When people in and around the human puppy community think about packs, generally they think about a wolf pack type structure: a systematic order of roles from the top down. One overly-simplified version of this structure is the Alpha-Beta-Omega style that lots of us have heard about. At the top of these types of packs, there sometimes is a Sir, Master or Owner who looks after the pups in the pack. There is most certainly an Alpha, the “top dog” in the pack who is central to keeping its members happy and driving the pack forward. Any and all decisions the pack makes will ultimately go through this person. Ranking under the Alpha are the Beta(s) of the pack. Some define Beta as any pup who is submissive to their Alpha and isn’t an Omega, others think of Beta as a continuation of the mentoring hierarchy within a pack (helping train regular pups and/or Omegas). Next comes the Omega, traditionally the most submissive role in a pack structure (though again, this varies from pup to pup). All of these terms and labels are only a part of this very complex and ever-evolving community, and one can choose to accept or ignore them as they see fit. Every pup, dog and handler is unique, and this short article aims to help further that message…to provide a different perspective than the “traditional” pack structure above.
Speaking from personal experience, when I started getting serious about being a human pup I was wide-eyed and impressionable. In the process of getting to know both the community and myself as a puppy, I found two pups who would become my first pack mates. The pack, which evolved out of the three of us training together, began with an Alpha and two pups: a more “traditional” way of putting a pack together. Through going to events, pupping out, meeting others and exploring how we connected personally with our inner puppy selves, the pack transitioned out of our previous dynamic. Myself and my fellow packmate in training were gaining confidence in what we knew as human pups. We became more mindful of our desires to work together, but as equals…as brothers. We wanted to find our village – a pack without labels, roles or hierarchy.
Along the journey, we met two pups who would reaffirm our desire to find that village. These two pups not only connected personally but were just as versatile as we were, being able to shift from dominant to submissive depending on the energy of a scene. They connected with our goals, seeking to help bring pups and handlers together in our local communities. We began a new journey as four equal pups, working towards our common goals. Every pack decision is made together, with no single pup having the final say; the old cliché, “It takes a village…” is our truth. It takes a village to keep our pack strong, to keep myself and my brothers moving forward along our journey. It is only just beginning.
“But Ursus,” you might ask, “how is your pack even a pack without a chain of command?” The answer to this is fairly simple: because it’s how we interpret what a pack can be. Every pack has a different dynamic, some more hierarchical than others. There are packs with two Alphas, packs with an Alpha that doesn’t own the pups “beneath” him and even sexually platonic packs. Our community is becoming vast and multi-faceted; it’s time to keep reminding pups and handlers that as long as everything is legal and consensual, there is no wrong way to be a pup. There is no wrong way to structure a pack, as long as it keeps true to who you are. Don’t let others’ experiences completely form you as a puppy, a handler, a pack, an organization…be true to you and accept that other pups will look at things differently.
There are so many different kinds of packs and groups out there, each with their own unique dynamic. To all the pups and handlers out there who may be considering a pack: don’t worry as much about what you might read or see online, pay attention to what dynamic fits you the best. Explore. Ask questions. Traditional or not, let’s encourage our differences and help our community flourish.