The Innate Make-Up of a Dog

By Candiss DelCastillo


In my ‘Behavioral HELP for Dogs’ seminars and 1 on 1 sessions, I start teaching  with a sound foundation.  During the course of our time together, I build line upon line on that foundation until my students or clients have a complete understanding of how to interact with their dogs, so as to draw from them the behavior they want, thus creating harmony in the home and the neighborhood. 


One of the main reasons that dogs develop issues is that we tend to humanize them.  Your dog doesn’t think he is a human, you do!   The biological fact of the matter is that your dog is an animal and a dog.  He will only do well in his domesticated setting with you if you learn to treat him as such.


When puppies are born, their mother gives birth to them in a fairly calm manner, yet exudes her authority over her pups from day one.  She is always about giving them the direction they need for every phase in their development.  A dog responds submissively to a calm-assertive leader just as they did to their mother.  Remember, your dog is looking to you for direction.  It is in your best interest to take advantage of that!  He may need to be reconditioned in some areas but don’t relent.  He will come around in time as you introduce these changes.


The best way to understand your dog’s innate behavior is to observe wolves.  Close kin to dogs, the wolf’s DNA is barely any different.  They are pack and den animals and follow a pack leader, which is usually a male, however, sometimes a wolf couple lead the pack as a team. 


The pack leader always initiates, leads, walks in front of the pack, tells the group when they will be stopping to rest, and when they can come in and eat off of the kill.  The rest of the pack has their order on down the line to the Omega wolf (the lowest in rank).  The pack doesn’t separate unless there is a nursing female who needs to stay back with the pups.  A pack isn’t a pack unless they are moving forward together for food which can sometimes take them up to 150 miles a day!


This little biology lesson has a tremendous value for you even if you own a Toy Poodle.  It is a dog’s nature for a dog to walk with his pack leader (you) every day.  It is as essential as flying to a bird or swimming to a fish.


Now, let’s equate this to your role with your dog.  You are the pack leader in his domesticated life.  You, not your dog, make the decisions as to how things are going to go in your home while he lives with you.  It is absolutely essential that you take your dog out for a walk a minimum of once a day for 30 minutes, but 2 - 3 times a day is best and for longer if possible. 


NOTE: (If you are not physically able to walk your dog due to a physical handicap and don’t have other people living with you, then hire a walker.  In the nicer weather you can roll down the street with them if you are wheelchair bound.  You can learn to hold the leash after a time, but make sure you always have someone with you who can intervene if your dog takes off.  Never go alone.)


The kind of walk I am referring to here is a structured walk in which, just as in a  wolf pack , you have your dog slightly behind and next to you.  He is not out in front of you.  The dynamics you want to glean from this exercise has several benefits:  1) It puts you in the position of Leader.   2) This is your dogs highest form of connecting with you. To him this is the ultimate bonding, not affection as you might think.  I will address the proper place for affection in another article at a later time.  3) It’s good exercise for both of you.  You are draining your dog’s nervous/toxic energy which will reduce his need to partake in the neurotic, nuisance, destructive, or potentially dangerous behaviors.  4) It acquaints him with his surroundings.


At the halfway point in your walk give him some roam room to sniff, lift, squat and play.  Don’t let your dog off leash unless you are absolutely certain that you will get him back.  Be responsible and always bring a poo bag with you.


Upon returning home your dog is ready for any obedience commands or behavior modification you may want to work on with him.  His mind is clear and he has bonded with you.  He is ready to be responsive.  And now the fun part.  Affection!  He’s earned it and so have you.  This can be your play time in full measure!  It is also now time for his feeding, which I will cover in depth in the next article.


When you re-train your thinking, you can train your dog.  It takes commitment and consistency on you and your family’s part, not perfection.  Be gentle with yourself as you take on some new disciplines to get this job done.  Give it time, and enjoy the journey.


Good Success to you!