Normal Behavior of Your Dog
Dogs display a number of traits that humans find annoying, strange or even disgusting (eating feces is a prime example). Yet dogs do what they do for a reason. As far as they are concerned, they are doing nothing wrong, and they become confused when we scold them. Knowing why dogs do certain things will enable you to cope better with them as they occur.
Compared to humans, dogs have a limited ability to communicate using sound and tend to rely more on body language to get their message across. The range of sounds they produce tends to be used to back up their body language rather than in isolation. Howling and growling are the least common sounds, but barking is used frequently, often in different ways to convey different meanings. These can range from guarding barks to those designed to get attention, or barking can be used just to let off steam when excited or frustrated.
Guarding and possession
Natural instinct dictates that to let another take away food will result in hunger. This principle sometimes gets transferred to toys and other items a dog possesses; to give them up is a sign of weakness. Guarding food or a toy, by growling or snapping at anyone who approaches, is a dog’s way of saying ‘this is mine and you are not having it’. However, this line of defence is inappropriate in a human environment. In pet dogs, not letting go of something must be discouraged from an early age, otherwise aggression problems may later result. It is perfectly fine to let a non-aggressive or non-possessive dog occasionally win the toy in a game to keep his play motivation high, but this should be the exception, not the rule.
Hierarchical behaviour patterns
A pet dog often instinctively wants to become ‘top dog’ in a household ‘pack’. This is because the strongest animals get the best food, the most comfortable sleeping places and the chance to breed and pass on their genes to the next generation. Dogs in a wild pack live in a social hierarchy. Good leaders look after the pack, making sure they are well fed and are comfortable. They are uncompromising and tough when necessary to maintain authority. They have sufficient strength to earn respect without constantly harassing or bullying the pack to stay in control.
In domestic circumstances, you must remember that you are the leader and your dog is the lower-status pack member. If the status alters, you will certainly have problems in controlling your dog’s behaviour. However, if this happens, all is not lost: the hierarchy in a wild dog pack is not fixed and will change if circumstances alter. Therefore, there is hope for humans whose dog has taken control of them.