Our Top 5 Normal and Instinctive Dog Behaviors

Dogs have been blessed with natural instincts which are linked to its survival as a living creature. These behaviors come quite naturally to them and even though some of them might be unacceptable to us; understanding these behaviors will help you train your dog better and eventually help you two gain a stronger bond.

Here are the top 5 normal and instinctive dog behaviors that we believe are the most common, and how you might try to deal with them if they become destructive or undesirable.

1. Chewing 

Puppy Chewing

Puppies chew a lot, especially when they are teething and that’s because they like the relief feeling they get on their raw sore gums. This behavior is very natural and unavoidable for puppies so the best way to manage this chewing instinct, especially as the dog gets older, is to control the situation to the best of your ability by demonstrating what is acceptable to chew and what is not.

The first thing to do is to remove harmful objects like wires, power cords, cleaning supplies and other objects which your dog can chew on that’s within its reach. Then give them acceptable items like chew toys or a long lasting bone treat. Make sure these chew toys or treats are always on hand for your dog; this way it will lessen the chances he will chew on unacceptable items such as your shoes, furniture, and more.

Likewise, you can apply a commercial spray on objects you don’t want your dog chewing on. These sprays make the taste of objects to be unpleasant.

2. Biting 

Puppies Play Biting

Biting is a natural part of friendly puppy play especially when they are playing with their puppy mates. However, this behavior should be seriously discouraged when it involves biting people. It might initially seem harmless when they are a puppy, however, it is advised that owners should never put up with this kind of behavior if they don’t want it getting out of control as your dog grows older.

For adult dogs, biting can also be playful but it can also be a way of reacting to their current emotional state of mind. Biting could be in response to fear, nervousness or just simply aggressive behavior.

Dogs should be trained early on in their lives how NOT to bite people. The best way to go about this is to quickly give your dog the “no bite/biting” command and give him the cold treatment whenever he bites you or anyone else. You may lavish praise on the dog when he bites on its toys but quickly disapprove of the dog’s behavior when he bites you or someone else.

3. Barking

Barking

Barking is the natural way of communication for dogs. They use it to warn owners of an impending danger or to scare away anything or anyone that poses a threat to it or its owners. This behavior can become very annoying if it turns indiscriminate and uncontrollable. So, it is super important to train your dog to bark only at the appropriate times. To do this, try the following method: 

  • Check why the dog is barking whenever he barks.
  • If it’s for a reason you would approve of, praise the dog then gently keep him quiet (with a “be quiet” command). On the other hand, if the dog barks for an unworthy reason, tell your dog to stop (typically with a firm “enough” command) and immediately walk away from him.
  • Continue this routine until your dog learns the lesson that barking is acceptable at certain moments but NOT always, and will hopefully learn to bark for the right reasons.

4. Digging 

Digging

Digging is very natural for dogs. They do this for a number of reasons: boredom, looking for attention, for fun hoping to perhaps find something, or to bury something which they treasure. When this behavior becomes a nuisance because your yard or garden is getting destroyed, it is time to take quick action.  You can create a special spot for your dog to dig, like a sandbox, in order to restrict this behavior to a controlled environment. This sandbox should be placed in cool areas in summer and warm areas in winter.  You can place your dog’s toys or treats in the box and encourage them to use it by digging in the box yourself.

On the other hand, if you want to discourage this behavior completely, fill the holes your dog makes with things like rocks or old junk. This might persuade the dog to stop digging since it’s not worth the effort to dig if nothing interesting will come out of it. Another method is using the “no more” command. This will require consistent training and you must catch your dog in the act in order for him to associate the command with the displeasing act.

5. Marking Their Territory

Marking Territory

Part 1: There are times when dogs become very territorial and will tend to defend any area or item they consider to be under their domain. Most times, dogs develop this habit of defending food, objects, and territory by being aggressive because it has had successful results in the past. They do this by growling, lifting the upper lip, barking aggressively, snapping, lunging and even biting.

Even though territorial behavior is normal with dogs as they tend to use it as a show of dominance or to exert their alpha status in a dog pack; dogs should however be trained so that they don’t become aggressive with it. This type of behavior should always be a source of worry and must be modified with training the moment it is noticed in any dog.

In the example of defending its food, try this : take away the food or food bowl if you are able to do so without harm, give the “sit” command, praise the follow-through with a positive “good boy” or “yes!” and then give back the food bowl. Repeat this process until you notice he is less possessive of the food bowl.

Urine Marking

Part 2: Another form of marking their territory is urine (or scent) marking. Both male and female dogs do this. When on walks, it’s common to see your dog urinating on trees, fire hydrants, or any object that other dogs have already peed on. This is perfectly normal behavior. However, for some owners it can become an annoyance more than anything else since he constantly wants to stop at everything and anything that has another dog’s scent. Many people believe dogs just want to cover up the last scent with theirs—perhaps it is their way of saying “this tree is mine”, “that light pole is mine” and so on. The more spots the better!

Less commonly, you may see this behavior happen inside the home. You never know what kind of scent you are bringing into your home from stepping on something outside that needs some covering up by your dog. And be warned, if you ever bring a new dog or pet into your home for example, your dog might not be too pleased with this and mark something inside the home in an effort to “send a message”. This is not to say all dogs will have this response. Nevertheless, if this behavior does occur, a command can come in handy. A command of something like “stop – not inside” could work, but again, only if you use it at the very moment you catch your dog in the act. You will need time, patience, and consistency.

Remember, not all dogs are the same. Normal and instinctive behaviors may remain normal for some while others may turn undesirable or simply unacceptable. Just be mindful of these behaviors and implement changes when needed.

Has any of your dog’s normal behavior turn objectionable? If so, what is the #1 issue?

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4 thoughts on “Our Top 5 Normal and Instinctive Dog Behaviors”

  1. Problematic dogs are foreign to me because I have a dog that is just the most well behaved and laidback ever. I didn’t have to work hard to train him; he just seems to be a natural. I wish all dogs were that easy to train.

    He is a shih tzu, Bichon mix; his name is Gizmo and we just love him to the moon and back. He’s 8 years old. He was given to my wife and me by my sister who was breeding them at one time.

  2. Hi, Valerie
    Thanks for this post. I saw many of these behaviours in my dogs as they grew older and, although it got a bit rocky at times, they grew up to be loyal and obedient pets.
    One thing I never understood was their reaction to our swimming pool. Whenever we were in they would frantically run around the edges, barking as if they wanted to jump in but still terribly afraid of the water.
    I summed it up as a ‘rescue’ instinct but what do you think?

    1. Thanks for stopping by! There is definitely reason to believe that your observation of your dogs’ reaction to you being in the swimming pool is that of a rescue instinct. Thanks for bringing this up. As you already know, dogs often form a strong bond with their owners, even people close to their owners like other family members. They truly become naturally protective of the people they care about and want to “save” us from potential danger (even though we may not see it in that way, such as the example of swimming in the pool). Or, they could be uncomfortable with not being able to reach you (or be close to you) when you’re in the middle of the pool and they don’t like that. Especially when the only way to get to you is via water (something they are afraid of). However, every dog is different and so is their personality and their response to such situations. One may just dive right into the pool while another may just watch or pace around the edges, no matter if they like water or not.

      My dog Bison neither hates nor loves the water. But talking about swimming pools, whenever I would be in the pool, he would run around the edges going back and forth, whining, and looking anxious. When he gets the courage to get in the water and finds a safe way to ease himself into the pool, he swims towards me and his whole demeanor changes. He is no longer anxious or whining. Completely content. It is interesting behavior, don’t you agree?

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