Canine Instincts

Written by Holly Nelson


Instinct is a way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is not learned or a shorter way of saying it is to have “natural abilities”.

The Canis Lupis Familiaris or better known as canines includes: wolves, wild dogs, dingoes, Coyotes, jackals, and domesticated dogs. All of these canines have strong instincts that give them the ability to survive in the wild without tools or devices. Humans do have the instinct or drive to survive, but being different then canines we also have our appendages that we build with, thinking abilities that are complex, and a drive to domesticate which means to tame or reclaim from the wild.

Even though dogs have been bred and influenced by humans they are nonetheless Canis Lupis Familiaris and they still have all of the canine instincts that were designed to keep them alive in the wild.

    Living in our domestic world canines don’t understand that they don’t need to use these instincts to survive, nor do they understand that they don’t have the liberties to do so.

Below are a few examples of the way canines live according to their instincts and how they differ from the way humans live domestically.

The instinct to hunt     

     One of the instincts that canines have is to hunt for food. The canine definition for hunting is: sniffing out “living delicacies” that we humans refer to as “prey”. Once the prey is located the canine’s then chase it down, pounce on it, kill it, and then the best part of all, according to canines, is to eat the raw fresh kill.
Humans on the other hand do not hunt for daily food. We go to a job and earn money. Then we find a store with the best dog food our money can buy. The next step is to purchase a bag of dry kibble made at a factory months before. Then we bring the bag of kibble home and pour it into a decorative ceramic bowl with Rufus’s name on it. There isn’t any running, sniffing or fresh kill in the way we gather our prey. Hunting is a sport not a way of life in our modern world. However, I have noticed, most dogs do accept humans as the hunters without questioning our methods, that is, as long as the food supply holds out.

The Instinct to Move Territory
Dogs instinctively know they must move territories. The definition to move territory for the canine is; the entire pack all together, leaves the area with which they have dwelt for a few months trotting along with the alpha in the lead. As they move along they search out a place where the game is plentiful and there is a good water supply. Once the new territory is found the canines run around lifting a leg and marking to prove squatters rights as a warning to anyone that would want to claim or enter the territory.
Humans on the other hand find a real-estate agent, and then they look at and consider many different dwellings in an already chosen location. Once a suitable dwelling is found all of the belongings are put into a large truck and the humans drive to the new dwelling without ever sniffing or even marking a single part of the new territory. I believe while we move into our new residents our canine’s instinct and intellect must be challenged to a large degree about what exactly is going on around them.

The Instinct to show leadership

    One of the ways canine show leadership involves food. In canine packs the Alpha is the one who normally eats first. He also decides when the others in the pack will eat and how much food is eaten at the time. Dinnertime is often used for the challenge of leadership. The challenge is given through defiance in obedience during mealtime. As the alpha is challenged through this dis-obedient behavior he must aggress to keep order and leadership.
Humans one the other hand never have any battles over the food at the dinner table. There is never a proper challenge for the evening steak or roast beef. Humans just sit down at a designated spot and consume their food without growling, snarling, or challenges. So with proper human behavior at the dinner table I believe our canine companions must continually have this question in mind, “How can anyone know who is in charge without any challenges during meal time?”

     So you see, our way of life can be very confusing to our dogs causing a huge communication gap between humans and canines. As trainers my husband and I have ascertained that most dogs have behavior problems as a result of this confusion and lack to fulfil their natural instincts.
We have discovered that learning about canine instincts and teaching our dogs to live in our domesticated world is important to bridge the communication gap and to help our dogs become secure pack members that can trust humans to lead them in our strange domesticated world.

For More Information

     If you would like to learn more about canine packs and instincts, just click on the membership page of our website and become a (free) member. This will connect you to our evaluation page that has a plethora of information about dog packs, alphas, and instincts, oIf you would like your dog trained please go to our contact page, this will give you, our training locations, our hours and a way to contact us.




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