Wellbeing or comfort behaviors

Published on July 19th, 2017

Today we know that many animals, once their survival needs are covered, look to improve their wellbeing or comfort (Korttland 1940 makes the pursuit of comfort in animals explicit). The discovery of this characteristic showed us that the way of generating behavior -both social and individual-, and the learning of animals that have secure resources (food, water, resting place …) in sufficient quantity and quality and that also live in continually safe conditions is different from those without these guarantees. Thus we have the same species showing differences in their ethology as found in an ecological niche in the struggle for survival or pursuit of wellbeing.

There are a number of behaviors or movements that are indicators that a dog is in a state of wellbeing (Baerends 1960 coined the term “comfort movements”). The appearance of these behaviors on a frequent basis is an indicator of the quality of life and mental and emotional health of the dog, more reliable than the absence of signs of appeasement or the active pursuit of external reinforcements. Among the comfort or wellbeing behaviors of the dog are playing (social or individual), invitations to play, “wallowing” in the grass, resting upside down with the paws in the air, resting in open places instead of corners or closed places, seeking contact with the paws or nose, an “expansive” attitude, movement with jumps and sharp turns …. If these attitudes are continued and common, our dog will be in the optimal situation: its behavioral objectives will be intended mainly to “enjoy life” and not to fight for survival. Obviously a dog in a state of wellbeing will be able to enjoy training and living with us to a greater degree.

One of the characteristics of the comfort movements is that a large number of cases have no communicative purpose, a dog can wallow in grass without anyone watching it and of course when sleeping one way or another it makes no attempt to inform anyone of anything, of course if another dog or a person with knowledge sees it, they will know that it is happy and relaxed, respectively, but compared to behaviors of appeasement or aggression that are always made to transmit information to another individual, comfort movements do not necessarily have this informative objective, except in those cases where it wants to share its wellbeing by inviting us to play well!

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