The Truth About Pack Leadership

McCann Dog Training
7 min readMar 12, 2019

Leadership is an important thing in so many situations. Good leaders are revered and keep the world moving smoothly. Good leaders make wonderful bosses, raise amazing children and, for our purposes today, raise and train wonderful dogs. So the burning question, of course, is what makes a good leader when it comes to dogs?

There is often confusion surrounding leadership with dogs. The scientific community once believed that dogs lived in and were governed by the rules of a pack structured hierarchy. This theory has been thoroughly debunked, but only after being ingrained in the minds and hearts of dogs trainers all over the world. Since pack theory was largely based on the behavior and study of captive wolves, it was doomed to failure since firstly, dogs are not wolves. They are very far removed from their wild ancestors these days. Domestication has left a very different imprint. Secondly, it became clear to researchers over time that captive wolves behaved very differently to wolves in the wild. Unfortunately, the pack theory, which made the term “dominance” a household word left an impression on the community and those who only got 1/2 the story, ran with the idea that to be a good leader, you needed to “dominate” your dog. Truly, nothing could be further from the truth.

There’s an old saying that goes, “The only thing two dog trainers can agree on is what a third dog trainer is doing wrong.” These days, the pendulum is swinging in the opposite direction. In an effort to get away from dominance and pack leader type strategies, people are only getting the other 1/2 of the story and are embracing methods that allow poor behavior and bad choices to continue and perpetuate. People are working with the misconception that bad behavior, if ignored, will go away. There are some situations where this is true, however the majority of the time, they will get worse. In addition, allowing a creature of any species to operate with impunity will likely not end well. All beings need direction, whether it comes from a boss or parent, and good direction comes from a good leader.

What Makes a Good Leader

Good leaders are fair, calm and clear. They set their charges up for success with good management and patient teachings. Here are some of the main points you should hit in order to be a good…

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