Learning the hierarchy in dogs
Learning the hierarchy in dogs
Because dogs are born to live in a society, they must learn the rules of the hierarchy. In other words, they must learn to control their desires according to the rules in place within the pack. Learning the hierarchical structure is accomplished by learning the rules governing feeding, the control of territory and sexuality. Within the pack, the dominant dog eats first and controls the comings and goings of his subjects. In addition, he alone has the right to express his sexuality in front of the other members of the pack.
Until they are weaned, the young pups feed at the breast and do not follow any rules governing access to the teats. As they are being weaned, the mother leads them to the sources of available food in the pack. When they approach the food, they are violently shoved away by the adults. They must learn to wait their turn, that is, until after the pack leaders have eaten, before they can eat. If the dog attempts to approach the food, the leader will growl at him and may even bite him if he persists.
Around the age of five to six months in males and around the second estrous cycle in females, the dogs will be chased away from the zones frequented by the pack leaders and by the females. The mothers have less and less tolerance for their young and so the young dogs are forced to find a sleeping place on the outskirts of the pack territory. Finally, in this stage dogs gain control over their sexual behaviors. Only dominant dogs have the right to express their sexuality in front of the other members of the pack. Subordinate males and the adolescents must hide. Their sexual behavior is inhibited in the presence of dominant males.
Controlling the Bite
The socialization period is when the puppy learns not to hurt by biting. He learns to control his bite partly through forms of play, which begin as early as three months and partly from his mother. He thus learns to repress his bite. During combat games, puppies bite each other and if one bites another too hard, the latter will howl. The mother steps in, picks up her young pup by the nape of his neck, shakes him vigorously and then places him back on the floor. This causes the puppy to cry out and assume a submissive posture, which then obliges him to stop biting. Thus, the mother teaches him to control both the intensity of his bite and his motor skills in general. If the puppy lives with a family, the owners should not tolerate biting. The puppy is not “teething.” This will help prevent serious bites later on when the dog becomes stronger. The intensity of the bite varies according to the individual, the breed and lineage. Some breeds such as the Labrador can tolerate extremely intense bites. Finally, during this socialization period, the mother teaches the puppies to be less attached to her.
The Detachment Period
Around the age of about four to five months, the bitch begins to have less and less tolerance for her puppies, especially the males. She shows less affection towards them, she plays less and they have to find their own place to sleep. Females, however, stay with their mother longer. Detachment will occur more slowly and will occur around the second heat. In human packs, if detachment does not occur, the result may be prolonged attachment, even over-attachment, which will then be the source of behavioral problems such as mass destruction, inopportune urination or defecation and being vocal when the person who is the object of attachment is absent.