Pack dynamics are extremely multi-faceted, and it's impossible to create any one-size-fits all guidelines to ensure pack harmony. You could never account for all the variables encountered in raising a human child: siblings and order of birth, what the parents' actions and values were like, the influence of friends and physical abilities, any health issues or handicaps, and all the random chance happenings throughout the child's day. Now add the child's inherent temperament and personality, and how those two things cause the child to respond to the above influences. A small change in one area can result in a large change in the end result--sort of a "butterfly flaps his wings in Peking, and there's a thunderstorm in New York" kind of effect. How each one responds to the world will be individualized--but can be affected greatly by their environment, and by the variety and effectiveness of the mental tools YOU, as the parent, give them to cope with their world. And so it is with canines! Even with the same "set" of dogs(say: a husky, a shepherd, and a wolfdog), "who came first" makes a big difference. Early socialization and experiences make a big difference.
There are, however, common pack-related behaviours and a general set of "canine rules"...being aware of them can tip the odds in your favor or help you manipulate the pack the way you need to. How things work for you, depends greatly on *your* relationship with your dog(s), what sort of dogs you have, the setup/environment you provide, and the heritage and individual personalities of the dogs in your family. The below, in no particular order, are simply my own observations and beliefs about pack interactions between CAPTIVE raised, companion canines. (Note: wild wolves, or captive wolves/wolfdogs raised with a hands-off, do-as-they-please, non-companion structure will operate by "wolf rules", and human interference is not only ineffective, but potentially dangerous. I am referring to trained, *companion* wolfdogs only.)
-Ideally, YOU are the "Supreme Alpha". Not a dog (or wolf), but an omniscient, benevolent creature who is above the politics of the canine world...yet speaks and understands their language. All dogs should look to you for guidance, and should have some respect for your input. The relationship you build with them, proper training, the self-control you instill in them, and the leadership you project will hopefully have accomplished this. As the leader, you should be able to have some effect on the way they act towards each other--some people simply do not allow fighting, and the dogs respect their wishes! This is *not* possible with all dogs--especially not outdoor dogs, or adult rescues, or intact animals--but most will give acknowledgement of your opinion, at least in your presence. ;)
-I *strongly* recommend the NILIF/No Free Lunch program for ALL wolfdogs and northern breeds, and ALL canines who live in packs. This simply daily exercise goes a long way towards promoting responsive dogs and pack harmony.
-The dogs will choose their own rank/hierarchy. You need to observe, respect, and enforce their decision.
Coddling the omega (low man on the totem pole) will only cause the others to punish him more, because obviously YOU haven't noticed yet that he is low ranking(!) and they need to prove it again. Treating the Alpha as the favored dog and offering special privileges will make him feel more secure about his rank, with less need to show off and bully the others.
-The Omega ranked animal has a function--he or she serves as a target to distract the pack's frustrations, as well as to initiate play. The omega doesn't fight back--feeling sorry for him and trying to build his confidence so he "stands up for himself" is a HUMAN concept, not a canine one. If you can't handle seeing him as the butt of everyone's joke, you'll probably need to build him a separate enclosure. A well adjusted pack should NOT hurt the omega(!) but will harass him regularly. This will involve chasing, wrestling, gang-biting, growling, and squealing...but should not result in any real physical damage! If he is covered with more than spittle and the occasional accidental nick, he should be removed from the pack...however, most low ranking animals are willing to put up with a LOT of harassment, rather than be cast out of their pack. Unlike in the wild, a captive omega cannot leave the territory (resolving his own problem), so he trusts you to be looking out for him. Many captive packs (whether wolf or dog) will not even have an official "omega", and they'll all take turns teasing and harassing each other. Hazing and showing off is especially common when the human Supreme-Alpha is present, as the rest of the pack often wants to impress you.
-Scruff pulls, "alpha rolls", muzzle grabs, tail pulling, hamstringing, pouncing and stalking are all normal play behaviours for wolves and wolfdogs (as well as many dogs). Role reversal is not unusual--the alpha may allow others to chase and tackle him, may initiate the games, etc. Pack ranks can be extremely flexible or fairly rigid--it depends on the personality of the animals in the pack. Not all alphas read the literature ;) and may not eat first, want what YOU think is the most desirable spot to lie down, etc. Leaders decide what's important to them. My HC males used to let the older pups eat first, simply because the pups were very food-intensive, and the older guys just didn't care. However, the top of the clubhouse is off-limits to our lowest-ranking 98% boy.
-Boys will be boys. The male wolfdogs will posture and act fierce, but often they mean nothing by it, and continue to be great friends. If males seem friendly to each other except for rough play and posturing, and no blood is drawn, they are probably fine. ;) Girls, on the other hand, tend to be more polite...until the day they decide they don't like each other anymore. Once females fight, it's very likely that they won't want to live together anymore. (Personally, I keep ONE female per pack, for this reason.)
