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Nature & You: Your pet dog and wild wolf are different ... but the same

Some of your dog's peculiar behaviors might be hardwired from its ancestry. [Thinkstock]
Some of your dog's peculiar behaviors might be hardwired from its ancestry. [Thinkstock]

Over the past year, I have penned this weekly column with the goal of aiding you in better understanding the natural world that is right outside your home's living room window. Nature close to home, so to speak.

The focus of this week's column, however, is a tad different. There is a little slice of Ma Nature's world right there inside of your home's living room. More specifically, it can be seen in the somewhat mystifying behavior of your pet dog; it is no wild wolf, of course, but some of its unusual antics are cause for puzzlement.

A good "for example" is when your dog gets up on top of your home's living room couch and spins in circles before he comes to rest for his midday snooze. What's up with that? 

This behavior is somewhat of a holdover from when the first domestic dogs branched out from their wild cousins, the wolves. These wild predators, of course, do not live in places where they are likely to encounter comfy couches. Instead, wolves have to make their day beds in places where wild grasses grow. Before laying down to rest, wolves tramp down the tall grass by walking in circles; this allows the resting wolf to have a clear line of sight so dangerous animals do not have the opportunity to sneak up, undetected.

It seems somewhat silly to have a domestic dog exhibiting the exact same behavior, but some of this instinctual behavior just seems to be hard-wired into the mental makeup of the domestic dog's brain.

Keep your eye peeled. Who knows what other wolflike behavior you might be able to observe in dear old Fido.

Neil Garrison

Neil Garrison is an outdoor nature enthusiast. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University/Stillwater; he earned a B.S. degree in Wildlife Ecology. Prior to his 2009 retirement, he was the Naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center for 30... Read more ›