Dogs behavior explained

There are three key factors that interact to influence the development and expression of behavior throughout the lifetime of a dog. These could be called the three Ns – nature, nurture and now.

“Nature” being the genetic makeup of the dog, this not only gives us the instinctive traits but also controls the morphology (shape) and physiology (internal biological processes) of the dog. It places limits on what it is physically possible for the dog to do, e.g. the forepaws are not physically capable of grasping and manipulating tools. The dog can only express behavior it is physically capable of doing.

“Nurture” is the accumulation of past experiences, pre-natal to present. This creates learned responses and behavioral trends to familiar stimuli. Unfamiliar stimuli will still induce an instinctive behavior. As an example, if the dog has previously experienced cars in non-threatening circumstances it will probably be calm near traffic while a dog that has not experienced cars before is likely to exhibit some form of fear response.

“Now” is the current situation, what is going on in its internal environment and what the dog perceives in the external environment and how it interprets that. A dog’s interpretation of a given stimulus may be completely different to a human’s.

It is the combination of these three factors that will result in the dog’s actual behavior.

A dog’s instinctive behaviors are those that it is born with, for example suckling is an instinctive behavior not only in puppies but in the young of most if not all mammals. It is essential to the survival of the young animal that it be able to feed right from the start without having to be taught how; most instinctive behaviors are ones that improve the individual’s chances of surviving to breeding age and successfully mating, birthing and raising young.

Learnt behaviors on the other hand are those that have to be taught or discovered, whether deliberately or not. A human teaching a dog to sit on command is a learnt behavior that has been taught. A dog barking when by itself may be a learnt behavior that the dog has discovered gets a human pack member to give it attention. Even being yelled at is preferable to no interaction at all from the dog’s point of view.

Attempts to train dogs to behave in specific ways will generally use positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement or a combination of the two.

Positive reinforcement is used to encourage desired behavior by rewarding that

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