top of page

The Call of the Wild: Understanding Your Dog's Core Drives

Meeting our dog's instinctual needs is an important part of being a responsible pet owner. Our dogs have evolved and been purposefully bred over centuries to need certain physical and mental activities to stay healthy and happy. Regularly providing these activities helps to keep our dog's minds and bodies healthy, which leads to a long and happy life.

When these drives are not fulfilled, it can lead to behavioral issues such as anxiety, restlessness, and destructive behavior.

Our dog's core drives include: digging, barking, chewing, hunting, dissecting and scavenging. Below are a few examples of ways to fulfill these core drives.


Digging is a natural behavior for dogs that allows them to explore, exercise, and satisfy their innate instincts. It can also be a way for them to cool down in hot weather or create a comfortable space to rest. To provide safe and appropriate outlets for dogs to dig, you can create designated digging areas in your yard, such as a sand pit or a designated garden bed. You can also provide your dog with digging toys, such as Kong toys or puzzle feeders, to keep them mentally stimulated and engaged.


Barking is a way of communicating with humans and other dogs. It can be a warning signal, an expression of excitement or frustration, or a call for attention. Excessive barking can sometimes be an annoyance to you (or your neighbors) and can potentially lead to behavior problems. It is important to first determine the reason why your dog is barking and address the underlying cause, if needed. For example, if your dog is barking out of boredom or lack of exercise, providing more mental and physical stimulation can help reduce barking. Positive reinforcement training can also be used to teach the dog alternative behaviors, such as being quiet on cue.


Chewing helps dogs relieve stress, boredom, and anxiety, as well as promotes good dental health by cleaning their teeth and strengthening their jaw muscles. You can provide appropriate outlets for chewing by offering your dog a variety of chew toys, such as rawhide chews, bully sticks, and dental chews. These toys should be made of safe and durable materials and should be appropriate for the size and chewing habits of the dog. You can also provide your dog with frozen treats, such as frozen peanut butter or yogurt, in a chew toy to provide a cooling and rewarding chewing experience. Always supervise your dog's chewing and check with your veterinarian for safe items to give your dog


Hunting is an instinctual behavior for dogs, and many dogs have been bred for hunting purposes. To fulfill this drive, you can provide your dog with interactive toys and games that simulate the experience of hunting by requiring the dog to use their sense of smell, problem-solving skills, and physical ability to access the reward inside the toy.

Playing hide-and-seek, tug or using a flirt pole can also provide a fun and rewarding way for dogs to engage in their hunting instinct. For dogs that are particularly driven to hunt, owners can consider activities such as scent work or tracking, which allow the dog to use their natural hunting abilities in a structured and safe way.


Dissecting, similar to chewing, is a natural behavior for dogs and part of their hunting drive. Safe outlets for dissecting behavior include giving dogs appropriate chew toys and regularly providing opportunities to safely shred under supervision. You can make good use of your recyclable cardboard boxes by encouraging your dog to shred them before trash night. Watch closely to ensure your dog isn't ingesting anything they aren't supposed to.


Scavenging is a natural way for dogs to find food and explore their environment. Some ways to provide outlets for scavenging behavior include hiding treats or food in safe areas for the dog to find, providing interactive puzzle toys, and allowing the dog to explore new environments on walks or hikes while supervised. It's important to ensure that any scavenging outlets are safe for the dog and that the dog does not ingest any dangerous or harmful items. You can also try ditching the bowl! Instead, throw your dog's kibble in the grass or use a food puzzle or snuffle mat.


About the Author: Ashley Diaz is a dedicated pet owner and animal lover with over 10 years of experience providing professional pet care. With certifications in applied animal behavior & training, she shares her knowledge and insights on pet ownership, behavior, and welfare in her blog. Outside of her work with animals, Ashley enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, practicing yoga and playing the piano.


bottom of page