Natural Dog Behaviours

9th November 2017

Dog Biting a collar

Let's face it. Some of the things dogs do drive us crazy! And yet, digging, chewing and jumping all come naturally to dogs. Even so, while some bad behaviours are natural, they do not have to be normal. For example:

Jumping begins as play behaviour among puppies. They jump on and wrestle each other to prepare themselves for adult life when they'll have to figure out their place in the pack. While most people think that a dog is saying hello when he jumps up, he's actually demonstrating his assertiveness. The dog is saying that the house is his and that he is making the rules - or, he may be challenging you to "play" for leadership.

Barking is a natural form of dog communication. In a pack consisting of only dogs, however, there is usually very little barking. But in human-canine packs -our families- barking can happen way too much. We tend to miss the subtler messages from our dogs, so they learn that people "need" to hear barks to respond.

Answering the front door is another natural behaviour, as the front door signifies entry to your dog's den, and he's inquisitive about who's there and what's happening. This doesn't mean that barking and pushing should be tolerated. If you can't have a conversation with a delivery person or welcome a guest into your home, you as the pack leader need to set boundaries. When dogs are allowed to make decisions for us (as in how to greet visitors), they tend to do it badly.

Mouthing and nipping are behaviours that puppies learn as part of play - which is one reason dogs are designed with thick, loose skin that can handle a few nips and nibbles. Pups usually learn bite inhibition from the reactions of their littermates or from older dogs. Unfortunately, people often don't convey the message clearly that nipping is inappropriate. Many of our reactions unintentionally encourage more nipping.

Coprophagia, or eating faeces, is absolutely disgusting to people. Even so, it is a natural dog behaviour. There are two good reasons for it. First, a mother dog will stimulate her very young puppies to toilet by licking their genital and anal areas. When they go, she consumes the excrement in order to keep the nest area clean. This is a puppy's first exposure to the behaviour. Second, dogs that persist in the habit may find some nutritional benefit, either from undigested food or from the bacteria that are present.

These and many other natural dog behaviours are triggered by instinct, so dogs don't understand that there is anything wrong with them. They aren't doing them to make us mad-although that is often the result.

When you understand the natural basis for your dog's behaviour, you can more easily learn to modify it. You can enlist a qualified dog trainer, such as a Bark Busters dog behavioural therapist, to help you through this process. He'll still be a dog with the personality you love. However, once everyone understands the rules, it's much easier to play the game.

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