When you think of dogs, one of the first words that springs to mind is ‘loyal’. Most people know that dogs are capable some of the strongest loyalty observable; however not many know why they are this way. It can be hard to understand precisely why your dog steadfastly stands by your side, no matter what.
Often, people assume this is because you are a provider. You give your dog food and shelter, so they show you love and loyalty. This is certainly part of the reason, however the truth is much less mercenary. Put simply, dogs are pack animals.
Back when dogs were wild animals, they lived together with other dogs in a pack. This can be observed today in modern-day wolves. This helped them defend themselves better against threats, and tackle larger prey when hunting.
The packs whose members formed the strongest bonds were more effective, and so were more likely to survive to raise young. This means that the most loyal behaviour was passed down, and grew stronger over time. This has left us where we are now, with modern dogs being capable of great loyalty and affection.
Dogs inherently want to bond with people and become part of a pack, or a family by our terms. This is part of what makes them such good pets – they want to be loved, and in return will show you a lot of love back.
However, this does not mean you do not have to make any effort with your dog. If you are not being a good pack member to them, they can end up feeling hurt, confused, or like they have done something wrong. You need to put the work in to make sure your dog feels like a full member of the family.
This is where food and shelter comes in. If you do not feed your dog well, it will not feel like part of the pack, as in the wild dogs would hunt together and provide each other with high-quality meat. This is especially true if you do not feed your dog regularly, or withhold food from them.
Make sure your pet is given the best food possible, to show them that you care for their wellbeing. You might consider tailoring their diet to their breed by opting for a brand such as Royal Canin, or slipping the occasional bit of high-quality meat into their food.
You should also be as consistent as possible with your dog. Your pet will often not understand if you chastise them for doing something you rewarded them for before. This will confuse and upset them, and make them feel less of a pack member.
That said, it is important that you do chastise them when you need to. Each dog pack has an ‘alpha male’ in charge, and you need to convince your dog that is the role you fill. Otherwise, you may end up having problems with obedience and aggression down the line.
At times, looking after a dog may require patience, understanding and a lot of work. However, it is more than worth it when you consider the love and loyalty you will receive in return.