-Females tend to attach themselves to the highest ranking male. If the rank changes, so does their loyalty. A social climbing female can "keep up appearances" and kiss up to the current leader, then suddenly turn against him when a stronger male initiates a coup. She's putting her chips on the most likely winner!
-If the dogs are genuinely fighting, what is the trigger for the fighting? Observe them VERY closely, as the reason may not be apparent at first. Is it jealousy over your attentions? Jealousy over a female in the pack? Redirected frustration, such as over loose neighbor dogs teasing them through the fence, or a roaming female in heat, or anger at being "zapped" by the electric hotwire, or other packmates getting a walk? Competition for resources, such as a meaty bone, special toy, the "fetch ball" being thrown by you, or a favourite sleeping spot? Are there space constraints, i.e they live in too small of a territory to share? (We found that our coydogs were snarky about their space when living in the small, temporary isolation pen, but became much friendlier to each other when moved to the larger permanent enclosure!) Often, the problem can be resolved by taking away whatever causes the fights (for example, feeding separately, or not leaving bones around unless you are there to supervise). Finding the source of the confrontation is the key to resolving it.
-If you are breaking up a dog fight, you are VERY likely to be bitten. This sounds like common sense, but it's not just the two fighting dogs you need to be aware of! Other pack members may become protective or afraid for their packmates, and attack YOU--thinking you are hurting their mate or alpha. Be aware of ALL animals in the pack if you ever need to break up a fight. Avoid letting animals who don't get along—such as two intact breeding pairs, or packs of adult rescues—share a fenceline. If they can get to each other through the fencing, they are very likely to compete and fight...both canine and human injuries have happened due to this.
-Hormones are relevant! As a general rule of thumb, spayed/neutered animals play nicer with the others than intact animals. Females are generally only "bitches" during the heat cycle, but at that time they may develop "bad" behaviours or rivalries that are continued for the rest of their life, regardless of season, even if they are later spayed. Intact males are much more likely to pick fights, especially with strange dogs, especially over females (and it's throwing gasoline on the fire if the female is in heat). The only behavioural advantage I can think of to intact animals, is that females *definitely* notice whether or not a male has been neutered--some females will even kill neutered males they are introduced to as adults. Conversely, most females will fall all over themselves for intact males! This throws yet another twist in the pack dynamics.
I also suspect that even ONE intact animal dripping its hormones in a pack adds extra fuel to everyone's fire. Our F1 guys will do some extra posturing with each other and occasionally be mildly snotty or aloof to us when fall--the wolf's breeding season—first comes upon us...that never used to happen before in winter (they will be 6, 5, 4, and 3yrs old respectively) BUT, this is the 1st time we've ever had an intact, testosterone-spewing adult out there...and they ALL can smell it.
-It's not always true that "only the alpha pair breeds". If you have a pack with multiple intact animals, you may end up with multiple litters. Some females will kill other females' litters. (Some will adopt them.)
It's also not true that "wolves cannot breed their first winter". MOST don't, but some will.
-If one dog is peeing in the house, ALL the dogs are likely to start peeing. This applies whether it's marking behaviour, or a housebreaking issue. I remember one intact foster boy, who marked all over the place during his first few days here. My two huskies followed him around the house—anywhere he marked, they marked...and that included my little female hiking her leg wayyyyy up in the air to spray the wall. :( I followed the whole parade of them for about three days, removing every mark with either bleach or enzyme cleaner, correcting and often banishing the offender outdoors...until the foster guy got it through his head that marking is not allowed in the house.
-Middle rank animals, and dominant animals whose rank is in question, are the ones who normally squabble. Secure alphas don't have to, and lowly peons already know they will lose.
Some dogs are better alphas than others! The insecure ones (usually little guys with a Napoleon complex) will go around proving themselves or bullying the others...this sort of guy is often setting himself up to fall, as the others will sooner or later have enough of him. Nobody likes a bully!
-We've found that pulling one animal out for a couple days (or, sometimes, even for a short "special privilege") will usually result in them having to run the gauntlet when they get back. We try to take the Alpha of the pack out first, if possible; this way he has less to prove, and less resentment. However, even if it's an irrelevant or universally adored pack member, it's likely that everyone else will mob them in excitement upon their return. This excitement can quickly turn to other things, such as roughing up the omega or challenging others in the pack (or the humans, if any of the animals are so inclined)! If the one who got "special privileges" was an animal whose rank was in question (or who tends to be a target for hazing), he is likely to be rolled and "punished" and/or challenged, upon his return. Being absent from the pack for slightly longer periods also appears to lower a wolfdog's rank, or at least make the others less sure of it.
We walk our guys often (and do other things with them as well), so we usually deal with this effect by pulling the snarky, insecure alpha indoors as we're putting the "walk-ee" back in his yard (for the house pack) or, stuffing treats into the alpha's mouth when returning his favourite hazing victim (for the rear pack). In our situation, neither alpha will actually hurt the returning animal--we just prefer to avoid the unnecessary hazing.
