Recently, there was a post with a short video of a dog walker with 8 dogs and one of them was pulling and the walker jerked the adolescent dog to the ground. The others watched in horror. This is quite common but not so common to get caught in the act of this kind of abuse. Yes, it is abuse. It’s not how dogs should be treated. If you’re still of the ilk that one has to be the leader of the pack/alpha dog, it’s likely you haven’t heard the news. The man who made this come to life, regrets it to this very day.
This man, David Mech, scientist and wolf researcher, studied wolves in captivity and states that they did have a dominance hierarchy while living in captivity. But he states and so does every wolf and dog researcher, that wolves in the wild do not live in packs or have an alpha wolf. They live in families, their own family and only until the pups are mature enough to go off on their own and form their own family. The don’t live in mulit-family packs and they don’t have an alpha wolf/pack leader. This means that dogs don’t have or need an alpha in their human family pack either.
Given that this theory has been debunked, no dog walker needs to assert themselves as the pack leader and no dog should go on pack walks. Dogs hate it. Don’t believe me? Next time you see a pack of dogs walking on tight leashes, with no room to sniff or be able to see what’s happening around them, look at their body languages. This is what you’ll see. Lip licking, whale eyes (where the whites of the eyes are showing), down tails, ears back or sideways, facial tension, panting, even on a cold day and rigid tense bodies. They are not happily walking along enjoying the scents or scenery. They’re miserable. Look for these signs of stress, next time you see a pack of dogs.
Another thing most people don’t realize is that if there are 8 dogs and that’s a small group (I’ve seen some walkers with as many as 14 dogs on a pack walk), all of these dogs were picked up from their homes, stuffed in a van or crates in a van, then riding in the van for the duration of picking up these other 8-14 dogs. This is very common in Los Angeles or any major city where people pay walkers to take their dogs out, thinking the dogs are getting exercised and having a good time. So, unless the dogs live on the same street, they are in the car for upwards of 45 min to an hour picking up dogs. They are stressed in the van with so many dogs, then stressed on the walk and then back in the van, stressed again for the 45 minute to and hour or more, drop off. The owner is thrilled that their dog is picked up at 10 am and brought home at 1 or 2 pm, not realizing that 2 of those 4 hrs are spent, cooped up in a van with a bunch of other dogs, only to go on a pack walk where they can’t even do what dogs do. Tell me how fun you think this is for the dogs. Are they tired when they get home? You bet but it’s tired from stress, not fun. That’s a big difference. Imagine what it’s like for those dogs who go 3-5 times a week. I’m sorry, this is hell for dogs, not a joyous romp on the trail.
If you haven’t seen this awesome Ted-Ed, 4 minute video by best selling author Alexandra Horowitz, it’s about time you do. You may know some of her books, Inside of a Dog, Being a Dog and many more. This video will make you rethink the way you walk your dog and for sure, you’ll realize that walking in a pack, with a walker who thinks they must be the alpha dog, is the last thing you’ll want for your dog or any dog.
Pack walks are a thing but not anything I recommend for any dog. Once we know better, we can do better.
About the author: Jill Breitner, is a professional dog trainer, award winning author, writing articles for Dogster, The Whole Dog Journal, Animal Wellness and her own blog. She is also a dog body language expert, loving and living her life on the west coast of the USA. She is the author of Dog Decoder, a smartphone app about dog body language recommended and used by veterinarians, shelters, trainers, educators and guardians worldwide. It’s available in iTunes and Google play. Jill, is Fear Free Certified and has been teaching gentle handling/basic husbandry skills to clients dogs for 40 years. She helps you to be your pets advocate for a happier and stress free life. She also does online dog training, worldwide. Join Jill on her Dog Decoder Facebook page