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Does your dog have Instincts?

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

How would you feel if?

You brought your baby home and, because the family pet dog had been friendly with your other two small children, it did some damage to the new baby, because it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking the dog has grown up with children then it will be OK with all children?

Not necessarily correct.

'We need to understand that this new baby is in the dog’s opinion an interloper into its territory and family, and measure should be taken to get the dog familiar with the scent of this new person, before it actually comes home.'

We will talk about at some other time, not here.

Should your young children bring some of their school friends home with them for a short play one afternoon and your very friendly family pet, who is perfect with your children, bites one of your best friends small children,while they were all playing out in the back yard? Because we forgot to put the dog on lead and out of sight of the children at play? How would you feel?

We always have to remember – TEETH AND CLAWS hurt just as much in fun as they do in anger.

If you saw your child or any visiting child put their face up close to the face of your family pet and you didn’t remove the child immediately and warn your child, or visiting child, never to do that again. Because we forgot or didn’t understand that the dog MAY see this face to face encounter as a threat to its higher position on the pack ladder and by instinct must put the child back in its rightful position by biting it on the face?  How would we feel?

If you really think about your dog, you will ask yourself 'does your dog have instincts' at all? Dogs are creatures of instinct and are instant creatures. These qualifications allow them to survive in the wild and the preservation of the species is a very powerful genetic drive.

We tend to forget just what it is we have on the end of the lead, or even worse, what we have running loose away from us.

Understand that a dog (even when domesticated) still has all the instincts of its predecessor the wolf. Fight, Flight, Bite and Hunt.

Many different breeds are now worked in areas which  cover these instincts and heritage, but unfortunately these dogs are not all being worked in the areas which their breed should and could be worked. For instance:- Cattle dogs are great Cattle Herders. (They are called blue heelers for a reason) Think about that reason.  Should you then just be leaving it lie around the back yard untrained and unstimulated. Border Collies, Spaniels, Greyhounds, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Retrievers, Labradors, Beagles, these are to name but a few of the extensive lists of working breeds.  While all of these dogs make great family pets, they need mental stimulation as well as physical. There are many areas where this stimulation can be found.  Its our job to find such areas. Obedience Competitions, Agility, Fly Ball Gundog work, Field Trials are but a few.

What are we as their owners and handlers learning about the dog we own?. Do we even make this dog a member of our family pack? Do we even care which breed we choose to take home to live with us? DO WE IN OUR INEXPERIENCE, live with the dog  instead of the other way around? If we go about owing a dog in a indifferent manner, then we are heading for trouble, and problems will continue to escalate.

Think about Instinct and Heritage before we purchase that cuddly bit of fur, then make the correct decision for you and your family.

With so many dog bites occurring around the country at the moment more thought needs to be given to which type of dog we purchase, how much we understand what makes a dog tick, and as a family make the correct decisions to have this wonderful creature as a part of our caring family.

Dogs need boundaries. 

They need to know where they stand in the family structure.

They need training.

This is short but I hope gives us something to think about before we purchase our next companion.

Val Bonney (Canine behavioural Specialist / International Trainer.)

Oct 2010

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