With a number of dogs, some times what most people are interested in is, who is the leader of the pack. Within a pack of dogs, a group of humans, a company, a school, any form of organization where more than a handful gathers, there is always a leader and followers. It is no different within our pack of dogs, but at times it can be more complicated and difficult to explain than we’d like.
Much like a corporate company, there is a CEO, managers, supervisors and staffs. Within our dog pack, there is no doubt 1 or 2 of them that are stronger by nature, born to lead more than the others, there are those that want to be on top but could never make it, and then there those that are willing to just follow.
What is different is that a dog does not carry it’s title and going around flaunting it to make other dogs follow him. Dogs naturally follows the best dog in each situation. For example, on a daily basis, there is Dog A who is always calm and compose, confident and patient, and the rest of the dogs listen to Dog A on a regular basis. Then there is Dog B who is an expert at hunting and catching preys, and the rest of the dogs, including Dog A will very naturally and instinctually start following Dog B when it comes to hunting down a prey. Dogs, unlike human, never seek a leader just by the title. They follow a leader because that dog, or that human is stronger than they are and can lead them better. The ranking within a pack changes by the situation, by the environment and by the number of dogs that are present.
Does a dog that enters the pack at a later stage fight for it’s position in the pack, or how do they separate themselves into their respective ranks? The thing is, with dog hierarchy, it does not fall into who enters the pack first or who enters last. From time to time when you have a readily-formed pack, it does take a new dog more effort and more time to get accepted into the pack, but only a human would place a new dog right at the bottom of the pack because “he entered last”. There are a lot of ways for dogs to sort out their ranks, the most commonly seen method is by challenging. Dogs challenge each other more than you would notice, very seldom do they openly fight, most of the time they do what we call ‘silent challenge’. They move around each other to size each other up, low growling, head positioning and so on. Very rarely will they get into a fight for ranking purposes unless there is a conflict or dispute and none of the dogs want to give up their positions. Rank challenging does not happen just for one day or one session. Like mentioned, the hierarchy changes all the time depending on situation. If the top ranking dog falls ill or is not in the picture, you would naturally see the next-in-line and others trying to challenge the top ranking dog or re-sort out the ranks. Dogs of the opposite gender rarely challenge each other. Most challenging and ranking happens with the same gender. In a pack of mostly female dogs and one male dog, the females will sort out their ranking and simply, let the male dog live and survive within the pack. In a pack of mostly male dogs, the females are usually left out of the challenges and again, simply let to live and survive. This is also the reason why owning dogs of the opposite genders is much easier compared to two of the same gender.
While some people like to see dogs as cuddly, fluffy, friendly, this is without a doubt happening when a group of dogs come together to become a pack. If there is no ranking, the pack doesn’t form, the dogs are merely strangers and passer-bys to each other. No matter how subtle it is, it is there whether you like it or not, it is happening and will happen whether you want it or not. Regardless of how they sort out their ranks, who is on top, who is way at the bottom, as long as the human is always in the lead, as long as the human has the ability to lead, as long as the dogs see the human as a leader, the organization will function well.