house is always an exciting idea. Most people think the dogs will be best friends and entertain each other. However, having more than one dog means you are developing a dog pack.

There is a lot to consider when pack dynamics are involved. Pack Design should be given serious consideration. First, you want to take a moment to describe your existing dog(s).

Are they leaders or followers? Do they guard their food/toys or your home? Do they have good manners? How old are the existing dogs? Any health problems? How old are you kids?

A New Dog Should Complement Your Existing Dog Pack

The best plan should include a bit of ying and yang. Firstly, You want to add a dog that will balance or complement the strength and weaknesses of your existing dog or dog pack.

Secondly, how skilled are you in managing a group of dogs? Are you a dog park veteran? Have you ever broken up a fight? Do you like rules in your home or are you more of a free spirit?

Thirdly, have you researched thoroughly the breed characteristics of the dog you are considering? While behavior can be changed and behaviors can be taught, it’s a tough road to change basic temperament. The answers to these questions should help you decide if that cute puppy in the window is right for your pack.

Characteristics of a Follower

Let’s discuss the first set of questions. If you already have a firm dog leader in your household, you want to add a dog that is a follower. This is especially true if your existing dog guards things in your home.

How do you spot a follower? They will constantly check in with the dogs or humans around with eye contact before they act. They will also give up toys and food to other dogs. The only downside is that the follower will imitate your existing dog’s behavior – the good, the bad & the ugly. Two or three dogs that bark, jump or run away is quite different than one.

A Dog Pack and Small Children

One of the most serious considerations is if you have small children or small dogs. A pack of dogs can be harder to control and may knock over small children (or something worse) if not well controlled.

Predatory Drift

There is a phenomenon called Predatory Drift. You may see this in your home once you have a pack or see it at a dog park. A single dog gets injured or scared, yelps, and it triggers a kill response in the pack. You can’t always tell which dogs may resort to Predatory Drift just by looking at them, but it is more prevalent in dogs that don’t have self-control or high prey instincts.

Age Compatibility

One final comment about age and compatibility: Getting dogs too close in age can be problematic. While you want your pack to get along, you also want harmony. Constant rough play can escalate into aggression of many types. Pick dogs that are at least 3 yrs apart. This will also help your heart when dogs near the end of their life. You don’t want them to all go at once.

Wags & Wiggles is well-schooled in the ways of dogs. We are happy to spend a few minutes talking to you over the phone or responding to an email should have concerns about how to design your pack.

One Response

  • We adopted Fred through Laurie. She knew of Chloe (our slightly older alpha-wanna-be). She required us to bring Chloe and introduce her to Fred (then about 6 months old) to see if they were compatible. She explained the behaviors we were seeing and felt that the two would be compatible.
    Boy, was she spot-on. Fred became Chloe’s most ardent fan and is still her best buddy. He has also included us (the humans) in his pack and has quietly taught us how to behave in his world.
    Laurie and W&W know what they’re talking about when talking pack dynamics and personalities.

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