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Using Play to Establish Pack Heirarchy

Posted May 15, 2014. Photo by Amy Landers/ABQ BioPark and video by Jenn Ericksen/ABQ BioPark.

In a pack of African painted dogs, each animal knows its place in the hierarchy. They have complex social behaviors that communicate and reinforce the pack structure. At the Zoo, you can watch how ‘Moose,’ the alpha dog, shows his dominance with head high and a confident stature. The other two dogs, ‘Digger’ and ‘Growly,’ show submission by crouching low and dropping their ears and tails.

An alpha dog’s high rank comes with important responsibility. He leads the pack as they hunt and raise pups together. In this video, you can see ‘Moose’ at work checking out an unfamiliar object in the dogs’ yard and how zookeepers encourage play to focus the pack’s behavior.

African painted dogs are endangered in the wild. As we’re celebrating endangered species this week, the Zoo is participating in an international study on African painted dog reproduction. We’re pleased to host researchers Femke Van den Berghe and Damien Paris from James Cook University, and keepers have enjoyed teaming up with the researchers to learn even more about the pack.

How do your dogs at home demonstrate pack behavior? Tell us on Facebook.

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