Although the domesticated dog is a distant cousin of the wolf, he still does many things that have been genetically inherited from wolves. These inherited behaviours are natural, although some may be regarded by us as repulsive and others as problematic. Some are quite useful to us. So let’s understand these natural behaviours and do away with misconceptions.
Chasing. This is part of a hunting and killing ritual (we must bear in mind that dogs are predators), which has somewhat been ‘diluted’ in the domesticated dog, because most of the time it’s the chasing itself that the dog enjoys without having any intention of actually catching the animal he’s chasing. Dogs who have a very strong prey drive occasionally catch and kill the animal they’re chasing, but this doesn’t happen as often as some people believe.
Chewing and tearing. These actions are not only enjoyable, but also keep teeth clean and jaws strong. In the wild, strong teeth and jaws would be valuable assets for the dog to feed himself. In a human environment, these behaviours are great energy burners and stress relievers, not to mention the joy that the dog derives from them.
Digging. This has many uses, such as hiding food and bones, making a hole in which puppies are delivered, and searching for a cool place in which to rest. The domesticated dog often digs a hole to bury a bone he has no intention of retrieving later on; the pregnant bitch digs a hole to deliver her pups and this is a wolf-like behaviour; other dogs dig holes just for the pleasure of it.
Barking. This is one of many ways in which dogs communicate with each other, but it is also a way of calling the owner’s attention, alerting to something, and it also conveys distress (in this case, barking is more high pitched). Sometimes dogs also bark at inanimate objects. Barking is one of the behaviours that people find useful, if the barking serves as a deterrent, or annoying – if the barking is excessive and for no apparent reason.
More about the natural behaviours of dogs in the next article, so stay tuned. If you can't wait you can find loads more information in the Dog Care Book available on the website in eBook or printed versions.