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How Dare you Enter my Territory?

Since times immemorial dogs are known to guard their master’s property and person. It was perhaps this instinct which brought them close to man, because evolving human being must have realized the warning potential of dogs. Since man was living amongst other wild beasts dogs hovering around their dwellings must have been forewarning of impending dangers. Apart from being a big help in hunting dogs must have been natural guards of their adopted masters’ territory.

The guarding and fighting instincts in dogs are derived from pack instinct. That is why a dog wants to protect self, remainder of the pack, home and everything belonging to it. In this process once in your home the moment he realizes that he is a member of the pack, he begins to guard. The instinct is deeply ingrained. Sometimes dogs are overzealous in their effort to guard. They become notorious and are often destroyed by the angry master. Alas had the owner known the potential of such a dog, he could have been trained it to work for the master as one of the most reliable guard.

The association of man and dog is not only age old but very intimate as well. Thus men involved in developing breeds for particular purpose developed the art of selective breeding and cultivated the guarding instinct of dogs to such an extent that a professional guard dog seldom bites. He is in fact trained to bite only as a last resort. A large chunk of dog lovers have a misconception that a dog who attacks any one entering the house is an ideal guard dog and there are many others who believe that a dog who barks incessantly is a guard dog. Actually none of the two are guard dogs.

A guard dog instinctively applies discretion as to when to attack and when to remain passive. A Police dog sniffing out the trail of a thief never attacks the onlookers. The same dog, however, will not hesitate attacking a person trying to threaten his handler. A dog, which barks a lot, is a good watchdog. It warns you with his alarms, but you are never sure how many of them are false. Over a period of time the owners start understanding from the tone of the bark, whether it is for a stranger at the gate or another dog or animal. Even street dogs exhibit this character very strongly. A new comer in the street will be greeted by the barks of the pack of dogs living in the street and considering it as their territory try to protect the lane. Sometimes they start chasing the new comer and even bite. On the other hand the daily visitors are spared. In India dogs on the street are common in all habitats. People are most compassionate here and keep feeding such dogs. For them these dogs are a sort of an early warning system if there is an intruder on the street.

A dog in the house, trained as a guard dog or a guard by breeding seldom barks. He observes more. In case the actions of the intruder are abnormal he first gives a growl and then comes and stands between the door and the intruder. Labrador Retrievers are considered as nursery dogs. They are ideal friends of kids and most people presume that they are just gluttons and good for nothing. On the contrary Labradors are excellent dogs which can be trained to perform any thing. I had a bitch a Champion in breed class. I trained her for obedience work when she was four years old and in no time she won her title in the Obedience class too. I had trained her for guarding as well. During my prolonged sojourns in the field she used to accompany me and guard my tent or room where ever I was. One day I remember at Ramnagar Forest Inspection House (close to Corbett National Park) she was sleeping under my bed, when a friend barged in my room at 5AM to bid farewell. The friend had joined me only in the evening before and Goldy my Labrador bitch was wagging her tail for him and even allowed her forehead to be stroked by him. She gave a deep throated growl as my friend entered the room without knocking. Ignoring her and presuming her to be a friendly type he came too close to my bed. Goldy at first stood between my bed and him. But when he did not stop she suddenly jumped and threw her body at his chest. He was infact hit by a 40 kg mass of flesh. Even strongest men can not stand such an impact and naturally he fell. By the time I put on my specks Goldy was standing astride over him, her tongue lolling near his face and she was growling menacingly.

It was quite an embarrassing situation. It was partially my mistake as I forgot to tell my friend to enter my room after knocking and his mistake too for having barged in.

The fighting instinct is derived from the instinct to guard. Dogs may fight due to various reasons. It is wrong to assume that a dog that fights is a good guard as well. Many times a bitch in the house does not like another bitch. They fight bitterly and are very difficult to separate. Individually they may be nice to the family and children. Such bitches if left on their own to guard a house may like to settle their own scores rather doing their duty. A dog living in a family is quite used to human smells and actions. He or she will always resent another of the species trying to enter the premises and at times may fight. A normal dog will become quiet once the intruding dog goes away. Whereas a fighting dog may even try to scale the fence to satisfy his urge to fight. On the street also bullies normally fight and often die fighting. This instinct is developed early. In a litter the one who sulks away from others and instead of normal play fights will ultimately turn out to be a big fighter later. Such a dog is useless for a home. All through the owner remains busy in tending the cuts and wounds gathered by the fighter or apologizing with the neighbors.

Like other mammals the dogs are extremely territorial. An intruder be it another dog, animal or man is disliked. Dogs with stronger instincts to guard and fight are zealous about their territories and are bound to attack, irrespective of the size of the adversary. Small sized dogs are no exception. If need be a Chihuahua will pounce upon a Great Dane. Large sized dogs are comparatively calm. The reason for aggression by the smaller sized dogs can be easily understood if you put your head at the ground level on a pavement. The forest of moving legs around makes a terrifying sight. That is why a Dachshund or a Spitz suddenly takes off and attacks the guest in your drawing room. Dogs mark their territories with their urine. The instinct is so pronounced that sometimes even house-trained dogs go astray. My Chihuahua and the Miniature Pincher had their defined territories inside the house. Encroachment was never tolerated. They never missed an opportunity of ‘soiling’ each other’s territories. Such strong was the dislike for the Chihuahua that even after she died the Miniature Pincher kept on ‘marking’ the areas frequented by the Chi as long as she lived.

It requires quite an effort on the part of the owner to keep this instinct under control. Many times they become possessive of a family member and attack any one coming near. Sometimes even happy marriages are ruined due to such attacks. It is common to see bitches attaching themselves to infants. They guard the human infant like their own and do not hesitate to attack even one of the parents.

Volumes can be written about instincts of dogs, but they are better understood while learning the nuances of training dogs. But of course a brief outline of some more instincts will be dealt here before we discuss the senses of dogs. Despite being lesser evolved they have managed to remain closes associate of mankind and have survived against heavy odds only because of their instincts and senses.

More By  :  V. K. Joshi (Bijji)

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