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  #1  
Old 04-23-2007, 06:38 AM
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Dogs packs vs Wolf Packs

Okay. Controversial post of the day....

How similar is dog psychology to wolf pack psychology?

A spin off from a previous debated topic, hope this thread remains factual and objective.

I was speaking to one of our wildlife conservationists this weekend, and raised the topic of domestication. She raised an interesting point. Horses, who have been domesticated for thousands of years (cave paintings suggest as far back as 30 000 years), raised on ranches and even in comfortable stables, STILL shy away from bushes/caves when on outrides. Why? Because their instinct doesn't know that 'lions dont live here anymore.'

Her point was, you cant domesticate instinct.

Thoughts on this?
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  #2  
Old 04-23-2007, 07:20 AM
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Re: Dogs packs vs Wolf Packs

There's an excellent book you can read which discusses the theory that our domestic animals in fact chose to be domesticated. Couldn't put it down. It's well written, and what I consider a must read if you're the least bit interested in this subject.

"The Covenent of the Wild: Why Animals Chose Domestication" by Stephen Budiansky.

There are certain instincts that are 'must haves' in order for a species to survive. And yes, we have 'domesticated instincts' to a certain degree.

We have designed dogs who are incapable of natural reproduction - need AI's and C sections because WE have morphed these dogs into something that is quite unnatural. So, I tend to disagree with a blanket statement which proclaims that instincts cannot be played around with.

We have bred certain instincts to be stronger or weaker in certain breeds of dogs. Herding dogs are one example. Pit Bulls are another example.
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Last edited by poohbearsmom; 04-23-2007 at 07:25 AM.
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  #3  
Old 04-23-2007, 07:58 AM
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Re: Dogs packs vs Wolf Packs

It's also worth reading the newer studies regarding genetics, like this one which states that "The branch of the canine family tree that includes domestic dogs diverged from that of the gray wolf more than 15,000 years ago."

You can't domesticate SOME aspects of instinct (especially not those which are related to basic survival or the basic nature of the type of species: all prey animals have very basic instincts in common, as do all predators), but you can certainly breed selectively to minimize or maximize those instincts. And horses absolutely CAN be bred and trained away from those instincts, otherwise you'd never be able to trailer or stable them (although many people forget that horses are naturally worried about dark, enclosed spaces like trailers, and don't bother actually training the horse to accept trailering)!
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  #4  
Old 04-23-2007, 11:14 AM
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Re: Dogs packs vs Wolf Packs

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Originally Posted by poohbearsmom View Post
We have bred certain instincts to be stronger or weaker in certain breeds of dogs. Herding dogs are one example. Pit Bulls are another example.
Okay, I hear that. But my thoughts are that those are more drives than instincts.

Drive says, "I the horse - dont like horse boxes." or "I the Pittbull wish to kill things." Drives can be overcome with correct nurture.

Instinct is much more primal than that. Its the horse jumping from the bush that suddenly rustles, no matter how well nurtured it may be to dark places. Instinct overrides all reason. We see this even in humans - possibly THE most domesticated mammal of all.

I dont believe that instincts can be modified. Drives that are species specific maybe.

I feel that the dynamics of a social environment, such as a pack, are consistent with the original primal instinct of its ancestors. Its just manifested differently because, an example I used in another post, we cant physically get down on our hands and knees and snarl at the dog. (have been known to do it though). But we do it metaphorically. The NILIF concept is nothing more than "you need to do what the alpha tells you if you want to eat." Its a survival concept that appeals to the dogs instinct - that's why it works.

We're still a wolf pack - or male dogs wouldn't run around cocking their legs on their territory. Or at least that's just my view on it.

ps. I go home every day after learning from this forum and look at Titan in a whole new light. Im really glad I chose a Rotty, they are amazing. I kissed him on the nose, at which point he squatted and peed on the carpet in the lounge and then ran outside. :) 7 months - start of the terrible teens, no doubt.

Last edited by JasonTitan; 04-23-2007 at 11:22 AM.
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  #5  
Old 04-23-2007, 11:20 AM
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Re: Dogs packs vs Wolf Packs

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Originally Posted by poohbearsmom View Post
There's an excellent book you can read which discusses the theory that our domestic animals in fact chose to be domesticated. Couldn't put it down. It's well written, and what I consider a must read if you're the least bit interested in this subject.

"The Covenent of the Wild: Why Animals Chose Domestication" by Stephen Budiansky.
Am ordering it now! Thanks. Yes, very interested in this. I cant see how anybody can take an interest in dog behaviour and not be. :)
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  #6  
Old 04-24-2007, 01:33 AM
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Re: Dogs packs vs Wolf Packs

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Originally Posted by JasonTitan View Post
I dont believe that instincts can be modified. Drives that are species specific maybe.
Do you mean that you don't believe that instincts can be modified by training, or that you don't believe that instincts can be modified by breeding?

I wouldn't care to argue either way on the first idea, since I've never thought about it much, but I really don't think that the second idea is accurate. If instincts can't be modified by breeding, then how did they evolve in the first place?

