Can dogs survive in the wild? ( For how long? )

During SHTF scenarios a lot of people will simply abandon their dogs, while this is understandable in certain situations but far too many people think that their dogs will manage to stay safe and survive in the wild. A lot of dogs can go missing in the wilderness, especially dogs that are not used to being outside for long periods of time, all it takes for them to pick up a scent and they are gone, who knows for how long.

No, dogs can not survive in the wild because they are reliant on humans for food. Although dogs have predatory instincts but that doesn’t mean that they can reliably hunt. Even in the animal kingdom when a wolf is banished from the pack it is usually a death sentence. The only way a dog can survive in the wild is if the dog joins a feral dog pack or wolf pack, but the chances of this are slim, as they will most likely view a dog as prey than anything else.

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A lot of people think that just because dogs’ ancestors were the wolves they should in theory have no problem surviving in the wilderness. The problem is that dogs have evolved extremely fast and they have evolved to fit our needs and not to hunt and survive alone, although some dog breeds are an exception for this. Smaller dog breeds tend to do extremely bad if they get lost in the wilderness, most of them have evolved to be cute rather than to survive in the wild.

Usually, these smaller breeds of dogs also come with serious health complications, although they might look cute, they come with a lot of health problems. On the other hand, larger dog breeds will do a lot better if they get lost in the wilderness, most of them do have their instincts and as long as they are used to the wilderness they can survive for long periods of time. Notice that I did say survive and not thrive, and there is a big difference between the two of them.

Dogs need a lot of food in order to thrive, and in order to survive in the wild, they have to hunt. Although all dogs have their hunting instincts most dogs will not be able to catch their food, and even if they did they wouldn’t know what to do with it as they have never learned how to effectively hunt. If you wonder how a person can survive in the wilderness without supplies then check out my recent article How to survive in the wilderness without supplies? ( In 6 Steps ).

Dogs are social creatures and can not survive in the wild alone

Dogs are social creatures, dogs tend to view humans as part of their pack. Wolves are also social creatures, and they need the help of other wolves in order to survive. Wolves have a fairly complex social hierarchy and sometimes they even banish a member from their pack. Once a wolf is banished from the pack it only has one option to survive which is to join another pack. Basically once a wolf is alone it is usually a death sentence.

There are some outlines as there are some wolves that can survive for long periods of time alone. The main difference between dogs and wolves is that wolves know how to hunt as a pack, and even solitary wolves will struggle to survive alone. Now just look at your dog, which has no hunting experience, has never been alone in the wilderness, and you can see that his chances of survival in the wilderness are fairly low.

The best chance of a dog surviving in the wild is by joining a pack of dogs or even wolves, which does happen from time to time. There are a lot of feral dog packs roaming the woods, and these are not your average city dog packs, they tend to be fairly aggressive towards humans. The problem with dogs encountering wolves is that for the most part dogs will behave like prey, which kickstart the wolf’s predatory instincts and guess who is going to be dinner.

As I live in Alaska I have seen a couple of feral dog packs in the middle of the wilderness, and I am more afraid of them than of wolves. Wolves tend to be afraid of humans, feral dog packs do not have this fear in them, and you should avoid them as much as possible. If you are wondering what a person needs to survive in the wild then check out my recent article What do you need to survive in the wild? ( Top 29 Items ).

Dogs are reliant on humans and can not survive in the wild without humans

One of the main reasons why dogs have a fairly slim chance of surviving in the wild is because they are extremely reliant on humans. We as humans provide them with food, water, shelter, and companionship, and without us, they have a fairly slim chance to survive on their own. Dogs associate us with safety and security, once you leave them alone in an unfamiliar setting they will have simply no clue what to do.

The good news is that the bond between you and your dog is extremely strong, and if he gets lost in the wilderness he will try to find you no matter how far he has to travel. There have been numerous cases of dog owners being reunited with their dogs after several weeks of the dog getting lost in the wilderness. Water will be also a big problem for dogs in the wilderness, even during the wintertime they can severely dehydrate for more information check out my recent article Does eating snow dehydrate you? ( How and Why? ).

Most dogs can’t hunt so they will not be able to survive in the wild

Now you have probably seen your dog catch the occasional fly or even chasing different animals, but that simply doesn’t mean that your dog can hunt and it definitely doesn’t mean that it will survive in the wilderness. The main reason why they chase different animals is that they do still have their hunter’s instinct. The problem is that this instinct only tells them to chase animals, and not how to effectively catch them and eat them.

Wolves have the same predatory instincts, the difference between dogs and wolves is that a wolf does know what to do with the prey it catches. On the other hand, even if your dog manages to corner a small animal it will simply have no clue what to do next and usually it will just bark at them. This is because they have never seen another dog hunting and killing its prey. This is basically exactly the same when your dog chases a random car, even if the car stops the dog has no clue what to do next.

You have probably seen your dogs bury a toy or a bone, and some “experts” will say that this is a good sign that your dog will be able to survive in the wilderness. The truth is that this is just an instinct, and it doesn’t mean that your dog will be able to survive in the wilderness. For your dog to bury a bone or some food, your dog must be able to hunt or find food in the first place. If you want to know who are the most famous survivalists then check out my recent article ( Top 24 ) Famous survivalists.

Dogs can not survive in the wild as they turn into prey in the wilderness 

Most dogs will turn from a predator into prey in the wilderness. A dog’s survival and social skills with other animals are extremely poor, and you can hear their high-pitched bark when they are scared and stressed out. Trust me I have seen a lot of brave dogs when it comes to defending their home, but once a bear appears they will start barking in a high-pitched bark, and then there will be silence.

In my area of the woods, this is a telltale sign that a large predator is extremely close, usually, it is a bear. When the dogs stop barking they tend to hide and lay as low as possible because they are afraid of the bear. Dogs in the wilderness will either try to approach other animals out of curiosity or they will simply run away from them. Depending on the size of the dog most wild predators will see them as prey. If you want to know how to bug out with your pets then check out my recent article 13 Steps for bugging out with pets ( Dogs & Cats ).

Dogs will scavenge in the wild

For the most part, dogs will try to scavenge if they get lost in the wild, this is because they are used to getting food from their humans and they do not associate other animals with food. Although all dogs have predatory instincts they do not associate hunting with food. This is why for the most part a dog in the wilderness will scavenge. As the dog’s condition will deteriorate after a couple of weeks, it will try to eat anything it can.

Dogs need to eat fairly frequently as they do not have a lot of fat deposits, although they can definitely survive longer without food than the average person can. Scavenging for food in the wilderness is fairly hard, and even if your dog gets lucky and finds a dead animal it will not be able to defend it from other predators.

How long can a dog survive without eating?

Generally speaking, a dog can survive without food between 1-4 weeks, this depends on the size of the dog, overall health condition, and what breed of dog it is. Smaller dog breeds will start deteriorating extremely fast, although they need a lot less food due to their size, but generally speaking, most smaller dog breeds will use a lot more energy. With some scavenging, a dog can survive for even longer, but sooner or later the dog has to find a good source of food, or else his condition will deteriorate extremely fast.

In conclusion

As you can see dogs can not survive in the wild, and there are several reasons for it. There are a lot of dogs getting lost in the wilderness for different reasons, and your main goal is to find your dog as soon as possible. A dog can deteriorate rather quickly without any food so make sure you find him as soon as possible.