I was out walking near a lake the other day and a couple was there with their Irish Setter and Poodle. The two dogs were happily running through the edge of the water, then high upon the bank, and then running as hard as they could towards the water, jumping in… Then chasing each other. I couldn’t help but smile. These dogs were definitely living the dream. They were exhilarated, fully engaged, living to the fullest. There were unencumbered by space or restraints of any kind. Just joyfully living as they were meant to live.
Have you ever read the book “Merle’s Door”? Merle was living on his own when he “found” Ted [Kerasote] who was rafting with some friends out west. Ted took Merle home with him to Wyoming where Merle continued to live “free”, choosing to share his life with Ted on his own terms. Ted welcomed and embraced Merle’s “individuality”. Although there was a definite bond between them, Merle lived-out his life without rules, coming and going when he pleased, and doing what he wanted to do. He lived “naturally”, as he was born to live, as nature intended him to live.
What are my dog’s natural instincts?
Many domesticated breeds are considered simply “companion” animals, but most have a purpose…. Something they were bred for or born to do. There is a purpose for their short legs (for example), a purpose for their prick ears, a purpose for their extra skin. Although we cookie-cut these animals into our lives, forming them into what we want them to be, they have a purpose, a function, a reason for being. It’s only when they are allowed to live freely that they can fulfill their instincts and live life to the fullest.
Does that mean that we have imprisoned our dogs in our world? Does that mean that they are forced to live out of their element and are unhappy with the status quo? No. Throughout history, dogs chose us. Like Merle, they choose us to hang-out with, to follow us around, and to live their lives with us. They want to be with us. But they also have a desire, whether they are conscious of it or not, to be the kind of animal they were designed to be.
Let’s take a poodle for example. Talk about a frou-frou dog… We have set this breed on a pedestal, painted their nails, and given them elaborate hair-dos. But what was a poodle bred to do? The poodle is a duck dog. In fact, the word “poodle” comes from the German “pudel” or “pudelin” which means to splash in the water. Are poodles unhappy living a life of pampering and luxury? No, but turn them loose near ducks and water and watch what happens. After living so “high on the hog”, it may take a little while, but instinct will soon kick-in and your poodle will head to the water… happily, joyfully, with abandon! Ooops – there goes the hair-do!
Activities to fit your particular dog breed
For a content, well-rounded pup, it makes sense to consider their instincts or natural impulses when choosing their exercise and activities. If you want your “city dog” to live fully, then take a look at what he was born or bred to do, and indulge him every so often. If you have a “water dog” … a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Boykin spaniel, lab or poodle, take them to the lake for the day, find a private area, and let them run wild! Do you have a herding dog – an Australian Cattle dog, Border Collie or Corgi? Find a Lure Coursing or Treibball group. Your “sniffer” dog, Beagles, bloodhounds, would enjoy a game of “hide and seek” … maybe beginning in your home, venturing into the yard, and then out into the fields or dog-friendly parks near you.
Unfortunately (and fortunately, in some cases), leash laws and other restraint types of ordinances prevent our dogs from running free. Living life naturally for our dog is not totally realistic in today’s world. And sometimes it is necessary to curtail our dog’s natural instincts in order to live harmoniously within their civilized environment. One of our dog trainers at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, Amanda, has three herding breeds. Because she also has chihuahua’s and kittens in her pack, she has had to “soften” her herder’s instinct for “chasing”. She works with them so that they have a clear understanding of what they can and cannot chase. So that they fulfill their natural instinct for herding, she routes their energy into playing fetch or another type of activity.
Living life naturally through Training
One very important consideration when allowing your dog to live more freely is training. I know… it sounds contradictory to living naturally, but our number one priority is to keep our dog SAFE. There are dangers that exist in today’s modern world that make it necessary for us to keep some control over our pets, even while they are living “unrestrained.” It is important that your dog knows and follows a few commands. You have to be able to trust that he will come when called, up close and from a distance. Our trainers can help your pup understand that even though he is “free” and far away from you, he must still heed your commands. Off leash training at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts will help you and your dog prepare for these fun, off-leash adventures.
I would be remiss not to mention how dog daycare at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts is an excellent outlet for a dog to get in touch with their instincts. Living/assembling within a pack is as close to their natural tendencies as they can get. Not only do they have the freedom of being off leash, but Daycare satisfies their desire for social interaction amongst their own.