Pack Behavior – August Synchroblog
August 14th, 2007 by Sonja

We have a dog. His name is Sam; Samuel Allen when he’s in trouble. He was named after the father of Ethan Allen … not the furniture company. The Vermont Revolutionary War hero. Thank you. Sam is a golden retriever. He is the third golden we’ve had. Our first was named Ethan (Allen), our second was named Zimri Allen (Ethan’s brother). Now we have Sam. Ethan Allen’s wife was named Fanny. LightHusband wants to get a female bassett hound and name her Fanny. I think that might make her neurotic.

When we got Zimri, we stumbled across a dog training book that became invaluable to us. It was written by a group of monks in upstate New York … the monks of New Skete: How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend. Their theories of dog training are driven by dog psychiatry, an understanding of how dogs think and behave, what drives them and why they do the things they do. Once we understood that a primary driving force behind dog behavior is “the pack” and his place in the pack, we were able to train our dogs much more easily. Based on this, we learned that a disciplinary tool that can be used very effectively with dogs is exclusion. If you separate a dog from the pack and exclude him, he knows very quickly that he is being punished. So, for instance, unless a dog is very accustomed to life in a crate if you suddenly begin to put him in one overnight when he is used to sleeping in your bedroom, he will think he is being excluded from the pack cave (bedroom) and is being punished for something.

Sometime later we had children. Children are messy and difficult. But I observed to LightHusband one day that the methods that one uses on small children are not all that different than those one uses on a dog. That may sound distasteful. However, you must speak clearly, use simple one or two word phrases, don’t string together commands, etc. Now … obviously, children outgrow this sort of training at about age 3 or earlier. But one of the primary disciplinary tools that we continue to use, even now, is separation from the pack. After all … that’s what a grounding is. As in, “You’re grounded.” The child (now a teen) can’t have any connection with his/her pack (other teens) for the specified period of time. Or perhaps the parents merely seek to control the means of access by taking away a cell phone or phone privileges or something of that nature. In some manner, the teen is now excluded from the pack as a means of punishment.

We use exclusion from activities all the time in the adult world as a means of control. I received an e-mail from the hockey club. If dues are not up to date, players would be removed from practice … excluded from the team until the dues are caught up. It’s distasteful but considered the norm. People are cut from the team if they don’t measure up; can’t behave, etc. Think about it … how do things work in an office? There are teams and people are included on them based upon performance, ability to be a “team player,” etc. Or they are excluded … punished.

Those are the overt methods of using exclusion to gain acceptable behavior from people. What about the ways in which we use subversive methods of exclusion to “get someone to behave?” What do we do then? We use body language. We use facial expression. We use tone of voice. But we humans are just like dogs. We use pack behavior to let others know when they have made a misstep and need to get themselves back in line.

On the flip side, we use inclusion to reward people for good behavior. We invite them to parties and dinners and coffee. We phone them. We e-mail them. We “include” them in our social circles. We do this as long as they meet whatever standards we might have (and we all have them) for behavior. If people ever become threatening in any way, we begin to exclude them. Sometimes this is right and necessary. But what about when we just sort of don’t like what they’re doing, or they’re dirtier than we are? Or maybe they make us uncomfortable? What if they just speak more plainly than we are used to? Perhaps in their relationship the woman speaks more often than the man (or vice versa … whatever, it is something that is different than the group), then what?

Here’s the conundrum we are faced with. These problems are not officially problems. The behaviour is not out of bounds egregiously enough for the offender to be spoken to. Everyone simply hopes that s/he will notice that his or her behavior is not quite normal and they will straighten up and fly right. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes it doesn’t and people simply begin to drift away, thinking to themselves, “Yeah, So-and-so, I’m not so sure about him (or her).” The invites dry up and So-and-so begins to feel lonely. Sometimes someone will come along and kindly mention one or two things that s/he could do to help. Maybe things change, maybe they don’t. Often I think they do and suddenly So-and-so has discovered how to make friends and influence people.

Who is So-and-so? Why S/he is the new christian 1st Baptist just brought to Christ last week.

This is part of the August Synchroblog … the rest of the team’s thoughts may be found as follows:

Cobus van Wyngaard is contemplating Inclusivity within claims of heresy
Mike Bursell asks the question Inclusive or exclusive: you mean there’s a choice?”
Steve Hayes is blogging his thoughts “Christianity inclusive or exclusive?
It’s a family affair comes Jenelle D’Alessandro
John Smulo will be adding his thoughts
Erin Word share some thoughts on The Politics of love
Julie Clawson couldn’t resist adding her thoughts
As is Sam Norton.
Mike Bursell,muses on yet another synchro topic
Questions abound with David Fisher
And Sally shares her thoughts here

Til next month then :)

7 Responses  
  • writes:
    August 14th, 200712:15 pmat

    excellent post sonja with some challenging thoughts- I’ve added your name to the code- sorry for missing you off!

  • Erin writes:
    August 14th, 20071:36 pmat

    There’s only one thing to say here:


    Cool! (hehe)

    Honestly I don’t even know where to start with your talk about how us adults include/exclude each other. Made me cry because it hit so close to my heart and my experiences. When you said:

    “Everyone simply hopes that s/he will notice that his or her behavior is not quite normal and they will straighten up and fly right. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes it doesn’t and people simply begin to drift away, thinking to themselves, “Yeah, So-and-so, I’m not so sure about him (or her).”

    Good god that just breaks me. I lost people I loved – even best friends – because of this exact thing. I mean, my experience is different than your example, but the idea that people would simply drift away from me rather than talk to me about the perceived problems (hoping I would straighten up) – primarily because I quit sitting my ass in a goddamned pew. Yeah, that sucks. They figured that if they abandoned me I would eventually become desperate and return. Ha! If there was an emoticon for the middle finger, I would use it now.

    Sorry for polluting your blog with my “issues”. You struck a nerve. Be flattered that I feel safe enough with you to unload my crap.

    OK, I feel better now. Thanks.

  • Sonja writes:
    August 14th, 20073:19 pmat

    Not to worry, Sally … I’m just glad you found it.

    Erin … no prob … you’re welcome to “pollute” the atmosphere here anytime. Now I’m going to look for an emoticon for the middle finger … I want one!! 😉 I’m quite certain that I need one!!

  • jenelle writes:
    August 14th, 20077:05 pmat

    Dogs and children and humans! What a lot we are! This is quite a nice post, Sonja.

  • Steve Hayes writes:
    August 15th, 200712:08 amat

    And one of the most serious forms of adult exclusion is jail — especially solitary confinement.

  • Gailtrail writes:
    September 19th, 200711:19 pmat

    When walking my canine, usually in a wilderness area, off lead, I never worry about her running away…and I always tell my friends who have canines the best way to get them to come is to keep walking away. The worst thing for them is to think you are leaving them behind. Your absolutely correct; ‘exclusion’ and ‘separation’ is the worst possible punishment. No matter if your man, women, child or a canine, nothing hurts more than to be separated from your pack. There are so many friends, friends I really love, who I let drift away. Trying to reconnect seems important. I just want to say I still think of you and the love just does not drift away.

  • Calacirian » On Breathing, Painting and Sweden writes:
    October 12th, 20073:53 pmat

    […] Sorry, Bill, I need to part ways with you on this.  I don’t believe in collective stupidity.  I do, however, believe in a state of collective fear.  Or should I say … pack behavior.  We are, after all, dogs.  Or, in the words of Handel, sheep.  No one wants to be excluded from the pack (herd).  May I refer you to my (not so wonderful) post on the topic?  The people in a church know exactly what happens to those who step out of line.  The leadership make sure of it. […]

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