Dog Behavior: Why Dogs Behave in Certain Ways
Why Do Dogs Do What They Do?
If dogs were perceived as dogs rather than ''human beings dressed in doggy suits'' perhaps there would be fewer behavioral problems in our canine companions today. The truth is, many people want a dog to either empty a void left from some emotional scar or to make the kids happy. They end up taking the plunge without really putting much research into learning about canines and their world. Understanding the natural roots of dog behavior is key to getting acquainted with your four-legged friend and getting a helpful grip on canine psychology.
Understanding why your dog is doing this or that by going to the root of the problem is half the battle. Dogs do not behave badly because they simply woke up one morning and decided to take revenge and destroy your garden or chew on your expensive pair of shoes. Dogs do not live in the past, therefore they are not of a vindictive nature. They are not acting out because you did not purchase their favorite food or because they know you betrayed them by petting another dog the other day.
Dog Behavior Is Rooted in Their Ancestry
Dogs, however, are instinctual animals that act in some ways because these ways are deeply ingrained in their genetic core. While dogs appear to be domesticated and seem to share human traits, it is often forgotten that dogs are still animals motivated by instincts. Their behaviors still revolve around basic instincts that have allowed their wellbeing and therefore, survival.
If we take a look at some of the most common behavior problems in dogs we will see that most of them stem from their ancestry. Dogs therefore will still behave as dogs no matter what. The many years of domestication left behind are relevant, but overall, dogs behave in certain ways because that is how they were supposed to behave in the wild. Following are some examples of dog behaviors stemming from their past.
The Natural Roots of Dog Behavior
Dogs in the wild were meant to hunt and feed on prey. This meant biting, ripping flesh and gnawing on bones. Today, dogs are often fed soft canned food or crunchy bite-sized kibble. Yet, dogs have a deep need to chew on things just as they did when they were wild. Today, these can be sticks, bones, toys or when these are not available, even your favorite pair of shoes.
Puppies and young dogs have a need to chew when they are teething, they may feel the need to rub their gums just as it happens in human babies. They will, therefore, seek items to chew on to get relief. Chewing also relaxes dogs, it is not unusual to see a dog fall asleep after chewing their favorite toy.
Dogs that tend to urinate repeatedly on your car's tires, flower beds or grass, leaving behind ugly yellow spots are simply claiming their territory. This again stems from when the dogs lived in a pack and had to mark their boundaries and even leave visual markings by scratching the dirt with their hind legs.
When we see dogs sniffing the grass in parks, they are often ''reading the headlines'' of the doggy world. The traces of urine left behind by other dogs give lots of information that we humans cannot perceive.
Many dogs have high prey drives. This is often quite strong in some breeds that have been used for hunting for many years. This instinct can be seen in dogs that feel the need to chase anything that moves and acts as prey. This may mean chasing cats, cars, joggers and even small children.
Dogs with high prey drive may be hard to control once they focus on the animal or object moving. Yet, this behavior as well in ingrained in the dog's past when its job was to hunt on prey.
Even behavior issues such as separation anxiety has its roots in a dog's past. Because dogs are social animals they tend to thrive when in company of their social group. Pack members are generally left behind when they are sick or injured. It is an innate behavior, in many dogs, therefore to want to be with their owners. Of course, this is rare in independent dog breeds.
Need for Guidance
The need for being in a social group also requires owners capable of providing gentle guidance. They like to have an owner that sets routines and guides them through what is acceptable and not. A dog with an owner capable of providing gentle guidance will live much happier, and relaxed.
Despite what was previously thought, dogs are not trying to take charge and assume the ''alpha role'' every chance they get. They are simply opportunist beings that will engage in behaviors that are most advantageous to them.
Age-Old Instincts vs. Learned Behavior
From chewing to chasing small animals, many behaviors are deeply rooted in a dog's past. Domestication has taken away some of the wildest traits, but many of those early instincts have held on. There are, however, many instances where humans create new behaviors in dogs that perhaps would have never existed in the past.
Dogs fearful of thunderstorms, getting wet from the rain or walking in a puddle are behaviors of modern society. Rain, thunderstorms and puddles indeed, would have never stopped a wild pack of canines from hunting their prey in their past, otherwise they would have starved. Therefore, this fear is caused by living in a city, possibly in an apartment and being pampered all day.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2010 Adrienne Farricelli