My Dad loves to give little gifts. In a thrift store he came across “The Hidden Life of Dogs” written by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas and got it for me. It sat on my shelf for many months, but I recently opened it and was intrigued. Ms. Thomas made it her mission to observe pack dynamics in the lives of her own dogs as well as dingos and wolves. As a trainer it was a bit painful to read that her dogs didn’t listen to her and the only time she intervened was when a dog was harming another dog. But purely as a study of pack behavior it was fascinating. If you’ve doubted the theory that dogs discipline one another using “the touch” she discusses it! How about instincts–have you ever wondered how a mother dog protects her puppies in the wild? Or how pack order is established and how to tell what it is? She tackles these issues and more. I am happy to pass on my copy if anyone is interested, although I should mention that last year a new edition was released.

I am proud to say that after reading the book I was much more in-tune with dominance issues when I took my dogs to the park yesterday. There was a tense moment between my pointer and an un-neutered male pit bull. They had their heads above each other’s back’s with hackles raised. I calmly but quickly and assertively “touched” my dog and said “no”. His ears went back, his head went down and he walked away from the pit in the direction in which I was pointing. My energy matched the need of the moment and he got the message that I was controlling the situation and the dominance that he was displaying was unwanted amongst the pack. We stayed at the park for another 30 minutes and he didn’t interact inappropriately with the pit again. Wooo! Check out the book–it’s a quick read and let me know if you are enlightened!