discusses “hunt you down like a dog” Rather than hijack I wanted to ask a related question.
I have always heard this bit of “knowledge” that a dog is genetically programmed to not give up on a hunt. That once it starts it will litteraly run itself to death because wasting energy on failed hunts was selected against. And that’s why sled dog’s are so tough, it’s genetic.
But is it really true. For some dogs? all Dogs? Just wolves? Or is the whole thing an exageration?
(anecdote) My dog has a tennis ball obsession. If you will throw a ball for her, she will retrieve it. Over and over. On a couple of occasions, guests have thrown her ball for her until she has collapsed. When that has happened, I’ve carried her indoors, checked her rectal temp (>106) and initiated treatment (ice packs, etc). When her temperature comes down a bit, she’ll stand up on shaky legs and drink some water. Then she gets her ball and tries to convince someone to throw it. (/anecdote)
I have seen several dogs present DOA from similar heatstroke, although they tend to be dogs predisposed to heat death (Bulldogs in particular).
It’s by no means a “common trait” but sure, it can happen. They way you ask it sounds as though you’re thinking that any given hound will stay any given trail until it dies. Some dogs will do that, but people spend lifetimes trying to breed hunting dogs with that kind of tireless heart for the task.
More commonly, a hound on a long tear will run the pads bloody on their feet without even noticing, but it’s not as though they won’t stop if they lose the trail or get sufficiently exhausted and hungry, especially if they’ve managed to lose their handler in the process. The Dillards tell this great story on one of their albums about mountain hounds running their fool heads off, getting lost, and laying up in your outhouse in the winter for an unpleasant surprise on a snowy pre-dawn when the only reason you’d be heading for the outhouse is a dire emergency.
Oh, and I’m not sure this makes any sense to me whatsoever. I can see the argument that dedication to following prey was strongly selected for, but… “wasting energy on failed hunts”?
To clarify, sure, you’re going to choose the dogs that are the most successful hunters for breeding, but in the end, local gene pools being what they were before globalization, you bred what you had and did the best you could with training. Some people bred stellar hounds, and some people had the hounds they could get and work.
I’d far more readily believe that sled dogs will sometimes die in the traces–in that extremely hostile environment, being part of a working team, and living for no other purpose. Period literature about the Gold Rush and the Alaskan frontier are chock-full of stories of sled dogs pulling until their hearts give out, or trying to fight their way back into harness when removed out of pity for their condition. Hard to know how romanticized that is, though. Probably quite, though I don’t doubt that it happened.
It’s not because of historic pressure to be successful hunters, though.
Canines are pack animals. They hunt in packs. And one of the characteristics of this is that the pack can wear down their prey because they can take turns going after the prey, while it has to keep running all the time.
I have been told is not that hard to run a pug to death if the temperature is hot. I used to them at the dog park (my dog is too old to go now), and when they would play with the other dogs their owners have to call them over to take a break. They were also absent on really hot days, because their owners said they knew the dogs would want to play, but it was just too dangerous.
Other the other hand, I have never actually seen a pug run itself to death.
Wild hunters aren’t interested in proving anything; all they want is maximum calories with minimum effort. Even cheetahs, the fastest there is, are successful only about ten percent of the time. It’s not because the gazelle or whatever outruns him, he just quits and see if he can select one easier to catch.
In this site, the speaker, Dan Belker is arguing that the Saluki breed is heading away from its original purpose – a hunter to put food in the pot. Ring dogs, and even coursing dogs are not able to do what their middle-eastern cousins are. He has the following anecdote:
The coursing dogs could well run to death if the weather is hot enough; the red puppy would not.
Coon hounds run all damned night chasing raccoons for miles upon miles until they tree them. They also bay (bark that carries for very long distances). They operate in packs but they still have to keep up. They seem to do fine although they are carefully bred for it.
My range-working aussies both have ball obsessions, like vetbridge’s dog does. They are, however, both from strong working lines. They will fetch until the cows come home (hardee har har) but both of them seem to be very aware of their own status, heat and strength-wise. They will go to water (lie down in the doggy pool) or stop and drink water and stop playing fetch when they need to before they collapse. This is a trait we look for in long-range working ranch dogs. Self-regulation is very important. I’ve had retrievers who WILL fetch until your arm falls off and who WILL keep on fetching to the point of heat exhaustion.
Some dogs WILL run themselves to death, given the right circumstances. Sometimes, it seems to be instinct kicking in. Interestingly, in other breeds, it’s a different bred-in instinct that tells them to STOP before it kills 'em. Funky, no?
Most dogs are suceptable to dehydration and/or heat stroke due to the fact that their only means of dissipating heat is through their tongue and paws and they’re wearing a fur blanket 24/7. This is often called “running itself to death” because it usually happens in hot weather during physical activity. If they sense they are overheating, they might lay down and cool off, but like humans, sometimes they don’t realize it until too late.
As for being genetically programmed to hunt until they die, that seems like an exaggeration, but I would bet that a dog on a trail is more likely not to notice the onset of heat exhaustion than, say, a dog playing in the yard.
I once did a post mortem exam for a dog sitter. She let the English Bulldog out to eliminate. It was a very hot, humid day. The heat combined with the dog’s extremely abnormal upper airway (normal for the breed) made even a bowel movement too much effort.