Watch your back. You're living with a predator, and if you're not careful...your shoes are toast. Most of the behaviors that dog owners lament—chewing, chasing, nipping, digging, etc—are bits of wolf behavior they've inherited over generations. Understanding where that behavior comes from can help you direct it in more acceptable ways. We've got a few ideas for you below!
GRANDMA, WHAT BIG TEETH YOU HAVE!
Your sweet, little chihuahua, havanese, or beagle may not look very wolf-like, but somewhere down the ancestral line, their great-great-great-great-great-great...-great-grandmother was a Grey Wolf. In wild animals like wolves, behaviors necessary for survival generally remain intact, meaning all members of the species exhibit all parts of the behavior. If they don't, they don't survive long enough to reproduce and pass on those faulty genes.
Dogs aren't wolves though
In domesticated animals, their needs are met by humans. This means that they can survive and reproduce even without the behaviors so crucial for life in the wild. Moreover, humans also control most of their reproductive choices. The result is that 21st century dogs inherit partial or faulty copies of that behavioral software. Let's look at an example.
You gotta eat to survive. And you gotta hunt to eat, if you're a predator. For the wolf, the predatory sequence goes:
Dogs don't need to hunt for their meals, but they still have parts of that wolfy software. Depending on your dog's genetic make-up, certain parts of that sequence might actually have been emphasized through selective breeding. It's why terriers can't help chasing critters, why Aussies nip heels, why pointers point.
What do I do?
If we try to restrict the dog from doing what he's born to do, he's likely to let out that hunter energy by chewing holes in your clothes or chasing cyclists down the street. Better to choose an appropriate outlet for those natural doggie desires. Below are some ways you can help your dog live their best life (and keep your sanity), based on the parts of the predatory sequence that come naturally to them.
Healthy Outlets for Hunters
Let them sniff! This one is easy and free. Let your dog follow their nose on walks.
Play Hide'n'Seek with your pup!
Designate a Digging Area, and bury treasure for them to find!
Fetch is classic, and this ball is one of our favorites.
Lesser known is the flirt pole which can satisfy Stalk, Chase, and Grab.
Play with other dogs often includes chase and is super healthy! (Just make sure there's not a huge size difference, as Predatory Drift is no laughing matter.)
Tug is a common favorite game, and ZippyPaws are a great option! The more toys squeak and crinkle, the better!
The Holee-Roller can be stuffed with paper and treats they can pull apart again and again!
A BarkBox subscription can keep them flush with toys they can enjoy dissecting.
Enrichment feeders are a great way to put your dog's searching and consuming behaviors to good use.
Needs met = better behavior
You'll be surprised how giving them safe outlets for their natural behaviors goes a long way toward a calm, happy dog. Click the links above and try something new with your pup, or comment and let us know what other activities your dog enjoys!