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The Link Between Behavior and Need

From the desk of Mogens Eliasen - first published: March 12, 2003

Mogens Eliasen - the author of this article
on 'needs'

It is important to understand that all animals, humans included, have genetic links between certain behaviors and a need for acting out those behaviors. When we do certain things, we also satisfy a fundamental need for just that action. Sometimes, this connection can be hard to identify, but for all natural behaviors, it is there!

It must be there. If not, Nature could not maintain balance - there has to be a reason for a behavior to both start and stop - and the reason must support the species' ability to survive!

How needs and behaviors are connected

A simple example is eating behavior. There must be good reasons to start eating. There are two: a need for nourishment - and the detected presence of food! The need for nourishment is called "hunger" in daily terms.

But hunger alone does not make us eat. We must also experience the presence of food in front of us. And the food presented to us must satisfy certain criteria before we will classify it as "eatable". We base this judgment on sense impressions: if it looks good, smells good, and tastes good, we will eat it. If not, we won't.

With this, we can explain why eating would start - but no behavior can continue forever. There must be a way to make it stop again...

The behavior causes things to happen in the body, chemically. This, in turn, will start certain body processes that affect the biochemical balances in the body in such a way that the need will disappear - it gets satisfied!

The origin of the need is the presence of certain chemicals in the body, in concentrations that are larger than they will be when the need is not present.

In the case of food and eating, we do know, for instance, that food in a human stomach will cause the concentration of blood sugar to rise. We also know that we can make the experience of hunger go away by giving people intravenous injections of sugar! Obviously, our sensation of hunger is related to the sugar chemistry in the body. And eating will certainly do something to change that - when we eat, sugar will very quickly get absorbed into the blood! The sugar reacts with certain hormones and will thus cause their concentration to go down. Those hormones represent our "hunger".

When we use up all the sugar in the blood, those hormones are released again from their bonding to the sugar - simply because the sugar "gets called away" to be used as fuel in the body. When this happens, we experience hunger again.

The problem with needs not being satisfied

Now, what happens if we do not allow the natural behavior to take place?

Well, for eating, we know: We get hungry first. Then we start all kinds of other behaviors that possibly could lead us to food, and it gets worse and worse, as time passes on and we still got nothing!

You may not have the personal experience (I hope not...), but the evidence is there: Unless we are sick, we get both destructive and aggressive when deprived from eating!

What about other fundamental needs? Would it be the same?

The answer is yes. Thirst, as an example. You drink when you feel the need for water. The trigger is your sensation of the presence of water ("wet" feels incredibly good on the tongue when you are thirsty!) The drinking will quench your thirst if you have enough water available - and you will then stop drinking at some point.

Your dog needs more than food and water!

The next thing is that you must understand that all natural behaviors are linked to a need and a trigger, and that the need gets satisfied by the behavior taking place. With "natural behaviors" I simply mean any behavior the dog can and will do without learning it first. There are lots of natural behaviors that do not fit well with our society's standards…

The needs are there, though, whether you like it or not. You cannot make them go away by not satisfying them. Hunger does not disappear by fasting - it gets worse.

Needs that are left unsatisfied will cause havoc in the body's metabolism and cause all kinds of frustration behaviors, destructive and aggressive behaviors included!


Mogens Eliasen


Mogens Eliasen holds a mag. scient. degree (comparable to a US Ph. D.) in Chemistry from Århus University, Denmark, has a extensive education also as military officer and in business management. He has been working with dogs, dog owners, dog trainers, and veterinarians since 1970. A large part of his dog work has been in the area of education and education planning, and as consultant for dog owners and dog training associations. He is a strong advocate of treating the dog with respect for its nature as domesticated wolf, and has published several books and videos on topics related to dogs, dog training, dog behavior, and responsible care of dogs. He publishes a newsletter "The Peeing Post" containing lots of tips and advice on all matters pertaining to dogs.

For more information about Mogens Eliasen, including links to other articles he has published, please send this e-mail to or visit or

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Titles available from K9joy®:

Anders Hallgren:
"The ABC's of Dog Language" (140 page book - 1996)
Understand what your dog is telling you - and communicate with it on its own terms. A must have for all dog lovers. Easy to read. Easy to use as reference.

Mogens Eliasen:
"The Dog's Social Behavior" (2.5 hr. video - 1998, updated on DVD 2006, with support materials on a CD)
How the dog's behavior is linked to its instincts and needs. What you can change and what is "for life". How you use this information to dramatically improve your relationship with your dog.

Mogens Eliasen:
"BrainWork for Smart Dogs" (380 page e-book - 2003)
How you get a happy and well-behaved dog, stimulating its brain with 15 minutes of fun per day. Dogs need to work and use their instinct in order to be in mental balance. Everyone can do it with these instructions. More than 40 exercises to choose from!

Mogens Eliasen:
"Don't Pull on the Leash!" (40 page e-book - 2005)
The 5 simple steps in this complete training manual will effectively stop any dog from pulling on the leash, with no pain or abuse and no special equipment - and make the start of a much better relationship with the dog.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Is Your Dog's Drinking Water Safe?" (30 page e-book - 2005, updated 2006)
A layman's overview of how and why drinking water gets contaminated - and what you can do about it.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Feeding Your Dog - the Natural Way" (1 hr. video - 1998)
The fastest introduction to get you started on feeding your dog a natural diet. It explains the dog's physiology in simple terms, so you also understand why you should do this.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Canine Choice - by Nature" (80 page e-book - 1999, updated 2005)
The simple "how-to" about feeding a natural diet for optimal health.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Raw Food for Dogs - the Ultimate Reference for Dog Owners"
(340 page e-book - revised/expanded 2006)
Everything you need for making your own informed decisions about what to feed your dog, and why and how. Includes numerous examples of feeding plans plus two chapters on how to work with your vet, also if he/she does not approve of your feeding...

Mogens Eliasen:
"The Wolf's Natural Diet - a Feeding Guide for Your Dog?"
(125 page e-book - 2004 updated/revised 2006)
What we know and don't know about the wolf and its natural feeding, and about the dog and its domestication, and what we can and cannot conclude from wolf to dog... this is the big "why?" behind any responsible approach to feeding your dog.

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