Wolves hunt as a pack every single day. They did it before dogs evolved and they still do it today. They do it every day, whether the hunt is successful or not — and some biologists have estimated that a wolf pack is only successful in the hunt 5% of the time.
Now if a group of humans were this unsuccessful at something, they might take a break, try to figure out why they’re failing, and either change their methods or quit. Not so for wolves. The pack hunts every single day.
A dog’s need to hunt
While new research suggests that dogs are not direct descendants of wolves, they still share a common ancestor and a lot of DNA, and one of the traits they share is this need to hunt in packs.
This instinctual need to hunt doesn’t go away just because we bring a dog into our home, give it a comfortable bed, some squeaky toys, and regular meals. The need is always there. It just expresses itself in different ways when it’s not fulfilled.
In a dog, the compulsion to hunt represents a need to work for a reward, whether it’s food, a treat, or affection. When humans first domesticated dogs, it was to work, whether in helping with the hunt, protecting herds of animals from predators, or towing sleds.
Companion dogs need exercise too
In the modern world, especially in cities, we don’t need dogs to do those things for us anymore, so they have become our companions instead of our workers. But that is only in our eyes. Inside, dog DNA hasn’t changed that much. They are still social pack animals that want to work for us and want to run out and explore and hunt with their fellow animals.
When we fail to fulfill this need, that’s when our dogs begin to misbehave. Frustrated by not being able to be a dog, they turn their instincts in other directions. A dog may “hunt” and “kill” by attacking and shredding the sofa cushions, or “guard” the herd by becoming obsessed with reflections on the ceiling. Dogs may also start hoarding food or treats and “burying” them in hidden corners or under furniture in case a chance to hunt never comes again.
The canine instinct
Thwarting any living thing from satisfying its in-born needs will always lead to bad behavior. When humans are placed in solitary confinement, the negative psychological effects come quickly. People are social animals, too, and when deprived of human contact, the results are anger, anxiety, and hopelessness, along with a mental breakdown.
This is why it’s so important to satisfy a dog’s need to search for food and water with the pack. This doesn’t mean that the two of you have to go out chasing and killing rabbits, though — you just need to go out together and roam your territory.
This, of course, is what we call “The Walk.”
The dog walk
A lot of people seem to think that the only reason to walk a dog is so that it can do its business outside instead of in the house, but that’s probably the least important reason — it is entirely possible to train a dog to use a litter box after all. The real reason for the walk is that it simulates the experience of hunting with the pack.
This is why you have to walk your dog every single day, multiple times per day, and why a quick dash down to the corner and back is not enough. A dog pack in the wild may cover miles and spend all day on the move in search of prey. You owe it to your dog to make sure that every walk is long and satisfying.
While humans are well-adapted to the comforts of our modern homes, to our dogs they might as well be prisons if they never get a chance to step outside and be a dog. Honor the animal in them, and fulfill their oldest instinct.
Stay calm, and take your dog “hunting” often!
How often do you walk your dogs and for how long?