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Ask a Vet: Dogs can turn vicious in a pack
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When you put people in a group, you can get incredible results. You can hear the beautiful music of an orchestra or watch a man walk on the moon. Or you can see the creation of concentration camps.

As the fancy animals we are, we have a tendency to behave differently in a large group than we might as individuals. Most of us have had some experience with behavior that might not be as presentable as we’d like when we were around a group of friends.

Individual humans rarely commit large-scale atrocities. When we get into a mob mentality and fall in line with group actions, we can slip under the influence of leaders who are sociopaths.

Scientists who study behavior, be it animal or human, have long been aware of such patterns in most social animals. And nowhere in our everyday life is it more apparent than in our dogs.

Not that your dog is a sociopath, although mine does have a tendency to chew off the eyes of all her stuffed animals, worrying me I live with a furry serial killer. But well-trained, friendly dogs can fall back on pack behavior when running loose with pals.

Dogs in packs work more on instinct and their hunter/gatherer nature than individual dogs. This can lead to predatory behavior toward other pets, and tragically, sometimes toward humans.

Large aggressive dogs can be very dangerous to even an adult human, rarely even to the point of being life-threatening. A pack of only a few medium-sized dogs could bring down Andre the Giant. Simply by following the leader, who may have a drive to lead and show dominance by hunting.

The take home is not to lock up your pooch and throw away the key. Running free is a liberating feeling and represents a good quality of life to many dogs, as well as humans. But oversight is crucial.

If you know your dog runs with others in a pack, please monitor them closely. Even the nicest dog is evolved from ruthless predators who had to kill to live.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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