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Dog Instincts.

Why do dogs chase cars? Why do they circle several times before lying down? And, why are dogs so protective of "their" home and family? Instincts often drive canine behavior. Instincts are the built in natural behaviors of dogs. They are not taught, but understanding them can help you know your dog better. Different dog groups and breeds have somewhat different sets of instincts. However, most dogs share basic instincts.

One of the most powerful instincts is pack behavior. It is why dogs make such wonderful family pets. They consider the family part of its pack. It is also why many dogs are so protective of its family. While this trait varies from dog to dog and breed-to-breed, most dogs will bark and alert the pack when an outsider threatens. The pack instincts also affect training. Dogs perceive social rank due to its pack instincts. Thus, training a dog is much easier when the trainer is perceived to be higher in rank.

The way dogs play is often an outshoot of an instinct. For instance, while a dog wouldn't chase a rubber ball in the wild, it would likely chase a small animal. Chasing a car is particularly common among herding dogs, suggesting it is instinctual. Similarly, retrievers, as their name suggests are much more likely to bring back a toy or stick you throw without any training. With many sporting dogs, its instincts are used to help people herd, hunt, or protect.

Understanding your dog's basic instincts is often useful when training or relating to your dog. Recognizing that some basic instincts (e.g. to mate, to defend, to prey, and to be part of a pack) are not likely to be changed, sometimes steps can be taken to modify a behavior instead. For instance, if your dog is a car chaser keeping your dog contained or on a leash is wise, because his desire to chase is not likely to go away. If your dog is overprotective when guest come to visit, it is better to teach him when being protective is appropriate rather than trying to break him of his protective instincts. And lastly, in answer to why a dog circles around several times before lying down? Contrary to the saying that, "it's because one good turn deserves another," it is a nesting instinct.



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