A Dog's Natural Instincts

Even though they're similar, it's still hard to believe that modern-day dogs descended from wild wolves. Yet, this heritage is responsible for most of a dog's behavior. Domesticated dogs have natural instincts forged over several thousand years of living in the wild. Learning what these instincts are can help you better understand your pet.

Be the leader

Dogs have a pack mentality derived from their wolf ancestors. Wolves hunted together for survival and traveled together for safety. In every pack, a social hierarchy would form with the strong leader at the top and the most submissive wolves at the bottom. For a domesticated dog, his human friends are his pack. Even if you live alone with your dog, you are a pack of two. It's important for the socialization of your dog that you take the role of the leader in this relationship. Most dogs need plenty of reassurance that the leader of the pack accepts their behavior. By constantly giving your dog positive feedback or treats to reward good behavior, you can help reduce stress in your dog's life. That explains why dogs fit so well into a family setting.

Dig your dog's roots

But what about other behaviors that aren't so adorable, such as digging? Believe it or not, this, too, is something that comes naturally to all dogs. Wild canines used to dig holes in the ground to cool their bodies on hot days or even bigger holes to raise their litters in.

Understand why accidents happen

You might also notice, mostly in puppyhood, that your dog soils the carpet or other areas of your home. This, too, goes back to the days of the wild when wolves would use their stool and urine as ways to mark their territory. This technique was critical to protect the wolves from other packs.

Listen to your dog's instincts

Barking is another behavior that annoys some owners, but it can be traced back to a dog's natural instinct to keep intruders away. It was also used as a means of communicating a dog's location to other members of his pack, or to give them a heads up that trouble was on the way. Good communication was an important part of a successful pack.

Most of these behaviors can be trained out of a modern-day domesticated dog. Understanding where they came from and why they're important will help you appreciate your dog even more. One thing's for sure: If you feed your dog Iams, you're using YOUR instincts to make your dog's life better and healthier.