True Pack Mentality

As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.

Bill Gates

I had a wonderful client – we’ll call her Jane –  last weekend.  She was exceptionally well-prepared for my visit: asked all the right questions on the phone, gave me plenty of information about the dogs I would be working with, and had even read the Darwin Dogs’ blog extensively.

During our training session, Jane mentioned a few blogs that she had found exceptionally helpful: Leash Walking 101 and Stopping the Winter Blues were examples she cited.  She also mentioned that, while she didn’t personally own a pittie, after having read the article about Darwin Dogs’ Pittie Parade, she would most definitely be joining in our parade with her pooch in support of ending BSL.

I just smiled as she was rattling off her favorite blog posts.  She didn’t realize that I hadn’t written a single one of them.  Those were all Danika’s posts. Danika’s posts (typically) come out on Mondays, and I take Wednesdays and Fridays.  I didn’t mention this to Jane, as I wished to save her any embarrassment.  I thanked her profusely for her compliments, and mentioned a few more posts that she might like, including this one about taking cues in your personal life from your dog, as well as this one, which is about over-thinking issues with dog-reactive dogs.

Yes, I gave her more of Danika’s articles to read.  She apparently enjoyed Danika’s writing style, and Danika does have away with words, especially when writing about her personal experiences with Porter.

Danika and I are always preaching The PAW Method, and what it means to be Pilot for your dog.  Your pack (which may consist of a house full of dogs, or may just consist of you and Fido) is a single entity.  There is no “I” in pack.

There is a lot of "ack" in "pack", as in, "Ack!!!!! What did I just step in?!!

There is a lot of “ack” in “pack”, though.  As in, “Ack!!!!! What did I just step in?!!

Yes, there needs to be a Pilot in your pack.  Someone to “fly the plane” if you will.  But it’s the diversity of the pack, operating as one entity, that makes it a beautiful, healthy, and functional thing.  Quite honesty, pack mentality is typically a lot healthier than the “I deserve the credit!” mentality that we humans often operate  with.    My two dogs, Sparta and Orion, don’t argue over who did the most work towards securing the yard from squirrel threats (sorry, the answer is the cat, anyway).  Each does their best according to their own ability.  And their own abilities are very different, as they are as dissimilar as two dogs can possibly be.


Technically speaking, on paper, Danika is a contractor for Darwin Dogs, and I am the owner. In reality, though, she’s a partner.  When she isn’t sure she can handle a certain issue in a training session, I’m there to tell her to put on her big girl pants and just do it. (And she does it perfectly!).  When I come up with some crazy idea about how we can make the Pittie Parade even better if we only added…she automatically vetoes it.

Seriously, who couldn't get into a dock diving event during the Pittie Parade?

Seriously, who couldn’t get into a dock diving event during the Pittie Parade?

Danika and I operate as a pack.  A pack always has a leader, or Pilot, but it can change depending upon the circumstances.  Neither of us feel the need to take all the glory for anything. There’s never an “I did it” moment – we always did it.  Sometimes we disagree, but we disagree because we each want what is best for Darwin Dogs and our clients, not because one of us is plotting to take down the other, or someone isn’t getting enough recognition.  That makes me have more faith in Danika’s Piloting abilities, as well has hers in mine. We respect where the other is coming from because we understand the intent is always for “us” not “me”.

Danika and I at a recent event.  There was absolutely NO alcohol involved in the making of this pic. Nope.  None.

Danika and I at a recent event. There was absolutely NO alcohol involved in the making of this pic. Nope. None.

Applying this same concept to your pack (be it dog, human or otherwise) is imperative.  Your dog isn’t working against you.  As a matter of fact, your dog is probably trying to create a healthy pack just as much as you.  Fido just has different ideas on how to do it.  So rather than taking anything (and everything) your dog does as an affront, realize that Fido is merely trying to keep the pack healthy and functional.  Dogs don’t do things to get back at you, nor do they ever do things in anger.  Can you say the same?  Have you ever felt the need punish your dog?  Put them in a “time out” so they know what they did was wrong?  If you even for a moment think your dog is “bad”, or has wronged you in some way, then you need to “dog it down” a little. Stop thinking in a human fashion, just for a moment, and bask in the simplicity that is dog.


At this point I thought my blog post was done.  However, I felt that the idea I was trying to convey might be a little bit nuanced, so I asked Danika to read the post before it went live.  ”Looks good, but I would include in the conclusion a point in time that maybe your dog would be a better Pilot. If you’re lost or in the woods by yourself or something like that.”

Kerry suddenly realizes that although Stan thought he was following the Red Trail, he has actually been following the Grey Trail.

Stan, in helping Kerry find the Red Trail, has only succeeded in finding multiple “Gray  Trails”.

Or perhaps a time where you were lost in a blog and decided to let someone else Pilot you out of it.  Thanks, Danika.  I needed that.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


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