I mean, dogs have a strong "pack instinct", whereas domestic cats generally don't have much of a "pack instinct" at all. These two species are quite closely related: both of these species developed from the same ancestral species. So the pack instinct of one of these types of animals must have changed since the time of their common ancestor - otherwise, our modern cats and dogs couldn't have different "pack instincts" today.

So I think it's undeniable that instincts can evolve and change through breeding. A different question is - are the 15,000 years that have passed since the domestication of the dog been long enough for his instincts to change at all?

I personally think that this time period must have been long enough for some of the dogs' instincts to change. There are clear differences in instinct between dogs and wolves, for example your typical adult dog is much less nervous around strangers than your typical "tame" adult grey wolf is. And the silver fox study in Russia (can't remember the authors right now) showed clearly that these foxes' natural instinctive wariness towards humans could be changed, relatively rapidly, by selective breeding for tame behaviour.
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  #7  
Old 04-24-2007, 04:52 AM
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Re: Dogs packs vs Wolf Packs

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Originally Posted by Amhailte View Post
Do you mean that you don't believe that instincts can be modified by training, or that you don't believe that instincts can be modified by breeding?

So I think it's undeniable that instincts can evolve and change through breeding. A different question is - are the 15,000 years that have passed since the domestication of the dog been long enough for his instincts to change at all?
Good question. Im not really qualified to even make a guess here. My logic says that 15,000 years is less than a blink in the evolutionary pattern. But recent studies have show evolution to take place in leaps and bounds (Newscientist) rather than steady progression. So who knows.

I dont believe instincts can be overridden by either training or breeding, modified maybe over a long period of time, but never domesticated. Im more saying that, you cant make a wooden fence from clay. You've started with wolves, you're not going to end up with canaries. There is only so much you can deviate from the ancestral instincts, no more.

I dont feel we have domesticated the pack instinct out of dogs. Pack instinct is a pattern nature has come up with over hundreds of millions of years to solve a specific solution - collective survival of a group of socially interactive individuals. We may be able to breed this out, but the thing is that dogs are still IN a socially interactive environment, so realistically none of us in this life time nor in the next 15,000 years are going to see this instinct become redundant.

We do rescue work in the homeless areas, where dogs roam around as packs. From what I've see with my own eyes in the time I've spend with them, the dynamics are identical to my knowledge of a wolf pack. (Which turns out may be in need of an update). :)

Last edited by JasonTitan; 04-24-2007 at 05:06 AM. Reason: Adding more...
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  #8  
Old 04-24-2007, 07:20 AM
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Re: Dogs packs vs Wolf Packs

Quote:
Originally Posted by JasonTitan View Post
Okay, I hear that. But my thoughts are that those are more drives than instincts.

Drive says, "I the horse - dont like horse boxes." or "I the Pittbull wish to kill things." Drives can be overcome with correct nurture.

Instinct is much more primal than that. Its the horse jumping from the bush that suddenly rustles, no matter how well nurtured it may be to dark places. Instinct overrides all reason. We see this even in humans - possibly THE most domesticated mammal of all.

I dont believe that instincts can be modified. Drives that are species specific maybe.

I feel that the dynamics of a social environment, such as a pack, are consistent with the original primal instinct of its ancestors. Its just manifested differently because, an example I used in another post, we cant physically get down on our hands and knees and snarl at the dog. (have been known to do it though). But we do it metaphorically. The NILIF concept is nothing more than "you need to do what the alpha tells you if you want to eat." Its a survival concept that appeals to the dogs instinct - that's why it works.

We're still a wolf pack - or male dogs wouldn't run around cocking their legs on their territory. Or at least that's just my view on it.

ps. I go home every day after learning from this forum and look at Titan in a whole new light. Im really glad I chose a Rotty, they are amazing. I kissed him on the nose, at which point he squatted and peed on the carpet in the lounge and then ran outside. :) 7 months - start of the terrible teens, no doubt.

There's not a lot that is more primal than the need to reproduce.... or hunt for food... or aggression...all of which are survival behaviors. . We possess these instincts.... only now we mostly hunt at the corner market instead of on the great plains, aggression is poo pooed by social more's, and well... we sure do reproduce.

Domesticated animals are generally 'toned down' versions of their ancestors from which they derived. They tend to maintain neotonic physical and behavioral characteristics. Dogs are the most varied species on earth, with some 400 breeds or so accounted for. While they retain a few behaviors that their wolf cousins possess, they are NOT the same.

The wolf's socialization period ENDS at 21 days... the dog's at 12 weeks. That's a big difference to your first question. This is what makes it so difficult to have wolves or hybrids of wolves turn out as reliable 'pets'. Domestication has allowed the dog more time to adjust to the world around it before becoming wary or fearful of external stimuli.
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  #9  
Old 04-24-2007, 08:46 AM
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Re: Dogs packs vs Wolf Packs

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Originally Posted by poohbearsmom View Post
There's not a lot that is more primal than the need to reproduce.... or hunt for food... or aggression...all of which are survival behaviors. . We possess these instincts.... only now we mostly hunt at the corner market instead of on the great plains, aggression is poo pooed by social more's, and well... we sure do reproduce.
So then you'll agree that instincts cant be domesticated? Or am I missing your point?

