“Nice dog, does your husband hunt him?”
“No, he’s more my dog, he’s never hunted a day in his life”
“Why the heck would you get a GSP and not hunt him?”
This is actually a common conversation when Qwerty and I are out and about. Most the general population does not really know what a German Shorthaired Pointer is and I would say the majority of people who do know really only know them as hunting dogs.
Is it important for a dog who has hundreds of years of hunting in his blood lines to be a hunting dog? Here is my opinion. Yes. Does that mean I have to hunt in order to satisfy this need? No. I offer him different activities that stimulate that part of his brain.
What happens if a dog isn’t allowed or able to use their natural instincts? This is what I think is happening to the mental stability of the dog world today. Dog were bred for a very long to to fullfill a certain need in society, each breed was carefully selected for certain traits. As the world has evolved, our need for dogs working has decreased. We have more pet dogs than working dogs. Because of this we have many high drive, high energy dogs living in the house with no direction and little ways to express their natural abilities.
Now, what happens when biological needs are not full filled? Personally I am animal crazy. I need animals in my life. I have not lived very long without a pet of some sort and those times in between pets, my depression and anxiety was probably at its worst. Being around animals for me is a biological full filling, it adds to my bucket, I feel like myself when I am around them. Take me away and I am an anxious mess.
Now what if I were to never allow Qwerty out of his house and back yard? Never let him use his nose to sniff and his body to run? I am certain he would get beyond bored, and what happens when he is bored? He will try to find other outlets to express himself. So, this is where destructive behaviors can come in to play for dogs. They will bark, jump, bite/chew, and find other ways to full fill themselves, but will these actually full fill them? Most likely not, so then they will continue to seek and seek until they are exhausted, but their bucket will not be full. It becomes a huge vicious cycle. They have no other way to communicate their displeasure with their life. And then their relationship with their people suffer and sometimes it will suffer so much that the owners will re-home, surrender or abandon said dog.
What can we do? Research! Before you get a dog find out what traits that dog is going to have! Does this fit into your current life style, or are you willing to adjust your lifestyle to fit the needs of this dog? If not, you need to find something that will. If you get a Sporting breed dog, you need to understand that this dog WILL need exercise and just running around in your 1/4 acre yard located in the suburbs if NOT enough. Want a German Shepherd? He needs an outlet for running and biting, they were/are a guard dogs, biting can be a good game of tug or time with a spring pole, but they NEED that outlet. Want a herding dog? They are super intelligent energetic dogs, they REQUIRE huge amount of mental stimulation and running. If they can’t herd they need a different job, they are not content just sitting on your couch. What about a Husky? They need to run and pull and be worked for hours, they were bred to pull a heavy sled for days!
What if you get a dog from the shelter and don’t know what breed they are? My suggestion would be to take a few different classes with your dog. Try finding an activity they enjoy. I tried agility with Qwerty, he was pretty good at it, but neither one of us really cared for it. When we tried a nose work class, I didn’t really think wither one of us would like it, but turns out we both love it and it fills both of our buckets! Win Win! Try different things with your dog, figure out what is full filling! I think you will find that you enjoy your dog so much more!
Will biological fulfillment fix every behavioral problem a dog has? No, it won’t, but it is an easy way to allow your dog an outlet for some of their frustrations. Doing these things with your dog can also help build your bond. Each dog is going to have individual needs, even within a certain breed, take the time to learn what your dog loves.