NutriSource Blogs

What natural instincts do dogs have?

October 19, 2022

With proper training, dogs can learn a whole host of commands, from sitting and speaking to more complex skills. But it’s the behaviors we don’t teach that can be the most fascinating — and often frustrating. Like all animals, dogs are born with a range of natural instincts. These instincts developed because they served the dogs in some way. So, let’s explore some of the most common natural instincts in dogs and the reasons behind the behaviors.

Digging holes

When dogs are digging just for digging’s sake — not burying a bone (more on that below) — it can quickly turn into a nightmare for lawns and gardens. But for the dog, it may just be a way to express themselves and get some mental and physical stimulation. According to the American Kennel Club, dogs may dig just for fun, because they are stressed, bored, or to relieve anxiety. They may also be following their natural urge to create a den because it provides shelter and comfort. Some dogs are more genetically predisposed to digging because some breeds — like terriers and other small hunting dogs — were bred specifically to dig prey out from their holes or other small hiding spaces.

Guarding people or things

Everyone knows that house in the neighborhood you can’t walk past without getting an earful from their trusty guard dog. Other dogs aren’t concerned with pedestrians but will protect their toys with their life. But why do dogs feel the need to guard people or things so fiercely? The reason dogs guard people is fairly simple: they see their owners as part of the pack and are naturally inclined to protect them. For toys and other items, the behavior is known as resource guarding. Like other animals, dogs developed a natural instinct to protect things they see as valuable; particularly food. How they express this instinct — growling, barking, stiffening, or lunging — may vary. But the heart of the behavior is simply a desire to keep the things they value safe from harm.

Sniffing butts

The traditional greeting of the dog world may seem disgusting to humans, but it’s just common courtesy for canines. And it’s not just a greeting. When dogs sniff each other’s butts, they’re actually learning important information about the other animal. Secretions from a dog’s anal glands contain information about the animal’s identity, gender, mood, diet, and overall health. Butt sniffing can also help dogs establish dominance as the submissive dog will typically wait their turn for the dominant animal to be finished.

Turning around before lying down

One of the more mysterious of dog behaviors, many owners have wondered why their dog takes so long to lie down. Unfortunately, there is no scientific consensus on the reasons behind this behavior, only theories based on observations. Some think it’s related to dogs living as pack animals in the wild, and the spinning allows them to take one last look for predators or missing pack members before sleeping. Others suggest it’s a way to access cooler earth or create a little nest for a more comfortable sleep. Spinning around before lying down has been observed in wild dogs and other canids, so perhaps further research will ultimately reveal the definitive answer.

Burying bones and other items

Burying treasured items like bones or toys can seem counterintuitive to humans. After all, why put something you value in the ground where you can’t chew or play with it? The reason dogs bury bones and other items is likely a holdover from their days in the wild. Because wolves, dogs’ canine ancestors, don’t always know where their next meal is coming from, they will sometimes bury leftover food underground. This behavior is known as “food caching” and is common in other animals like birds and squirrels. Burying bones and other tasty items underground may also help hide the scent so that other animals don’t steal a dog’s precious treasure.

Rolling in gross things

Many dog owners have experienced the regrettable task of needing to clean their dog after they rolled in something stinky or gross. The reason dogs are attracted to rolling in gross things isn’t fully understood, but there are some theories, all of which tie back to their days as wild animals. Many people think it is a way for wolves and dogs to hide their scent, making it easier to catch prey. Others believe it is a way to share information with their pack, while others think it may simply be a way for the pack to bond by all rolling in the same stink. Regardless of the reason, it’s one natural instinct many dog owners wish their pets would’ve left to the wolves.

Element: Nature’s intention perfected

Dogs are truly in their element when you serve up a hearty meal packed with animal protein. As they can instinctively surmise, meat provides what their bodies need to thrive. NutriSource Element Series starts with premium-sourced meat that entices their appetites. And only Element Series recipes perfect nature’s intention with cutting-edge nutrition concepts that restore gut health and optimize digestion of this high-protein diet.

Shop local and buy NutriSource from an independent pet supplier in your community.