Ross believes that that academic knowledge is important as is continuing ones professional development via courses, seminars et al. He states that the domestic dog has always been not only his student, but his teacher.
There is no greater way to learn than to immerse oneself into the subject of study. Ross has been fortunate indeed to have experienced two years living with a very large and changing pack of dogs. A pack numbering anywhere between 12 and 47. From Chihuahua’s, to Poodles, French Bulldogs, Boxers, Labradors, German Shepherds a multitude of Great Danes – the list is exhaustive; all ‘free-range’ and free to express normal dog to dog behaviour.
Ross would argue that there is no better way to learn than being surrounded by dogs. The way that new pack members are brought in and accepted is quite amazing to see. The incoming dog is usually so daunted by the numbers of dogs that even aggressive dogs can be successfully integrated without much issue. Whilst they all take varying amounts of time to settle – the average is a few hours until they are settled and relaxed. Some dogs end up staying for quite a while depending on their breed or specific problems.
Obviously the vast majority of dogs that come to stay are unfamiliar with residing in such a large group, but they quickly fit in – establish their relative position within the group and harmony generally reins.
All of the dogs have their own position within the pack and new dogs quickly learn the rules as enforced and taught by the other dogs. The core pack do not feel sorry for the incoming dogs due to their previous lifestyle – they teach the rules and allow peace and safety and Ross believes that we can learn a lot from their approach. The dogs quickly find their own individual balance and contentment. They do not appear to look back, but live now.
What is very obvious to Ross is how much play occurs and how much energy dogs have. In homes with only one or two dogs, they may spend a large amount of the day sleeping. Dogs tend to spend most of the day playing even in addition to the large walks. A great many dogs are bored and ‘learn’ to sleep – because there is nothing else to do. This is boredom induced sleep – not a natural tiredness induced relaxation.
Since living with a multitude of dogs and dog breeds, as well as of course working with many more, Ross has learnt a great deal about breed specific behaviours and the needs of a breed group. He is very aware that all dogs are individuals, but breed inherited drives are not to be ignored.
The predisposed dominance with a breed dictates integration. Some dogs are not pack dogs. Whether or not they would find equilibrium one does not know. One cannot risk the damage caused during fights to find out or allow the level of injury that would cause. In a more natural environment they would (if they survived), but morally and emotionally we will never be able to find out when integrating breeds of such vastly different size and power.
Ross is most thankful for this most beneficial learning experience. He believes that he has learnt exponentially about dogs through living with so many which often both confirmed and challenged his existing views.