The needs of the dog, which are a prerequisite for species-appropriate husbandry.
Every animal has a set of basic needs or requirements that must be met to ensure its survival. In addition, there are typical needs of individual species or breeds, which may also vary depending on the individual.
Most of our dog’s behavior is determined by instinct and genetic programming. Nevertheless, learning and experience still have an enormous influence on the behavior of our dog. Therefore, it is essential that an owner knows not only the basic needs of the breed from which his dog is descended, but also the specific needs of that individual.
A lack of awareness of these requirements results in misunderstandings, behavior problems and relationship problems between owner and dog.
Basic and individual needs
Basic needs are, at their core, all the requirements that ensure the survival of a species. These include drinking, eating, urinating, defecating, and sleeping.
If a human is not met with these basic needs, he will first become stressed and anxious and if the fulfillment of these needs continues to be denied, this will lead to death. The same is true for dogs and for pure survival the fulfillment of basic needs is necessary.
However, for a fulfilled and happy life, additional needs must be met. Such needs are different for a whole species as well as for the single individual under the other individuals.
For example, a Jack Russell Terrier and a Border Collie have the same basic needs, which are typical for dogs, but genetic breeding has led to the fact that one likes to dig holes while the other herds sheep.
Therefore, it is not enough to take care only of the basic needs of the dog, but the owner must also take care of the individual needs of his dog.
Natural features of the dog
To help the dog stay happy and healthy, he must be given the opportunity to pursue his natural behaviors and challenge his special abilities.
Over the centuries or even millennia, mankind has selected and bred dogs for their special characteristics.
Until the recent past, dogs were work animals and helpers rather than companions and pets. So there were dog breeds for herding sheep, others again for guarding them, for hunting pointing dogs and hunting dogs were bred, huskies for pulling sledges and other powerful types of dogs even for pulling carts, while so-called bell dogs are still today in southern countries to keep away rats, mice and other vermin in and outside the house.
For this reason, the different breeds still have certain behaviors and preferences because of their characteristics bred over a long time, and stimuli from the environment can trigger these. This leads to the fact that running around children trigger the herding instinct in a shepherd or collie, while the terrier is in his element when the earth is freshly dug up.
Even a dog that has never really had a serious task or job will still be driven by these environmental stimuli to pursue the drives for which his breed was once bred.
These urges are the outlet for the dog to live out his natural disposition, which helps him to be more relaxed and focused. Because a dog that is not sufficiently challenged physically and also mentally can become bored and frustrated. Then he starts to make mischief, such as chewing or tearing accessible objects or bothering the neighbors by intermittent barking or howling.
The best remedy for this, to prevent such behavior from occurring in the first place, is sufficient physical exercise and mental challenge, since a fully exercised dog is less inclined to do such things.
To be truly content, every dog needs an outlet for its genetic predisposition. However, dogs are individuals and some are quite happy to sleep or doze around most of the day. Still, playing together is good for exercise and bonding between owners and their dogs. Games that encourage a dog’s specific skills, such as herding, retrieving, and chasing, are especially appropriate for this.
Dogs need clear structures and rules, which is why they are actually unsuitable for followers of the ‘laissez-faire’ method. The dog recognizes its limits in a clearly defined play space, which at the same time means that it is protected within these limits and has enough space for its social and emotional development.
As soon as the dog oversteps its boundaries, this must have benevolent consequences. Disciplining the dog in the pack in a manner appropriate to the species requires grabbing the dog by the scruff of the neck and shaking it briefly, never hitting or yelling at it.
With puppies this works relatively quickly, but with older dogs it can sometimes take a while before they recognize their human as pack leader.
After some time the dog has understood the signal and afterwards a short call is usually enough to point out its limits.
Other methods are the ‘penalty bench’, temporarily leashing the dog at the sleeping or resting place or locking him out of the room, or the use of modern techniques such as ultrasonic warning signals for the dog.
Since dogs are naturally good observers, they register any inconsistency in our actions and can then challenge the power structures of the pack, i.e., the human-dog relationship as well.
The human has to be the ‘alpha wolf’ and basically the dog needs this as his role model. On the other hand, a dog that does not take its owner seriously will not respect him either and will then usually do what he wants.
A consistent daily routine is important for the dog. This is especially true in the first few days when he has to get used to a new environment. Therefore, the distribution of food should be well-structured so that the dog always knows when to expect food.
It also helps with house training if the dog has a place to sleep where he can feel safe and be left alone. Set times for walks, exercise games and outings ensure that boredom does not arise with their routine.
Therefore, the daily routine is an effective way to earn the dog’s trust, as it takes away insecurities, making him feel safe and secure.
Games and work
Dogs explore their environment to familiarize themselves with it and to make sure it is without danger. This is one of the most noticeable behaviors that can be observed in all dogs, although some cultivate it more intensively.
In this process, the dog walks around in ‘his territory’, examining all things with his nose and eyes, interrupted only by listening for new sounds.
Nose work naturally engages and stimulates dogs, because it requires a high level of concentration and is an excellent way to challenge and train the dog mentally.
To this end, mental work not only helps the dog to concentrate, but is just as strenuous for him as physical activities.
Games like ‘hide-and-seek’ or ‘treasure hunt’ help to keep the dog busy with nose work.
For playing with the dog, you should choose tasks for which the particular dog breed was originally bred. Large inflatable balls are suitable for herding dogs like Border Collies, while a Labrador likes fetch toys.
Movement during daily forays is an essential part of our dogs’ gnomes. Many of their genes, of course, trace back to wolves, whose territories range from 20 to 120 square miles. In search of food, a pack of wolves crosses nearly 10 percent of its territory each day.
Walking is therefore an integral part of the dog genome. Running is therefore very important for the domestic dog and without exercise its health suffers and there is also the potential risk of behavioral problems developing.
Additional, inactive dogs can suffer from obesity, which in turn can stress joints, ligaments and tendons.
And just sending the dog to the garden, no matter how big it is, is not a substitute for a walk !
This is because dogs tend to be allelomimetic, that means, they imitate other dogs or even humans as pack leaders, which leads them to wander rather than walk briskly if they are not led as in a pack.
So, as pack leader, the owner must actually walk together with his dog, causing one to challenge the other to keep up the pace !
The amount of exercise needed by the dog depends on age, breed, and health status. In general, most dogs need at least thirty to sixty minutes of exercise per day, and dividing the exercise routine into two walks may be better than one from both a physical and psychological standpoint.
The mouth and front legs need to be strong as they are used to explore and interact with the environment. When dogs don’t get enough exercise, they use the mouth to chew up objects and the front legs to dig holes.
A popular game for dogs is ‘tug of war’, as they instinctively see it as a common act when feeding in a pack. This involves using the mouth and front legs, which is why dogs love to play ‘tug of war’.
However, this game should not be played with insecure or unknown dogs, as they may react nervously or fearfully. Smaller children should also not play this game, as dogs can all too easily catch a finger in their enthusiasm.
Here to Part II: Social needs of dogs.