The *only* two fights (no actual damage in either one) we ever had here were because of the "pack removal" affect mentioned above...one was 2 females, and to counter it, I developed a method to "equalize the pressure" so that when I took the alpha female out for a few days, I could reintroduce her w/o her having to defend her position. The other was 2 males, who I DELIBERATELY set up to have this confrontation/coup, so that it would happen ~in my presence~.
When I decided it was time to pull the oldest male (the pack's alpha, named Solo) so that the two 98% boys wouldn't eventually get sick of his bullying and do something about it (possibly with me at work, unable to break it up)...I used the trick I'd learned when taking critters on vacation with me. Whenever I took someone out of the pack for a few days, they got a pretty rough greeting when I returned them...they had to reassert themselves and remind everyone they were still in charge. I did want Solo to "lose" his rank before pulling home from the pack--otherwise I knew he would sulk and cry and try to break out of his yard to get back in with them. So, in order to make him "lose rank" more quickly and also ~control~ when it happened, I started keeping him in the house more, only letting him out there maybe once a day. He hated it at first; he knew that he was "missing out" and also that they'd conspire against him if he wasn't there to break it up. *I* loved it because the HC's could play and frolic, without Solo (Mr. Law and Order) saying "HEY! You guys quit playing and settle down!" every 5 minutes. I also loved having my full time house doggy back. *grin* Naturally, not too long after that, I let him out one day, and Avatar (the beta male) made a bid for top rank, the instant Solo stepped out the door. I let it go for a minute or two (until Solo knew he was going to lose), broke it up...and Solo has had no interest in being in that pack ever since. No damage at all to any of the dogs (only slobber), although Solo is of the "too stubborn or dumb to submit" mindset and if I had let the fight FINISH, I expect he may have actually been hurt.
I did learn that female wolves/high contents are TRAITORS though, that day...the same female who used to suck up to Solo so demonstratively, had leapt on his back to help Avatar take him down, as soon as the coup began. :-/ At any rate, I then pulled Solo and his sister out of the pack for good, and moved them to the front yard, which I'd built in anticipation of our planned takeover.
Another year and a half, perhaps 2 years later, Ono (the oldest) decided that he really should be in charge, because Avatar is just too much of an obnoxious, disrespectful young punk to hold that spot. ;) They had a friendly argument or three, and the power casually shifted to Ono. They always were pretty even-sided about it, and to a less frequent or attentive observer, the switch wasn't/isn't very obvious. They are a good example of the flexible pack order. I think the only reason Avatar even took the spot for awhile was b/c I aimed things that way...otherwise, it probably would've been Ono who finally overthrew Solo...and I don't think he'd have been as good-natured about it as he was with Avatar. Solo never was very good to Ono, always making him grovel and pee...and wolves and hybrids have excellent memories. Solo is a "good boy" in most ways, but with his packmates he can be a tyrant sometimes--a little guy with a chip on his shoulder.
-"Alpha" is an attitude, and often has little to do with size. However, it often is affected by age--as young animals join the pack under a firm, mature adult, they may continue to follow his lead indefinitely.
-There are LOTS of things to consider when adding an animal to an existing pack. Pack behaviour isn't always nice. Wolves are not passive observers--they choose sides, and once the decision is made, will "gang up" on a packmate involved in a disagreement...usually the one who is already losing. Many wolfdogs follow this wolf tendency.
Nowadays, if I bring an adult rescue here and it joins a pack (rather than getting a private room in an Isolation Pen), it goes in with the *housepack* (lower content animals) and not the 98% animals. The reason for this actually is not the high's themselves, but the pack dynamics they have going on out there. It would be too easy for a newcomer to make a social blunder, and even easier for everyone to join in together and beat on him for it.
Now, I will often bring my highs in *one by one* to meet a newcomer, and they do fine...but NOT as an established pack all at once; it's just too dangerous for us. Ono, our alpha, is a halfhearted leader...and new adults make him uneasy about his duties.
-Another thing to consider is how old the newcomer is. Typically, wolves and most high wolf-content dogs *adore* puppies, spoil them, teach them, and are flat-out wonderful with them. :-) At around 4 months old, the puppy usually loses its "puppy privileges" and starts getting treated less royally (although I saw pups here deferred to well into their first fall), if not outright harassed into humility. They NEED this—both the coming-of-age rituals, and the tutoring in canine language and social skills. The high contents in particular are dedicated teachers, committed to showing youngsters how to dig and play and otherwise be a wolf. ;)
We've had young rescues here that slid right in; older ones may hit a few more speed bumps unless they have *excellent* canine social skills.
Now, my low content husky crosses are not thrilled with puppies--puppies are obnoxious, and by a year and a half old, my lows did not want to be pestered by other dogs. Conversely, my low content *shepherd* cross is fine with pups, and so is my mid content shep/wolf! Again, there are so many variables that go into their attitudes.
