Learning about how dogs behave in nature can help us better understand and care for them in our homes and communities. All dogs are animals and belong to a particular species of animal called canis familiaris. A species is like a family and includes a group of individuals who are related to each other and also share characteristics. “In the wild, a dog’s very survival depends on a strong, stable, and organized pack, where every member knows its place and follows the rules established by the pack leader. The pack instinct is perhaps the strongest natural motivator for a dog.”* Dogs are social, pack-oriented animals because they like to live with other dogs or people. A pack is like a family. Dogs also naturally look for (and look up to) a strong and fair leader. From birth, dogs learn their place within the pack and who is in charge. This creates a natural balance within the pack. Leadership is very important to dogs – the pack leader is respected and obeyed; if dogs do not perceive a leader, then they will try to become the leader! When dogs live with a family, dog owners need to take on the role of pack leader by calmly, but firmly, showing dogs that they make and maintain the rules.

  • Can you think of any pack leaders in your family or community?
  • How does this pack leader keep their pack in order?
  • How would you lead the pack if you were the leader?
  • Why do you think discipline is helpful for dogs?


In the series of Dog Dialogue Lessons children will learn about how dogs behave in nature in order to better understand canine characteristics and behaviors. Dogs live as part of a pack; dogs also need discipline including rules, boundaries and limits. Children will learn that they can earn a dog’s respect by becoming a strong and consistent pack leader. When children learn about dog behavior, they will develop greater comfort and confidence with animals and it will become second nature for them to react with a calm yet assertive manner. In the first lesson introduced here, children will learn that dogs are part of a pack and they follow the rules established by the pack leader. They will also learn that although there are differences between people and dogs, both humans and dogs are social, which is why they have become so bonded over the years.

Vocabulary Words to Highlight:

Leader, Species, Pack, Respect, Discipline

* Millan, C. (2010). Who is Cesar Millan? Cesar’s Way.