The purpose of this essay is to take a detailed look at how the wild dog garners enough calories and nutrition to survive and reproduce.
If one spends enough time in the woods, it is possible to observe packs of dogs that have turned feral. Observing their behavior may help the dog owner understand his pet more clearly.
My opinion regarding the wild dogs is simple. The Canid was never truly a domestic animal. Perhaps the term domestic is erroneous. Perhaps other names should be considered. When the Canid is studied through observation and ownership the dog is more of a predator-opportunist. For reasons of convenience I will use this terminology in this essay The term domestic infers many things and I am not in agreement with most of them. The Canines conversion to Canine Predator-Opportunist appears to be a natural process. The potential for the conversion is always present.
Should a dog become homeless or life should turn cruel for any reason, he or she may feel an innate calling. This signal or calling draws the Canid to the wilderness. I have also seen other situations where dogs did not have to be down on their luck to desire the feral life. In the early part of the last century Jack London fictionalized about this phenomenon.
It is interesting to note, it takes the Canid the same amount of time to turn (fully) feral as a Pig. Remarkably this occurs in (approximately) 6 weeks. Generally, both the Dog and the Pig are social in nature. This being the case both will look to join a pack or create one. A minority of dogs choose to be solitary hunters. Still other dogs will successfully pack with Coyotes. In addition to my own personal observations and conclusions regarding the feral morphology of the dog (some) hunters, farmers and ranchers seem to be in a consensus with my observations.
Having the drive to be feral is just one issue if a dog is to survive in the wild. Having the appropriate body type is also a very important and complex issue. Jack London’s Buck, a St. Bernard would not have the type of anatomy to easily survive in the wild. The relationship of body mass to coronary – liver capacity and the ratio of muscle to bone are all negative for a massive Saint Bernard. In addition, on a cellular level this type of massive dog would be forced to hunt more frequently and do so with comparatively less muscle in his rear quarter. This weakness could lead to eventual lameness and starvation.
In my view ideal dogs suited for the feral life would be less than 30 pounds. The Miniature Tekel, Jagd Terrier, Jack Russell all preferred with wire hair. Some larger considerations would be the Malinois, Dutch Shepherd and (some) pure working lines German Shepherd dogs. Please note many more breed candidates exist.
The primary diet of the wild dog is everything from Deer sized animals to smaller wild animals, in addition to vegetation and fecal material .Wild dogs may fight over dominance and food however, other than a confused bitch eating her pups, cannibalistic behavior is not an issue. Assuming the packs territory is close to a local dump, a variety of decaying fare would be added to the Feral Dogs menu. Wild dogs do pose a threat to farm and ranch animals especially during calving.
We know feral bitches whelp pups and these pups often times reach maturity. Many litters are scatter bred which means more than one father sired the litter. Generally the appearance of these pups and their parents look unkempt, drawn and poorly nourished. In spite of this they have a wonderful genetic vigor. “This hybrid type of vigor always eclipses nutrition as well as appearance”. Feral dogs can run non stop for hours, the proof of their fitness level is clearly evident and documented.
Certain conclusions can be made about the dog. A dog’s diet is diverse. Suitable Canids morph into skilled predators and like all predators the dog is also a capable scavenger. His strong pancreas allows him to eat fresh killed or rancid bloated prey. The dog will digest a Deer’s rumen with all its contents; eat its muscle, bone and jacket. In addition to garbage, the dog will eat a variety of rodents and vegetation. Wild dogs may bury what they can not eat.
Living on Long Island, in Nassau County the feralization process in dogs is rare. However, many years ago Jahn Morales our neighbor owned a young male Boston terrier. This dog broke loose and for several months lived in the woods off the Meadowbrook Parkway. Eventually he was located and reunited with his owners. He was thinner but well hydrated and for the most part quite healthy.
Perhaps in reading this essay your perception of the dog may have changed. We hope you will garner greater respect for your best friend! We hope you will feed your dogs a variety of fresh foods. We hope you realize your dog is not as fragile as you may have thought. In reality, he or she is a sleeping predator whose feral drive has been primarily eclipsed by his or her love for you.
Conclusion: As a pup matures our Modified Natural Rearing System converts into our Feral Feeding System. The Nutritional Puppy Bridge (see essays) helps close the gap between the two strategies. For better than two decades I have written about these two strategies. We start a pup with reduced vaccinations, a special weaning procedure, a variety of cooked and raw foods with supplements. The balance of your dog’s supplies to be acquired from the local super market. We implement a sophisticated exercise regime. This exercise program slowly intensifies over time. Our goal is simple, extending your dogs life by following Mother Nature’s dictums. I would like to close this essay with a quote: “Dogs are as domesticated as man is civilized.”
By Martin J Lieberman
Suggested Reading: The Complete Book of Dog Care By Leon Whitney D.V.M.
Dogs by Raymond & Lorna Coppinger
“Feed Them Well…Test Them Hard !” By M.J. Lieberman