A murder of crows, a shrewdness of apes, a smack of jellyfish and a pack of dogs. These are all words people use to describe groups of animals. Animals with no assigned group term are mostly solitary animals. Despite the phrase "lone wolf," a dog is definitely a pack animal.
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Nobody knows for sure how dogs think since it's impossible to sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with one, but thousands of humans have attempted to understand the canine brain. One universal, fundamental fact is undisputed by all canine aficionados: Dogs need company. Trainers and animal behaviorists have mostly relied on knowledge gained from biologists who observe wolf societies to help dog owners understand their dogs and alter their behavior. For a wild canine to survive, it's important he maintain a place in the pack. It takes a pack to bring down large prey, protect the dens and cubs, and care for one another. A lone canine cannot easily survive and instinct tells him this is true. So a lone dog may be anxious, uneasy and feel ostracized. It's just not a natural state for a member of the canine species.
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Just like people, dogs are individuals. They have their own personalities, preferences and complexities. As a species, they have an instinctive, deeply ingrained compulsion to gather with other members of their own species. However, some dogs prefer the company of human beings instead of other dogs. And while dogs may be pack animals, new research shows that as dogs became more domesticated, they may have bonded more with humans than with other dogs. Dr. Stanley Coran, noted dog author and expert, discusses this research in a 2012 issue of "Psychology Today." The study, conducted by scientists from Wright State University and Ohio State University, involved eight dogs subjected to situations where they had to choose between a human mate and a litter mate. The conclusion drawn from this experiment, Coran says, determined the human companion was the clear winner.
Friend or Foe
Though some experts may disagree on whether or not dogs require an "alpha" presence or if watching wolves in the wild really offers any valuable information about today's domesticated dogs, most agree dogs don't like to be alone. It's part of the nature of animals, both human and nonhuman, to seek out and come together with others. This is why solitary confinement is such a harsh punishment for prisoners and chaining a dog to a tree amounts to the same punishment for a solitary dog. Whether a dog prefers the company of another dog, a human being or some other species, such as an cat, is an individual preference. Stories about dogs forming alliances with elephants, chimpanzees, kittens and other animals are fascinating and delightful, evidenced by the fact that these stories and videos are shared and viewed by millions and circulated around the world.
Your Canine Companion
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The most devastating punishment you can mete out to a dog is to force him to be tied up outside watching the world go by, sentenced to a life of solitary existence behind a fence, in a kennel or spend long, desolate hours with no mental stimulation or enrichment. Dogs deserve, and need, so much more. You are demonstrating compassion and empathy for your furry friend if you're considering getting a companion for your lonely dog. The second pet need not necessarily be another dog, but if you have the room and can afford to take on another dog, you will be doing your dog a favor. You need not concern yourself with issues about whether your dog will bond with the new dog instead of you, dogs have huge hearts and unlimited affection.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.