Dogs are animals. No matter how we dress them or treat them like people, they are still animals. They are prone to certain behaviors that, sometimes as pet owners, we would rather they forget but unfortunately they never will. Most problems occur in dogs when humans try to alter an animal’s natural behavior without understanding why an animal behaves the way it does.
Here are a few behaviors that our dogs are most likely to display; hopefully by understanding the natural roots of animal behavior we can enjoy living with pets more.
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, are simply claiming their territory. This again stems from when 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, is ingrained in the dog’s past when its job was to hunt prey.
• Being Anxious
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 the 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.
• Looking 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.
As we can see, many behaviors are deeply rooted in a dog’s past. Domestication has taken away some of the wildest traits, but still many instincts will always remain as long as dogs remain animals. Accepting this fact will make it easier to live with dogs and also help us in being able to correct undesirable behaviors when they appear.