The term "instincts" has had a long and varied use in psychology. Wilhelm Wundt In the 1870s established the first psychology laboratory. At that time, psychology was primarily a branch of philosophy and behavior became increasingly examined within the framework of the scientific method. While use of the scientific methods led to increasingly rigorous definitions, by the close of the 19th century most repeated behaviors were termed as instinctive.

The Behavior and Psychology of a living being is a much deeper subject then most people consider. Individually, animals are as varied in their psychology as humans. To make it a little simple we split this section in two parts.

  • Instinctive behavior (Genetically Preprogrammed Behavior)
  • Influenced behavior (Learned through exposure and influence)

Genetically Pre-programmed Natural Behavior:

Genetically programmed behavior is widely known among common people as instinctive behavior. The genetic make-up of all living being provides them with a number of basic survival instincts. Fixed patterns can be observed in the instinctive behavior of animals which perform various simple and complex activities without prior experience or direction such as reproduction, and feeding among insects.

To give a few examples, the sea turtle instinctively comes to the beach to hatch and walks away after laying the eggs. Honeybees communicate the direction of a food source by dance, all without formal instruction. Other examples include animals fighting, courtship behavior, internal escape functions, and building of nests. Another term for the same concept is innate behavior.

Dogs are no different. Dogs instinctively learn to mark their territory by urinating, pick up the cent of females on heat, fight for the territory, aggression, submission, learn to reproduce, eat food, react to danger, follow mother for safety, breast feed, make physical contact.

In contrast to the influenced behavior which is based on learning by memory, environmental influences, conditioning or experience, Instinctive actions have no learning curve. They are hard-wired and ready to use. Some instinctive behaviors appear after maturing. Few of the living beings survive entirely on their instinctive behavior such as sea turtles, cobra snakes, tadpoles and most insects.

Influenced behavior:

Contrary to the instinctive behavior the influenced behavior is what makes an animal so different from individuals of their own kind. Influenced behavior is based on learning by observing and memorizing, and has a learning curve. The more the infant sees the more it learns. This need not be exactly the copy of what they have memorized but can be based on their feeling towards the certain action as well. For example a child who sees parents fighting may develop a negative feeling towards fights and possibly react in an opposite manner in similar situation.

Similarly in dogs, they learn by observing and memorizing as well. The best example for us would be the training we give to dogs. To teach anything a trainer repeats a particular action in such a manner that when repeated few times the dog can relate to the action. Because it’s rewarding the dog memorizes the action and relates the same with an audio or visual command. This proves that dog’s behavior is influenced by observing, adjusting and memorizing events and setting its behavior for its own benefit.

The Influenced behavior unlike the instinctive behavior can be altered and can be adopted by an animal, very well and quickly at times, but can not be standardized forever. Dogs learn as we mentioned before. For example, if a dog is trained from the age of 4 months to 24 months it does not imply that it will behave the same as trained forever. As we humans change by time so do animals and so do dogs. The Influenced behavior changes constantly with changes in surrounding, changing behavior of anyone around, exposure to a new condition and many other unpredictable situations which are unique to an individual dog.