-For our pack, the youngest existing dog always seems to be the one who is most excited about a new pup--when I got my middle high content, my one-year-older HC was thrilled with him...the next year, I got another high, and the middle boy was her constant companion & teacher. In late spring of '03, I brought home my shepherd/wolf, and the youngest HC girl took him on as a best friend. I think younger animals are more likely to remember what it's like to be a pup ;) and are less annoyed by them...just like a lot of humans. However, adding a new pup also makes the next-to-youngest animal realize that he/she is "not the baby anymore". They grow up fast when tasked with raising a younger sibling! This has historically been a good thing, for us (resolving any small, annoying juvenile behaviours) but that may not work the same for other folks.
-WHEN you are introducing a new dog matters, also. If possible, you want to add to the pack in the spring--when everyone is hardwired to welcome puppies and expand the pack. The fall is breeding season for wolves and many wolfdogs; they are much more competitive, can be a bit on-edge or grouchy (especially if intact), and are just basically more wired to drive off possible rivals than to receive them cheerfully.
-HOW the dogs are introduced is important. You normally want to go for neutral ground. Walking them side-by-side on leash usually works well...for us, the house works well too, simply because it is overwhelmingly MY territory, full of MY rules...and everyone is used to respecting that.
This is an example of what works for us, and is our standard introduction protocol: On the way home with two new rescues, we decided that since these two were very good natured and had lived with other dogs, we'd make an attempt to introduce them to my housepack. We figured that after the long drive, they would probably enjoy the excitement/energy release, a good run, a swim in the stock tank, playing on the clubhouse. So, after arriving home & putting the cats somewhere safe, we brought these two babies (a low content malX and a low to lowermid chow/wolf/husky) inside, and began The Process. First they were allowed to check out the house...then my alpha Solowolf came in to meet them, carefully supervised...then, Solo was put out, and his sister Nali in to meet them...then, Nali went out, and our Indiana rescue goober Shasta came in to meet 'n' greet. All three did wonderful, so we let all five of them play together in the house. :) Then, with ~my~ guys indoors, we took the two new kids out to the yard on lead, and let them sniff around, and walk the fenceline, and learn about respecting the hot wire. Once they seemed comfortable, we let the other three back outside...and the party was ON! They all played and played and played...everyone was on their best manners, and it wasn't too terribly long before everyone was covered with dog spit and flat-out exhausted! *grins* It was so special to watch these guys having so much fun. The boy was so impressed with the stock tank; he kept running over and laying completely down in it. They also both were coming up to us humans, as well...albeit a bit tentatively—they were feeding off the comfort level of our own dogs. Once we knew everyone was cool with everyone else, we let Lutro (my mid content shepherd cross) leave his own pack and come play with the guests too. He was also on his best manners, despite the puffy hair running down his back. They all just couldn't get enough of rough-housing and running around. :-)
Note: There is such a thing as the "honeymoon", and even dogs who are normally unfriendly may--if introduced carefully--get along with other dogs for short periods. However, if the dog's personality is just too competitive, jealous, or they have other issues...even the best introduction & early agreeable-ness may not last forever. Additionally, since canine social behaviour is LEARNED, a new dog who grew up as the "Only Dog" in a previous home is likely to have less success fitting into a pack...especially if he was taken at a young age.
-When bringing in a new dog, be careful to ensure that he is viewed as a gain, not a loss, by the previous dogs. (Many tips for introducing a new human baby to the family dogs will apply here.) Try to be set things up so that the new dog is associated with positive things. For instance, if it's a puppy, share his formula or puppy-foods with the older dogs. When you walk the new dog or do fun things with him, include at least one previous dog each time. ("He isn't taking away our walks—he is sparking a NEW round of walks, so I get extras!") I even tell my guys "look what mama got YOU, a new puppy to play with!" so that their focus is on happiness, and positive changes.
-I have "pack ambassadors", who are the first to meet new people/new dogs, or check out new additions to the house or property. Ideally, the ambassador is the pack's Alpha—this way, he is getting his deserved special privileges, and it helps to solidify his rank. My ambassadors are also the ones who get the most opportunities to "help Mommy"...they help me feed the fosters or the coydogs (by accompanying me to their enclosures and waiting for me while I go in and feed), help me get the mail or bring out the trash, help me pack chicken or cook dinner or run an errand in the truck. My housepack's ambassador is the alpha...my high-content pack's ambassador is the 50%'er who lives with them, because he is brave and outgoing and well trained, and loves to be the first to experience new things...and he is so beloved by his pack, that they don't begrudge him the special outings. (He is also likely to graduate to alpha within the next year of two. ;)
Once my ambassadors experience the new thing, they return to their pack to "tell their buddies all about it". The packmates rush up and sniff the new smells, and they all get together and discuss whatever just happened. (I don't doubt for a moment that wolfdogs hold conferences, and literally "talk" amongst themselves.)
