I’m sure most of you know how it feels: fresh out of the shower, you slip into those nice khaki Canine Behaviordress pants and button your shirt. You’re right on time for making it to your boss’s summer garden party.
Unfortunately, you weren’t really paying attention when your kids asked if you minded them playing with the sprinkler . . . a decision you will come to regret as you step out the front door just in time for a wet, muddy “Sparky” to come catapulting through the air . . .
We’ve already seen how natural canine instincts will dominate the guidance of your dog’s behavior. We’ve also determined that there are some canine traits that we simply have to accept, curbing slightly if required. However, there are those natural canine inclinations that we find intolerable, if not downright disgusting! For argument’s sake, we’ll label these instincts `behavioral problems’ and have a look at the more general of those to expect.
Sniffing and Marking
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell. Sniffing (or tracking) occurs when dogs follow the scent trail left by humans or other animals. It is due to this talent that dogs are used so widely in police work, hunting, and rescue operations. It’s probably a lot cheaper than hiring and training humans to perform the same task. (Less whining and complaining too.)
Some people like to enroll their dogs in Canine Behavior Imagetracking events, where the dog competes against others to complete a set course from which they can earn prestigious titles. These people have entirely too much time on their hands.
When you take your dog for a walk around the neighborhood and he stops to sniff at certain points, this is almost the canine equivalent of checking his e-mail. The scents that they smell (urine, feces, hair, and vomit) let them know the extent of the animal traffic in their area.
Predominantly a male trait, it’s said that dogs urinate on a certain spot, or `mark,’ to make an unfamiliar environment smell more like homemasking strange odors with their own.
Male dogs practice this most in response to earlier marks left by unfamiliar males rather than females or themselves. Marking is also used as a kind of area guest list. Dogs will mark directly on top of earlier markings to sign up. Females generally use marking as a means of attracting suitors when they’re in heat.
In a situation where your dog is faced with confrontation, it’s not going to take you long to decipher which mode he’s in. His response is going to depend on who is initiating the confrontation. For instance, whereas he may respond to threats from other dogs aggressively, he may roll over and submit if he knows you are cross with him. The opposite reaction to both situations may occur. However, this is rare. Most dogs respond consistently to both humans and other dogs.
Fighting between dogs should not be allowed or encouraged. It generally occurs when one or more of the participating dogs is unsupervised.
For your own safety, exercise caution in breaking up any fights.
The best remedy is to simply prevent your dog from being the aggressor or the victim by limiting his opportunity to be exposed to other unsupervised animals. Dog parks are wonderful places, but remember that not all owners may share your sense of responsibility and knowledge of their dog’s behavior.
Getting to know and understand your dog’s body language.
Due to your lack of appropriate canine vocabulary, a good relationship with your dog greatly depends upon your translation of their needs and temperament from their body language.
Of course, as with humans, each dog has its own personality traits that you will come to learn over time. However, we’ve put together a list of the more general moods and the behaviors to expect with them.