Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author
of the online dog training course “Brain Training for Dogs.”
Many of Fido’s naughty behaviors are rooted in his ancestry.
Why Do Dogs Do What They Do?
If dogs were perceived as dogs rather than ”human beings dressed in doggy
suits,” perhaps there would be fewer behavioral problems in our canine
companions today. The truth is, many people want a dog either to fill an empty
void left from some emotional scar or to make the kids happy. They end up
taking the plunge without really putting much research into learning about
canines and their world. Understanding the natural roots of dog behavior is
key to getting acquainted with your four-legged friend and getting a helpful
grip on canine psychology.
Understanding why your dog is doing this or that by going to the root of the
problem is half the battle. Dogs do not behave badly because they simply woke
up one morning and decided to take revenge and destroy your garden or chew on
your expensive pair of shoes. Dogs do not live in the past; therefore, they
are not of a vindictive nature. They are not acting out because you did not
purchase their favorite food or because they know you betrayed them by petting
another dog the other day.
Dog Behavior Is Rooted in Their Ancestry
Dogs, however, are instinctual animals that act in some ways because these
ways are deeply ingrained in their genetic core. While dogs appear to be
domesticated and seem to share human traits, it is often forgotten that dogs
are still animals motivated by instincts. Their behaviors still revolve around
basic instincts that have allowed their well-being and therefore, survival.
If we take a look at some of the most common behavior problems in dogs we will
see that most of them stem from their ancestry. Dogs therefore will still
behave as dogs no matter what. The many years of domestication left behind are
relevant, but overall, dogs behave in certain ways because that is how they
were supposed to behave in the wild. The following are some examples of dog
behaviors stemming from their past.
Urine marking is a common behavior in dogs, even in females.
The Natural Roots of Dog Behavior
Let’s look at some common dog behaviors like chewing, marking, chasing,
anxiety, and needing guidance.
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, leaving behind ugly yellow spots are simply claiming their territory.
This again stems from when the dogs lived in a pack and had to mark their
boundaries and even leave visual markings by scratching the dirt with their
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 like 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.
Even behavior issues such as separation anxiety have their 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.
Need 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 more relaxed.
Scroll to Continue
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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.
Age-Old Instincts vs. Learned Behavior
From chewing to chasing small animals, many behaviors are deeply rooted in a
dog’s past. Domestication has taken away some of the wildest traits, but many
of those early instincts have held on. There are, however, many instances
where humans create new behaviors in dogs that perhaps would have never
existed in the past.
Dogs fearful of thunderstorms, getting wet from the rain or walking in a
puddle are behaviors of modern society. Rain, thunderstorms and puddles
indeed, would have never stopped a wild pack of canines from hunting their
prey in their past, otherwise they would have starved. Therefore, this fear is
caused by living in a city, possibly in an apartment and being pampered all
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It
is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription,
or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional.
Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a
© 2010 Adrienne Farricelli
Just nobody on November 19, 2019:
Why do dogs act the way they do?
lois derie on April 21, 2017:
My dog loves my husband, but if im not home, he wont have anything to do with
him , what can I do
gal on January 26, 2016:
i love dogs!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 05, 2012:
Emily, you can but must quote me or put my name in your references just as you
would do from other websites you use. Schools are quite strict on referencing
articles you use. This means you can write according to Adrienne Farricelli,
dog trainer and behavior consultant….”” or you can simply put references at
the bottom of your projects like this;
Adrienne Farricelli, Dog Behavior: Why Dogs Behave in Certain Ways. Hope it
emily on December 05, 2012:
is it ok if i use some of this information in a pproject im working on at
school for animal club?
Belinda on January 29, 2012:
Paul, Have you had your Yorkie checked for physical issues? He may be having
problems with his knee(s).
paul on January 11, 2012:
My dog is a Yorkshire terrier. When I take him for a walk on a lead he would
stop and stare at me and refuse to move on, then I would walk back to him and
he would head off in another direction, he would repeat the process several
times to the point where I would abandon the walk.
He would be very excited for the walk but when we get going he does this. He
is 2yrs and this behaviour has just started a month ago.
We wold normally give him at least 3 walks a day the longest being in the
evening for about 3miles.
Angela Lynn on March 31, 2011:
I agree with this post. We as pet owners do not often understand some of our
dogs behavior. They have traits that we often wonder why they continuously
doing such. I think what’s important is we show how them how much we really
Linda Todd from Charleston on April 19, 2010:
This is another great hub and explains a lot of things. I have always been
lucky with Corky, my Pomeranian..he has never marked territory. He is perfect
to me..no major problems period. I could take him to church if I chose to and
he would sit on my arm or lap and not show as much movement as a child
would…now that is perfect.Right?
Thanks for sharing
oliversmum from australia on March 29, 2010:
Alexadry. Hi. This is a great hub with excellent information, sometimes we do
tend to forget that our pets are animals. They give unconditional love , no
matter how badly some folks may treat them, which makes me pretty sad. We have
a Malt/poodle he is just beautiful, but sometimes a little naughty. Thank you
for sharing this info with us it helps a lot. 🙂 🙂
Rebecca Graf from Wisconsin on March 25, 2010:
I am so glad you wrote this. People seem to forget that the instinct from
hundreds of years ago is still there and they will follow it.
ocbill from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice on March 15, 2010:
yes, very good hub. They do love to chase, especially the birds.
Darlene Sabella from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the
forest with my dog named Sam … on March 14, 2010:
This is a wonderful hub and yes, every bread of dog, down to the toy poodle
comes from the wolf. They are dogs, and not what people want them to be. This
is such an excellent hub, thanks for sharing…