Instinct – an innate, typically fixed pattern of behavior in animals in response to certain stimuli; a natural or intuitive way of acting or thinking; quality of possessing innate behavior patterns.
- Oxford Dictionary
All animals have certain types of instincts. Birds will build nests. Sea turtles will immediately head toward the ocean once they’ve hatched. Babies will grasp on to anything that brushes against their palms. The more you think about it, the more you can see how instinct can control certain aspects of animal behavior.
So what does all this have to do with dog attacks? Let’s take a closer look.
Aggressive Instincts Can Cause Violent Effects
The same type of instincts that cause you to shelter your eyes from the sun, or cradle an injured limb, cause animals (specifically dogs) to attack. When a dog feels threatened or unsafe, his natural instinct is to protect. Although outside influences and provocations are what stimulates the aggressive instincts, the instincts themselves stem from three basic primitive protective needs: Personal protection, property protection, and territory protection.
- Personal protection. If a dog feels threatened or abused, his instinct should be to defend himself—violently if necessary. The problem arises when a dog takes a simple act like walking too close to him as a threat and decides to attack.
- Property protection. Much like humans, dogs tend to develop deep-rooted attachments to objects, toys, beds, food, and even people. This attachment causes them to think that these objects are his (his owner is his property). As such, a dog may see any perceived threats against these objects as a threat against his own property.
- Territorial defense. Some dogs have a strange sense of personal space. When they’re in a good mood you can cozy up to them, cover them with blankets, or even fall asleep on them. On the other hand, when they’re tired, anxious, or ill, coming within 10 yards of a dog can be considered a breach on their territory. If a dog feels that you are somewhere that you shouldn’t be, he may attack to defend his space. This is also true when it comes to other pets and children.
In most cases, dogs attack when feeling threatened or provoked. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to gauge what a dog finds threatening. This is why you need to pay attention to the warning signs of distress or aggressively protective behavior. You must also remember that no matter the reason for a dog attack, if you or a loved one suffer any type of injury as a result, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
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