My younger pack ambassador (the 2.5 year old) has excellent social skills, and can slide right into either pack to visit and play. When he slides into his "guest" pack, he needs to slip in beneath the alpha, but above the other male in the pack. Watching an animal simultaneously suck up to one dog while dominating another is quite a work of art. ;) This is not a situation most dogs should be out into, but the boy in question loves it, and frequently asks to visit the other pack. I suspect he is passing smells and information back and forth from one group to the other.
-Dog breeds and the amount of wolf in the heritage can affect the overall pack dynamic. In general: malamutes and mal crosses tend to be aggressive towards other dogs. Both malamutes and wolves are well known for stubbornly guarding resources, from both humans and other dogs. Huskies are usually great with other dogs if well socialized (hence their use as sled dogs in large packs) but seem to go for the feet and lower forelegs if they get to biting. :( Shepherd crosses are more inclined to listen to their humans and be obedient, but they are also inclined to "guard" their human from the other dogs, demanding more than their share of your attention. Shepherds often have what I'm told is the "puffer fish syndrome": they are likely to puff up and act unfriendly to other dogs at first, to convince the potentially-unfriendly other dog that they are a force to be reckoned with. These shepherds/mixes are often fine with dogs they know (or ones they have settled the posturing with), but are uneasy about meeting new ones. My F1 shepherd cross is a good example: he gets along wonderfully with everyone, but he *must* know whether or not he outranks them. He approaches other dogs confidently, and if they submit, great! If they don't: "Oh, heheh...okay, well then YOU must be in charge, sorry about that"...and that's fine too. But he HAS to know.
High content wolfdogs often care less about what YOU think of the situation--they tend to be more independent. (This can be affected by training them well, and working at a close relationship with them.) "Your vote" often counts for less with a high content animal.
-Breed prejudices: High contents usually know their own. We have shepX's who only like shepX's. Many huskies (purebred, and mixes) have a strong preference for other northern breed dogs. Low contents are often more accepting of other lows. It's not that they CAN'T all get along—but sometimes there are preferences for "dogs like me". There can also be somewhat of a "communication breakdown" when mixing various contents. For example: high content puppies spend much time appeasing and pestering the adults. Many dogs or low contents do not recognize and acknowledge this behaviour...instead, they growl and try to get away. The puppies try harder, only to be pinned or bitten; it can turn into a vicious cycle. (When this happens, I will step in and restore the adults' peace, one way or another...by distracting the pups, giving them toys, treat-training them, crating, etc.) High contents are extremely demonstrative, sensitive, and "into" posturing and interacting...they tend to be more interested in other canines than in humans, as a general rule. Many lower contents (or dogs) simply want to do their own thing, or be with their person. (One could compare this to a stereotypical male/female relationship, when SHE wants to have a deep conversation about "us", whereas all HE wants is to watch the game. ;)
Low contents often do make excellent role models for higher content pups, because the lows are well behaved, braver, and more laid back than an extremely wolfy role model would be. My male low content husky cross also likes to be "The Enforcer"—if I go to correct a dog, he wants to correct them too. If I am trying to catch a foster who doesn't want to be caught, he may chase them down and pin them to the ground until I get there. That boy has the usefulness of a dog, but is clever and sensitive enough to fit in with the wolfdogs.
-Non-northern breeds may have even more trouble communicating and interacting. For example, pitbull terriers are bred not to show submissive body language, and to never give up in a confrontation.
Wolves are constantly running around starting friendly confrontations--it's their idea of fun! However, the wolf doesn't want anyone to get hurt, and will gladly submit as soon as he is being bested. Not so with the pitbull. Likewise, Doberman pinschers--with their missing tail, and ears cropped in a permanent display of aggression--are likely to have trouble communicating with the extremely expressive wolfdog.
Pay special attention to small breeds. Many of these will also refuse to submit, and will try to dominate wolfdogs many times their size! Some wolfdogs look upon this with amusement...others will take up the challenge. If the small breed does not concede, he may be seriously hurt. Still other wolfdogs, not accustomed to small dogs, may look upon them as "prey".
-There's not a magic age at which 'permanent status is settled'. That remains flexible, and can continue to change every time circumstances change (or *perceived* circumstances change), over the lifetime of the animals. It's also affected by how the humans react to everything, especially with the lower contents.
-Adding pups is usually easy, as most wolves and wolfdogs adore puppies. However, not ALL wolfdogs like puppies...and even if they get along famously at the start, the pup will grow up into a potential competitor, one day down the road. If adding female puppies to a pack that already has a female, it is highly advised to have the option of an extra enclosure, "just in case". (ANY two wolfdogs can refuse to get along, but multiple females are your worst odds.)
-Most female wolves will defend pups--even unrelated pups, and even from the owner, if they are afraid the owner will hurt the pups. Females can get violent in their defense of pups! (On a similar note, many male wolves will aggressively guard their female--especially if the male is intact and it is breeding season.)
