I’m sure many of you have heard time and time again that dogs need to be part of a pack. Yet most owners still do not properly address their dog’s pack needs. This may be due to having difficulty empathizing with your dog’s needs, so lets try to bring this understanding of pack drive a little closer to human nature — compare a dog’s need for a hierarchical pack to the need for structure by people after they have left one of the armed forces.
Imagine one of your good friends used to be in the army. You spend a lot of time together out hiking in the mountains and laughing over a cold beer after a hard day of work. Whenever either of you have a bad day, you’re always there for each other and support each other. Your friend is fiercely loyal, diligent, and a hard worker. So one day, you decide to hire him into your family-run business. He is the first non-family member to be hired into your business, but hey! He is like one of the family already, right?
At first things go wonderful! Having your army friend around at work seems to make everything run so much better. The environment become less stressful, and your customers have commented on how great things have been lately. You attribute it having another helping hand, and are pretty pleased with yourself for hiring another person.
After a few months, though, your friend appears to becoming increasingly grumpy. He has snapped at a couple people, and your daughter wants to have nothing to do with him anymore since he seems to always be picking on her. You also notice you’re starting to lose your friendship with him as well. Your weekly Saturday hikes get canceled regularly, and going out for a beer is an uncommon experience, laughter being a rarity. Eventually, no one can bare to work with him any longer. He is always flustered and everyone else hates to go to work anymore. The straw that breaks the camel’s back is he redid the entire filing system you have been using for the past 20 years into a system you cannot recognize, and all your friend had to say was, “This way is so much better!”. You finally make the decision to let him go. And unfortunately, the friendship you once had never comes back.
As soon as your army friend started working with your business, he saw everything that needed to be done. He saw the pile of papers needing to be filed, the calendar on the wall still displaying 3 months ago, and the box of receipts waiting to be processed next to the computer. He immediately set to work, and you never noticed that the coffee pot was always full, the financial statements always up-to-date and all paperwork you needed was always exactly where it was supposed to be. This was because he was keeping everything straight and orderly.
Once he set up everything in a nice and ordered fashion, however, he became increasingly agitated that the other people working in your business were not maintaining the organization. Files were pulled out and left on top of the cabinet, and someone would always manage to put an empty box of granola bars back in the cabinet. He struggled to get people to follow his lead and eventually ended up yelling at people (he never did have a lot of experience leading people outside of the army).
Your weekly hikes were being canceled because he was busy at the office writing up a proposal for a customer. He stopped showing up to after-work drinks because he was going to the grocery store to stock up the office kitchen and burn off some excess energy cleaning the office. When you do manage to spend time with him, he’s distracted, having half his mind predicting the business’ financials for the next 6 months. Because he would often finish his work early and had so much pent up energy, he decided to take his own initiative to redo your filing system. You didn’t notice until he was done, either, because you weren’t around!
What made the situation worse is that you — and the rest of your family working at the business — did not value all of the work he was putting in. You were fine with the way things were running. But, because no one else would make sure there was food in the kitchen, your friend felt he had to cover the slack. Unfortunately, your friend felt he had to cover a lot of slack, driving his — and everyone’s — morale to the ground.
Every person is different, and every person who leaves the armed forces will be different, too. Some have no problem going back to their old relaxed ways of doing things, while others turn around and reenlist! The same goes with dogs. Some get their pack satisfaction with little work and structure, while others crave for more. One thing is certain, though — you cannot pretend your dog has a pack drive less than what it is. You can’t take the army out of the man, and you can’t take the pack out of the dog.