Natural stuff

Taken at the California Wolf Center several years ago. 

I stood watching Elsa in a full point.  She was frozen with just the tip of her tail giving any clue that she was not a statue.  Rats, she was in the moment with a rat on the bird feeder.  It saw her and didn't want to make a run for it; she saw it and was iced in; unable to move in any direction.  The rat had her full attention until she started to drop her foot; she lowered it in slow motion.  It was coming down to the ground so slowly that you almost couldn't see it.  Very cool, I love this stuff.  The natural stuff, things that dogs do but were never taught to do.  Yes Elsa came from a breeder who does hunting type things but Elsa has never hunted.

Digging, many dogs dig holes in the dirt and then lay in the bottom.  I've heard owners say "what the heck are you doing?"  To that I say "way cool natural stuff."  Not too many puppies are witness to their Mother digging into the ground to find a cool spot; but they somehow know how to do it, and where to find the cool down in the ground.

Stalking is another very cool natural behavior that most dogs exhibit.  These days it is mostly used in play but it comes from a hunting instinct.  This stalking behavior comes very naturally but would be fine tuned if they were using it to actually hunt, kill and eat prey.  We often laugh when little Penny stalks Elsa across the yard; she is in full view with Elsa watching her.  Not sneaking at all but it still offers the desired effect as Elsa prepares for the onslaught.  Some puppies will have watched this behavior but again most have never seen it before using it themselves.

These are all hardwired behaviors.  Some instinctive behaviors are in all dogs; others come from specific breeding.  When humans breed dogs for distinct traits they breed in things like herding, guarding, retrieving...etc. etc.  Behaviors can become hardwired making it an instinctive behavior that comes naturally.  Some bred for behaviors can become huge issues when there is too much.  Behaviors can become OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) issues making living with that particular dog no fun at all.  Some breeders consider a little to be good and more to be better.  But more is not always better; sometimes more is awful, especially for the owners of the dog.  More on this in another blog.

Many hardwired behaviors have nothing to do with hunting; some are just behaviors for living in a pack that have always been there.  Tolerance is a huge instinctive behavior; of course it has been bred out of some dogs but most still have it.  Tolerance to other dogs, especially pack members and/or puppies.

Even though many of our dogs today barely resemble their ancestors; they are all still dogs and many of the same instinctive behaviors can lie dormant.  I have seen owners of tiny little pocket pooches gasp as their cute little adorable baby attacks a rabbit.  Shocked, they cannot believe that their little human in dog disguise would attack another animal.  Much to their dismay they have been witness to the fact that their little bundle of joy is in fact A DOG.

A dog is a dog and dogs are not little humans.  Dogs do things that most of us would never consider doing.  Because they are dogs.  They will often shock owners in a bad way; giving the owner a wake up call to the fact that they are indeed dogs.  But they also leave us in awe as they do things from long ago; long before we were involved, when they were wolves.  Behaviors so hardwired that they continue to this day and will for hopefully a very long time.

I remember a day that we were out on a walk with Tilley and Luke.  Tilley had very high drive; higher even than Elsa's.  She ran off ahead of us in the park and came back with a rabbit in her mouth.  Yes, our little princess Tilley; had spotted and hunt down a rabbit.  Pretty amazing.  She didn't kill it, but held it gently in her mouth for us.  Sadly it died of fright; being inside of a dogs mouth must be a scary place when you a rabbit.

 Many breeds of dogs have been bred to chase critters; most terriers fall into that category.  They are triggered by movement; often the smallest motion will send them bolting after the source.  For years they have been bred to hunt and kill vermin.  For those who don't understand the heart of a terrier; life can be a constant challenge.  It was nothing for Jessie to hunt down a mole or ground critter of sorts shaking the life out of it and/or perhaps eating it within a split second.  Drive is a natural instinctive trait in dogs; most still have it in varying degrees.

When you see a hard wired behavior it can surprise you.  Sometimes shock you in good and bad forms but I happened to love it.