-One pup or two? Advantages to two pups: they will have companionship, play each other out so they/you sleep at night, and it is great fun to watch them interact. For higher content wolfdogs, you will likely avert a lot of behavioural problems by raising them with another dog present (it doesn't have to be another puppy—an adult role model is great too). With two pups, they pull all their puppy shenanigans, bite inhibition and testing on *each other* rather than possibly displacing it onto humans...but this is a much bigger concern with pups pulled early, than with pups obtained at 8+ weeks.
Two puppies raised together will still bond perfectly fine to their humans if raised sensibly. I have done it more than once ;) and it's a good thing, IMO. All of my guys are very bonded to me despite having playmates. With a wolfdog puppy, you may never be quite as appealing as the other dogs in the pack will be...wolfdogs are very pack oriented. But if you as a human can get over your jealousy/hurt feelings at not being able to be "as good of a wolf" as another wolfdog would be, then it really shouldn't matter.
At the same time, YOUR attentions are generally of very high value to *both* dogs, and you will often see them compete for it. You can use this to your advantage in many ways.
Most breeds of dog, if asked, would likely tell you they want to have a buddy ;) although there are a few breeds and individuals who are just as happy--if not happier--to have ALL of your attention for themselves.
Disadvantages to two pups: More time spent on socialization & training (and yes, it is harder to train two pups at once). More money spent on food, health care, etc. Two crates. Double the destruction, when the little devils are in their teething stages. Intense competition with other canines for food, which may carry over into adulthood or affect the others in the pack.
Many breeders would prefer you to have only one pup, because if you are training for high level obedience, going to dog shows, etc you want the dog to be intensely focused on YOU, not distracted by the existence of another dog! They don't want his mind to be on playing with his buddies...they don't want him to have the party-party pack mentality. They don't want him so fulfilled in his home life, that he could care less about performing for you when you go out. (Hence the old trick of keeping dogs kenneled or crated until you are ready to use them--they are so thrilled to have your attentions, they will do anything for you.) So, you will hear a lot of breeders and trainers tell you to NEVER get more than one pup at a time. I find this to be more a matter of uncomfortable ethics, than pack dynamics...but as long as your wolfdog pup will not be the "only dog", it's not essential for him to have others his own specific age.
-Very young pups are fragile. While the older wolfdogs may adore them, they can easily trample or scent-roll on a pup and cause him harm. Wolfdogs who are not keen on pups may get overzealous in their muzzle corrections, even to the point of accidentally killing the little one.
-Adult wolves, and some wolfdogs, of both sexes will often regurgitate food for a puppy who begs by licking the adult's muzzle and whining. This is safe enough, but may be alarming to people who have never heard of the process! ;)
-Wolfdogs feed off each other emotionally, as well as off their people. If YOU are stressed, the wolfdog is stressed...so be aware of the nonverbal signals you give off. (On-leash aggression is a prime example of this phenomenon.) If his packmates run from the visiting strangers, the otherwise-friendly wolfdog will probably run away too...unless he is viewed as a leader by his pack, in which case they may follow *his* lead! ;) When I walk my shy foster girl, she is happy to go...as long as she is not the ONLY dog going. She sticks close to her buddy. If he is in the car, then she will get in the car. When we rehab shy fosters, perhaps the biggest help for them is to see our own well-adjusted wolfers interacting with us.
Wolfdogs learn by example (that's why they can open the gate latch after seeing *you* do it), and if one wolfdog is digging, climbing the fence, etc...the others will soon be doing it too. (The only advantage to this, is that if somehow only one wolfdog gets out, he normally won't stray far from the others...and you can use the others as "bait" to bring him back to his yard!) My wolfdogs often walk around as ONE giant mass of dog with four heads and four tails. ;)
-Sudden changes in pack behaviour may have an external cause--check this first. Is one animal ill? For example, I saw a big difference in my female husky cross' attitude in a short time; she was always very loving, but had become growly towards the other dogs on occasion. I grew concerned, had her X-rayed, and found out she has hip dysplaysia. In our case, her pack does not treat her any differently--but in some packs, they would take advantage of her "weakness". Wolves will sometimes attempt to "help their packmates cross over" when injured or very ill, or when they have just returned from surgery and are recovering. Likewise, some wolfdogs will gang up and kill a "dying" packmate.
Were the animals recently moved? (Packs of animals who live together happily at one location may begin to fight if relocated.) Has something else changed within their territory--a new doghouse, part of their yard rendered inaccessible? Has their owner suddenly become ill or handicapped? Is there a stray dog harassing them? Can they smell a female in heat? Is one of the intact packmates coming into maturity? Routinely check for changes in their environment when you see a change in behaviour.
