Alpha drive, Pack dog and Bonding

Dogs are natural pack animals. In the wild, they form groups, usually with one leader. This instinct to form groups is what is known as "pack drive. Some dogs have more pack drive than others. It is imperative that the handler recognizes how strong the pack drive is in their dog. A stable dog has a healthy balance between its pack drive and the confidence to function alone.

If your dog is constantly by your side and doesn't like to explore, it probably has very high pack drive or it lacks confidence. Therefore, encourage your dog to explore by taking him to an enclosed, safe park and let him wander off leash. In addition, let a friend take your dog for a walk without you and encourage people to feed your dog treats.

Dogs with very independent natures might have very little pack drive. Simply spending more time with this kind of dog encourages a stronger pack drive. If you are in a safe area with this type of dog and they are constantly wandering off without any acknowledgement of you, hide behind a tree and let them come looking for you. Make sure the situation and area is safe for this exercise.

As soon as a dog is not alone, whether with humans or other dogs, it naturally establishes a hierarchy. No matter how strong your dog's pack drive is, the dog must recognize you as the "alpha" dog. This means you are in charge of the pack. Some dogs may challenge you for the alpha position and this can lead to numerous unpleasant problems. However, there are several things you can do that can prevent such a problem.

1. Proper obedience training quickly teaches a dog that it must obey what you say and respect your authority.

2. Do not allow the dog to sleep on your bed or lay on a couch or sofa. You and the dog are not equals.

3. Have your dog on a feeding schedule and feed your dog after you eat your meal, not before or at the same time.

4. When going through a doorway, you walk through first and the dog walks in afterwards.

5. Avoid getting a dog that is too strong for you and that you cannot physically control. If you do have a dog that is much stronger than you, make sure to use the proper tools to equalize the situation.

I don't believe there can ever be too much of a bond between dog and handler, however, the pack drive might be too high when the dog cannot work independently. This is different than a strong bond with the handler. You can have a tremendous bond with your dog and still have the ability to work on its own. In fact, sometimes the stronger the bond, the more confident the dog is when working independently. The bond is made through time spent with the dog and through love. This bond is has to come from the heart. You have to love your dog and he needs to feel it. Believe me, with dogs you cannot fake your emotions. They'll know if you are sincere. I don't know how they know, but they do.