An instinct is an internal programming that causes certain
behaviours when stimulated. It may come from hormones, stomach,
pain, or the urge to mate. In order to successfully train your
dog, you should understand some of his basic instincts.
Instincts have nothing to do with prior knowledge. Some examples
are a puppy finding his mother’s nipple and being able to
suckle, or the bitch making a nest where she will have her
litter, or a hunting dog pointing.
Dogs learn many of their actions through training, but their
instincts are there at birth. He knows instinctively to use his
powerful nose to identify odours. He knows that leaving his
urine at various places will be his own mark. The females don’t
have to be taught what to do once their puppies are born. They
instinctively know how to feed them, stimulate their elimination
by licking at the genital and anal areas, and they know to dry
them with her tongue right after birth, and to protect them from
Even dogs who have been trained in certain areas or had new
traits bred into them still maintain their original purpose. For
example hunting dogs know to seek and chase prey, fighting dogs
know how to go for the jugular, herding dogs know how to round
up their charges, and hound dogs just naturally know they are
supposed to follow a trail and make the baying sound. In other
words some things are already there when the dog is born, while
certain specific actions are learned through training sessions.
Another term that can be used instead of the word “instinct” is
Humans throughout the years have been able to change instincts
somewhat by selectively breeding dogs. For example, hunting
species have the hunting instinct, but man has helped to refine
and develop it for his own use. Because the canine world has
evolved so much, we don’t always know whether an action is
instinctual or learned. It’s probably safe to say that instincts
are the foundation and we add to it by teaching our dogs learned
Both purebred dogs and mixed breeds retain a general pattern of
canine actions. They were designed to be predators who hunt for
food by chasing their prey, killing it, and ultimately having it
for dinner. It doesn’t matter if you have a Toy Poodle or a
German Shepherd; all dogs at their core are predators.
we already know, various breeds have certain activities that are
instinctive to them. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and other
worldwide canine associations divide dog breeds into a variety
of categories. For example sporting dogs hunt and retrieve game
birds; hounds track scents with their unstoppable noses;
terriers use their paws to dig into animal dens; and finally the
herders help to move flocks of sheep and cows. Then there are
working dogs that have guard jobs, pull sleds or carts, and
generally help their two-legged friends in any number of
employment opportunities. Even the little guys use to work. Toy
dogs were and still are companions and sometimes bed warmers.
They also used to hunt mice, and attract the pesky flea from
royal persons to themselves. There is also the non-sporting
group which is made up of dogs that don’t share a specific
characteristic. For instance, did you know that the Lhasa Apso
was once used for warning Tibetan monks when someone was coming?
Even as a pup, your dog with the hunting instinct will chase
anything that moves. If you have one that came from herding
ancestry, he will try wrangling kids or other pets, trying to
work them into a pattern or herd. If you catch these routines
when he’s young enough, you can train him out of acting on them.
If they have already taken hold, then your chances of changing
him are slim to none.
If your puppy or dog has a strong predatory instinct they may
pose a problem to small children and other household pets. While
their still young, they are a nuisance, and if they aren’t
trained out of the behaviour they could actually seriously harm
or even kill neighbourhood pets and wildlife.
Since all dogs do have that predatory nature, you are sure to
see some signs of it. Some dog breeds and individual dogs seem
to have more than the normal share. For instance Border Collies
are hard workers, always on the lookout for something to stalk
and chase; terriers may look for rodents to kill; hounds may
instinctively track its humans. Unless you have time for
training or money for obedience school, you may want to choose a
more docile breed.
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