How is it that animals as smart and instinctive as dogs, can have absolutely no sense of self preservation when it comes to what they will eat?

Seriously, most dogs have some level of basic dog instincts; prey drive, hunting instinct, fight or flight defense mechanisms and protecting what is theirs are all instincts most dogs posess.  We may not see them in some, due to early conditioning or training, but they are there on some level. 

It doesn’t matter whether you are of the school who believe dogs are descendants of wolves, instinct-driven pack animals, or you believe they have been domesticated for so long, and genetically manipulated, so that they have no wolf left in them, there is no explaining their willingness to eat inanimate objects.  

Whether it is mother nature or man, I say someone dropped the ball!

Many behaviours that may seem odd or even gross to us can be explained by basic dog instinct.  Rolling in dead things or wild animal poop is a hunting instinct; if I smell like that they won’t smell me coming. 

Eating manure; it is a source of processed nutrients ready to be absorbed.  Agh! But ok, I get that stuff.

Many behaviours can be explained by genetics.  Labs and other retrievers love to swim, and many have compulsive food issues.  Those can be explained by a physiological want for fat, for warmth and bouyancy in the water.  Ok, I get that.

Many toxic substances, like antifreeze, smell and taste sweet; dogs would have no understanding of the reasons not to lick it up.  I get that.

Cell phones and remote controls are things we handle often, so I get why dogs are attracted to them and chew them up. I don’t get the urge to actually ingest them.

Un-stuffing toys and dog beds, that’s just fun!  I get that.  Eating the nasty insulation-like stuff they are filled with, I don’t get that.

Gnoshing on fuzzy blankets and things, well, there is nothing resembling fleece in nature, and soft and gushy takes them back to nursing, which is eating, so I get that.

Chewies or rawhides that get small enough to swallow, but end up choking them.  They are edible.  I get that.

Puppies explore the world with their mouths and just about anything can wind up down the hatch.  I get that.  It is much like little children swallowing small objects.  They aren’t so much trying to eat them, as they are checking them out with their mouths, then down they go, just because they are there.   I think though, that even without parental direction, if they survived babyhood, and made it to 7, (1 or so, in dog years, depending on who you listen to) they would figure out not to eat inedible objects.

Why then, do some adult dogs continue to eat things that don’t smell or taste like food and will kill them? Emerg vets would tell you of hundreds of bizarro things they routinely remove from the stomachs of dogs, everything from rocks to ribbon, watches, car keys, even screw drivers and scissors.  And, if they are lucky enough to survive, often the same dog is back in surgery again and again, having assorted goodies removed. That would imply that these dogs are not so clever, yet the stealth and tactics they employ to get the inedible goodies, suggests genious!

Wolves don’t have access to the tricky things in our world, for us to know whether they would eat them or not, but i’m pretty sure they don’t eat rocks!

Coyotes swipe chickens from farms, not plastic or metal things.  To my mind, that takes mother nature off the hook.  So somehow in our genetic mucking about with dogs, man has managed to take away at least one aspect of survival 101.  Look at the effort that has gone in to creating such specific physical and mental traits in dogs.  Heck, they have built daschunds, and dobermans and Char Peis; you don’t get much more specific than that.  Given the number of dogs that die from ingesting inedible objects, and the millions spent in vet bills trying to save them from themselves, you would think that at some point, someone in the dog breed creation/ genetics department would have wised up, or at least said “hmmmn..”!

Not all dogs are inclined to eat things that can kill them, but if, like me, you have one that is, you will understand my frustration with the behaviour and why I just don’t get it!


Meg Harris

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