-When managing a pack, you need to know the basics of canine behaviour, and the personalities of the pack members...then be creative enough to guide things the way you want them to go. All behaviour management is pretty much the same, at its core...mostly you spend a lot of time watching everyone's moves, and trying to make sure that when *they try a behaviour you don't like, IT DOESN'T GET THE RESULTS they planned*...when they are being good, you make sure the stuff they like, does occur...and you stay aware of the way they really want things to be (to ensure harmony) while you, yourself, are the one who directs things to go that way, through guiding/leading, training, distractions, asking for incompatible behaviours, corrections/timeouts for going in the wrong direction, setting them up to succeed (even if it means restricting their location or mobility at times), and especially ~tons~ of praise & goodies & results they like, for going in the *right* direction. I try to convince mine that to get things the way they want them, they need to go through ME, and get me to set it up for them. (Whenever mine want something, they usually Sit—it's an automatic response, generated by the many times I have asked them to Sit for food, Sit for treats, Sit to be leashed, Sit to be petted, and so on. ;) You can't always do that, especially if they're outside & unattended a lot...but I think the more you do, the smoother things go.
-It's VERY important to understand canine body language and communication. You need to be able to interpret (and deal with) what you are seeing. Look HERE or HERE for some body language information.
-It's also important to understand what motivates dogs.
The reasons dogs act aggressively towards humans largely overlap with the reasons they are aggressive towards other dogs.
-It's always a good idea to get an experienced or additional opinion of a situation you are troubleshooting, if possible: someone else may catch small things that you missed, that change the whole picture.
-Dogs need to know what's expected of them, or they'll do whatever comes to mind, by default. When I am trying to pet one dog, another's default behaviour is to push in between and growl at the first one. There are lots of possible fixes...my solution was to announce WHO I was petting (they aren't dumb, and they know their names). For example, "Solo, I am petting SHASTA right now" while using my body to block Solo from myself and Shasta.
My guys also know "Only"...as in, "Solo, come inside...Solo ONLY." Anyone whose name was not involved will be pushed away from the door--only Solo is allowed through. They catch onto that very quickly if you enforce it. Double-gated entries are extremely valuable for moving only ONE dog at a time, since any sneaky ones do not get rewarded with access to the area they tried to push their way into...they get stuck in the entryway instead, and are easily scolded and returned to their yard.
We have one wise-guy who will ask to go outside with his "alternate" pack, then stand in the doorway (halfway in, halfway out) and invite all his friends inside. A double entry would be nice there too. ;-/
-When walking multiple dogs on lead, it is very difficult to pay complete attention to each one, and enforce their training. Dogs know this, and are happy to take advantage of you. ;) I prefer to use a prong collar when walking multiple dogs, because this collar sends a clear signal to the dog even when you are only half-paying attention to him. You don't have much choice but to let multiple dogs fan out in front of you. Not all dogs can handle being walked in a pack-—if one is a juvenile delinquent, it's best to take him on his own separate walk, rather than undo his training. Many wolfdogs are very aware of which dog is an inch further ahead than HE is, and the rank-conscious ones will insist in being in front. To prevent extra pulling, I usually put the highest-ranking dog on the longest leash.
-Don't even think about letting multiple wolfdogs offleash at the same time...even if all parties are normally very good offleash by themselves. Something about being with their friends and wanting to show off, removes all prior obedience training you thought he had. ;)
If you're walking two dogs who are normally good offleash (in rural areas), try keeping ONE of them on lead while the other runs free. Their desire to stay together will encourage the offlead one to be his usual, well behaved self. (One of my ambassador Lutro's jobs is to "help mama walk the Big Wolfs". The high content guys are not allowed off lead, but an offlead Lutro will cheerfully and reliably accompany them.)
-You need to understand who you're dealing with, in order to determine what motivates them. It's very much a form of politics. Rank is relevant...past experiences are relevant...whether it's a "hard" or "soft" dog is relevant. You do more harm than good by getting angry or rough with a "soft" dog! However, there are some for whom praising the right behaviours is not "motivational" enough. Always try praise first, and never use more correction or force than needed. Again, just like people...Dog Psychology? Yup. Anyone with the desire to learn can be a "dog whisperer". ;-)
-Feeding in a pack setting can be interesting, if the dogs are not well trained. Sharing nicely is an acquired skill; it takes practice and socialization. Our guys are given whole deer, so there are many opportunities to practice the social event of eating together...but if a pack who did not normally share received a whole deer, they would be likely to fight over it!
We feed the dogs together from the very beginning...everyone has to "Sit", then they are given their meat or treats. If anyone grabs, they are sent outside (or otherwise isolated). If anyone fights, they are sent outside. If they are civil...Praise Praise Praise! If they are eating out of bowls (not common here) and someone starts guarding, they are corrected, and I stand beside them to make sure they stay at their OWN bowl. (Some packs have all their members perfectly content to play "musical bowls"--without fighting. Our high content pack does this, and I have no complaints. ;) Whatever works for them is fine with me.)
Our guys also like to tease each other with possession of valued items...for example, when we feed a deer, they invariably save a piece of the hide to play Keep-Away with for a few days. One will grab the hide, dangle it in front of another, then scoot away wagging his tail...the rest will take up the chase. Goal: to tackle the hide-bearer and take his prize. This is all in good fun, and keeps them in practice with sharing their stuff.
