Nest-building in Basenjis

A not-so-scientific study.

I sometimes wonder about the effects of domestication on dog behavior. I mean to say I wonder idly — not seriously. Because seriously, sometimes dogs are so funny, I wouldn’t want to change them. Mine have always been invaluable boredom-alleviators, as well as entertainers and anti-depressants. Speculating on why they do the things they do provides me with hours of amusement. Reading a book on dog behavior by some expert would just spoil the whole exercise.

Take nest-building. The Old Guy, of course, was Chief High Nest-Builder and Blanket Wrestler. He would scrunch his blanket all over the living room floor in an effort to get it wadded to his exacting specifications. I never knew where he would end up — I always had to just go out of my way as much as necessary not to disturb him when I left the room.

Now it’s The Puppy’s turn. He used to be satisfied with his blanket folded neatly on the floor next to the sofa — truthfully, he used to be satisfied with curling up on the carpet, but the end of winter was pretty chilly here, so I thought he might like a little more insulation. (And, yes, I may be the only person on the planet with basenjis who don’t live on my furniture. When I moved in with my dad and brother, the dogs had to learn a whole new set of rules — The Puppy, of course, grew up as a floor dog.) After months of curling himself up neatly on the folded blanket, said Puppy one day started channeling The Old Guy. He wasn’t happy with a merely rumpled blanket. He had to get it all the way into a tight little wadded-up bundle. Which got me wondering — do dogs in their “natural state” go to such extremes? You would think that beyond a certain amount of “fluffing,” the return on energy expended would bottom out. But I don’t know. Or maybe I’ve just had some especially particular nest fluffers. Or maybe the domestication process — all that selective breeding for being nice to people and not eating them and all — sort of shorted out a few circuits and now they just don’t know when they’re “finished” with their nest. I wonder if I could get funding to do a study. Hmm.

The Old Guy in his "bankee"

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