Quote:
Originally Posted by poohbearsmom View Post
Domesticated animals are generally 'toned down' versions of their ancestors from which they derived. They tend to maintain neotonic physical and behavioral characteristics. Dogs are the most varied species on earth, with some 400 breeds or so accounted for. While they retain a few behaviors that their wolf cousins possess, they are NOT the same.
Maybe I need to re-direct. Physically dogs arent wolves, even if less than 1% off. My statement is that dog pack dynamics are wolf in nature. Albeit they are 'relaxed' due to lack of predation favourable environment - the point you make.

There seems to be a dual thread running here, with the Chit-chat forum.
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  #10  
Old 04-24-2007, 01:23 PM
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Re: Dogs packs vs Wolf Packs

Hi Jason,
I just had one thought here coming at it from the opposite perspective. We HAVE trained/bred some instincts into dogs, so why couldn't we train/bred instincts out of dogs? Coming to mind: herding, hunting, retrieving, tunneling (or whatever you call what terriers do) . These are things that some breeds of dog do instinctively (in a broad generalization)
Thoughts?
Kate
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  #11  
Old 04-24-2007, 04:05 PM
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Re: Dogs packs vs Wolf Packs

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Originally Posted by cuppacoffee View Post
Hi Jason,
I just had one thought here coming at it from the opposite perspective. We HAVE trained/bred some instincts into dogs, so why couldn't we train/bred instincts out of dogs? Coming to mind: herding, hunting, retrieving, tunneling (or whatever you call what terriers do) . These are things that some breeds of dog do instinctively (in a broad generalization)
Thoughts?
Kate
We haven't actually bred those behaviours "into" dogs, they are all aspects of normal wild canid behaviour, what we have done by selective breeding is hone those instincts and adjust them (for example, herding involves all aspects of stalking and chasing prey EXCEPT for killing). There was a show on PBS just this weekend about precisely this. We can certainly breed instincts out to at least some extent, there are MANY dog breeds which have almost no wild dog instincts whatsoever, because they have been selectively bred to not have them.

There is a famous study done on foxes (see here for info) which showed that it takes VERY few generations of selectively breeding for certain traits to end up with a very large majority of the study population having those traits. And this was just in 40 years, not 15,000.
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  #12  
Old 04-25-2007, 06:21 AM
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Re: Dogs packs vs Wolf Packs

Quote:
Originally Posted by cuppacoffee View Post
Hi Jason,
I just had one thought here coming at it from the opposite perspective. We HAVE trained/bred some instincts into dogs, so why couldn't we train/bred instincts out of dogs? Coming to mind: herding, hunting, retrieving, tunneling (or whatever you call what terriers do) . These are things that some breeds of dog do instinctively (in a broad generalization)
Thoughts?
Kate
Kate,

My personal thoughts on this is that these are drives/traites that we are selectively filtering. Instincts are more primal and, as us humans still show, cannot be domesticated even though we've been out of the wild ourselves for thousands of years.

It doesnt take a genius to see that dogs thrive in a pack environment. Anybody that has spent any period of time working at rescuing dogs from shelters can clearly see dogs gravitate towards forming packs. Its a natural design that shows up again and again all across vertebrate species, all over the world. That is because its an efficient design that solves a specific problem - survival.

Whether you're a herder, an attack dog, a hunter, a guardian, a shepard, a pointer.... Is irrelevant. You still need those basic survival mechanisms that nature has perfected in order to fit into a social structure. Thats called a pack. And thats instinct and is seperate from drive (that defines the TYPE of dog).

Even insects, when forming a collective effort, have a queen. Its a necessary part of the structure - leadership. Humans have it. Wolves have it. Bees have it. Lion prides have it. Horse herds have it. And yes, dogs have it. And the dynamics in each one is the same.

Dogs exhibit human qualities, because of domestication. But they're not human. They're dogs. And realising that we need to interact with them in a manner that their species can relate to we will have alot more success with our training endeavours.

But thats just my view, I am open to correction. :)
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  #13  
Old 04-25-2007, 07:23 AM
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Re: Dogs packs vs Wolf Packs

Domesticating the dog is not about domesticating its instincts but rather harnessing those basic behavioral patterns and genetically manipulating them quantitatively in order to serve Man's purpose. An example is the shepherd dog whose herding instincts were harnessed from the wolf's basic hunting behavioral patterns. Through selective breeding for certain traits, Man was able to decrease the likelihood of the herding dog killing its prey.

Dogs don't "exhibit human qualities because of domestication." It is the humans who misinterpret canine behaviors and traits as human qualities. This ridiculous notion is aptly termed anthropomorphism.

Last edited by FredAl; 04-25-2007 at 07:30 AM.
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