How Wolves Help Us Choose a Pet


Wolf DNA varies from that of a domestic dog by just 0.2 per cent. Few of us will live with wolves, but an awful lot of us live with dogs, so it is useful to understand how the social structure of wolves applies to the dog world.

People think it’s good to have an alpha dog, believing it to be the bold one who comes to say hello when you go to choose your puppy from a litter. That is not the case. Alphas stay at the back of the kennel because they have a strong sense of self-preservation. They never put themselves in jeopardy.

If you take a true alpha puppy home with you, he will be a quick learner, easy to train so that one day, when he sees the time is right, he can take over the pack. And he’ll be looking for that day, for a sign of weakness in you that suggests you are no longer capable of doing the job. Unless you are constantly one step ahead of him, he will turn into a willful rebel who pays no attention to anything you tell him.

The beta, or what we now tend to call the enforcer, is the one who comes boldly over to you when you go to view the litter. He’s the disciplinarian, the bouncer, the bodyguard; he is pure aggression. He doesn’t think; he just weighs in.

If you choose this puppy to take home without being aware of what you have picked, it could be disastrous. You and he may differ in what you view as a perceived threat. It could be another dog in the park, a neighbor or a child.

Then there’s the tester within the pack, the quality controller, a very trying pet who will be pushing your ability daily, making sure you deserve to be the one who makes the decisions.

Mid- to low-ranking individuals make good pets because they have no need to discipline or teach anyone anything. These ranks don’t seek you out when you visit the litter.

Owners have been taught they must take on the role of the alpha dog but, despite the miraculous results in problem dogs seen on television, this doesn’t always work. If you have a nervous, low-ranking animal and you behave like an alpha, or even a beta, you could destroy him.

Many people, of course, don’t get their dogs as pups. Contrary to the saying, ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’; I believe you can, by going back to that time in the dog’s life when he was at his most receptive.

A pup learns basic principles from his mother: he picks up her calming signals, discovers the reward system, and learns his pack value and how to communicate with his own kind. When he stumbles out into the world at five weeks and begins to mix mother’s milk with regurgitated meat, that circle of learning increases.

So to re-educate an adult dog you feed him on the sort of diet he had in his first few months of life: a mixture of milk and minced or finely chopped meat.

After a couple of months on that he should be pliable and ready to listen, whereupon you can train him more or less as you would a puppy, heavy on reward and light on punishment.


If I had a million dollars, I’d buy you a monkey, haven’t you always wanted a monkey?

ImageCan someone please explain to me why on earth Justin Bieber has a pet monkey?  Is he studying to become a primatologist?  Is he training it to be a service animal?  Or is he just some spoiled kid with too many dollars and not enough sense?  I’m going to have to go with that last one, as his beloved pet sits in an animal shelter in Munich, Germany.  The capuchin monkey, named Malla was confiscated from the boy when both he and his handlers did not have the correct paperwork to be transporting a monkey.

Gee, that sounds like a responsible pet owner to me.  And lets just look at a few facts here;  

1. No primate species should ever be kept as a pet. They have very special needs. These are highly social animals. They need to be kept with others of their own kind; that’s just critical to their psychological well-being.

2. All primate species can become aggressive. A lot of times when the primate reaches sexual maturity, it becomes extremely aggressive, unpredictable—bouncing off the walls in the house, destroying everything. It ends up being confined for the rest of its life in a little cage in the basement, or [the owner] looks to dump it—maybe at a roadside zoo or a pseudo-sanctuary

3. A lot of monkey owners go to a vet and say, “Take his teeth out.” Sometimes they do a full dental extraction because the animals bite.

4.What people don’t appreciate is that all primate species can carry zoonotic diseases [infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans].

5. People want to emulate celebrities they admire. When somebody like Justin Bieber is irresponsible and goes out and gets a pet monkey, he sets a very bad example.

The bottom line is, that nobody should own a monkey as a pet.  This is a highly intelligent species that cannot ever be fully tamed.  Don’t believe me?  Have a look at this little video created by a primatologist!

Please check in with the crazy dog lady at the top of the street!

I know I’ve mentioned the Crazy Dog Lady before, but here we go again.  Crazy Dog Lady, or CDL as she will henceforth be known, lives at the top of my street, and she knows more than you or I could ever hope to know about dogs.  She knows every different breed, and all of their characteristics.  She knows how every dog will react to every situation no matter what, and she is more than happy to tell you about it!  If you are new to the neighbourhood, or pet sitting someone else’s pooch, and she has never seen the particular dog you are with, she will find you, and tell you everything you are doing wrong.  And trust me, there is always something you are doing wrong.CDL

CDL has some sort of sixth sense when it comes to new dogs in the ‘hood.  Its almost as though she is lurking behind every tree or bush, just waiting to jump out and educate you.  Day, night, morning, noon, holidays, weekends, weekdays….there is never a safe time to walk your puppy.  But now I have a new plan.  I am just going to hook up a little hyena puppy to a leash, and sign it up for some puppy walks.  That should solve that situation once and for all!