Wolves usually will not mess with another's food or treats, once they have possession of it--though they may compete to GET it, even the low ranking wolf is usually allowed to eat in peace once the food had been distributed. They can and do allow HUMANS to handle their possessions, but as a general rule, I don't see any reason to take their newly-given food away once they have done what I requested of them (usually a Sit) and I have rewarded them with the food. I expect to be able to pet them, step over them, etc while they have food/treats, and add more food to their pile...but I start this training with young animals, as it's a longer, slower road to condition adults to it.
Note that they also know the difference between things they have STOLEN, and things they obtained rightfully. I've had no qualms about retrieving stolen goods, and the animals actually appear apologetic the rightful owner takes it back. ;)
-Some wolfdogs, like dogs, can be territorial...especially if they live outdoors in the same small area their whole life. There are lots of ways to minimize this possibility: try rotating them from one yard to another, spending a lot of time in their yard (I will sleep, and even pee, out there—it's MY yard too). I take them to visit our various isolation pens, or any new yards we build, and leave them there briefly—-often with a wolfdog they don't normally live with! I take them in and out of the house, in and out of the truck (to keep them accustomed to it)...in fact, sometimes I feed them in the truck, so it keeps a somewhat positive association. They get walks to different areas regularly. I want to avoid them coming to the conclusion that "this is where I go, it's Mine, and these are the places I *don't* go".
We keep their permanent yards large, which also can have a significant effect on behaviour. They have too much to defend, plenty to enjoy, and more than enough space to have safety from visitors and privacy from each other.
-Wolfdogs who are "inside pets" and take part in daily family life are likely to have more harmony with the humans and other dogs. They tend to act more doglike, simply from all the give-and-take, personal attention they receive, and working around the activities of the rest of their family all day that they are accustomed to. Owners tend to require more of these inside wolfers, since what they are getting into matters much more inside, than outside. It also allows you the option of banishing naughty dogs outside to the yard when they are misbehaving. However, not all wolfdogs (especially the higher contents) are happy living indoors.
-Some dogs simply WON'T get along. Just as you don't like every human you meet, your dog may not like every other dog. If this is the case, you simply do what every other good dog/wolfdog owner in your shoes does--build another fenced yard (or divide your current yard into TWO yards), and rotate your time between them. Lots of people also have some dogs loose in the house for awhile--while the others are outdoors or in crates--then switch. It's not Walt Disney fairy tale land, but it's fair and functional and they all get to keep their home and family.
-Enjoy and observe as many interactions as possible! :) We find that our guys have well-developed individual personalities, and very intelligent, advanced relationships...and it won't do to underestimate them. If you spend a lot of time with your animals, you'll see many interesting things. For example, some wolves (or near-wolves) will take food from their humans, deliver it to shyer packmates, then come back for another piece for themselves. Other wolves will steal and guard every piece for themselves. Why the difference? Their relationship and rank with packmates is one variable...sometimes they have experienced a scarcity of food...sometimes they simply have a strong, competitive drive.
Wolves enjoy politics, and are not passive about it...I have seen our alpha male Ono encouraging our youngest male to take a higher rank in the pack, and demanding that the wolfdog the youngster was "practicing on" must go along with it. If the older wolfdog did not submit to the youngster, Ono would stand over the older wolfdog, and grab his scruff. He would then submit, and the younger guy would stand over him proudly.
I have also had Ono and his buddy step in and block me, when I went to correct a fellow packmate. They don't like "real" anger, and 240 pounds of them put a stop to it simply by getting in the way, and offering me appeasing kisses and whines.
My youngest boy is a master in the art of distraction. It's amazing the social skills that some of these guys have. I can sit for hours and watch them making up games, posturing, teasing each other...one morning, I woke up to whining/squeaking out front (the housepack had wanted to be let out in the middle of the night, so all four were out there), and I peeked out the window to see what was going on. It turns out that Solo (my "little Napoleon" alpha) was dominating Shasta (our new foster boy). Young Lutro, our peacemaker & all around love bug, doesn't like to see an argument...so he grabs a toy, waves it at the both of them, and takes off running. ("I've got a toyyyyyy, youuuuu can't have it...") The other two immediately drop their bickering & take off after Lutro. WE tell each other to use distraction as a way to handle challenges or problems with these guys, but nobody has to tell the ANIMALS...they're already programmed for it. ;-)
Ono, my oldest 98%, has a wicked sense of humour. He has played many pranks on us (and the other dogs) over the years...and with his mischievous smile, wagging tail, and spirited prance, it is obvious that he knows he is funny.
We've seen some really neat personalities unfold, just by hanging out and watching our guys. It all comes in ~very~ handy at those times when they throw us a curve, and we need to analyze not just the *moves*, but the players in the wolfpack games. :-)
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