Why does my dog do that?

If you have dogs, you know what insanely goofy, sometimes maddening, but always adorable monsters they can be. I’m “mom” to several furkids, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched them do something either completely bonkers or heart-meltingly cute and wondered, ‘What kind of thought process led to THAT?’

Following are five extra-cute or extra-weird dog behaviors and the explanations behind them. Recognize any of these in your canine companion?


1. The Head Tilter

Why does my dog tilt head

Have you ever talked to a dog and watched him cock his head, looking like he’s trying to interpret whatever human gibberish you’re spewing at him? Actually, that’s a pretty good explanation of what he’s doing. Scientists theorize that a tilted head is a dog’s way of accomplishing a few things: (1) moving his ears so that they’re in a better position to hear you; and (2) establishing focus so that he can concentrate. Your dog assumes that what you’re saying is important—maybe the words “walk” or “park” will pop up in there somewhere—and tilts his head so that he can pick up every word you’re saying. This makes me feel a little guilty for getting a head tilt out of my dogs by saying something stupid like, “Whoosa good boy? Yes, my Mister Man’s a good boy, yes, him is!”


2. The Poop Eater

Why does my dog eat poop

I hate to admit it, but my dogs do this. A trip to the backyard (or the cats’ litterbox) is basically a buffet for them. Feces-eating is called coprophragia, and several things can cause it. Besides the basics (the dog is hungry or bored, or thinks the poop tastes delicious), the dog could be suffering from a nutrient deficiency, which she treats by getting the missing vitamins and minerals from poop. Feces-eating isn’t a life-or-death thing, but it’s also not ideal. It can cause minor stomach upset, give your pup parasites or infections, or indicate a more severe health problem. With that in mind, if your dog continually eats poop, a trip to the vet might be in order.


3. The Incessant Licker

Why does my dog lick

There’s nothing like sitting down after a long day and having your dog frantically lick your face, your arms, your feet—pretty much any body part that’s not covered by an article of clothing. What’s going on with this? While constant licking may be annoying depending on what you’re doing—and the state of your dog’s breath—at the time it’s happening, the act is just Rover’s way of getting your attention and showing affection. It can also be a submissive gesture, showing that your pup acknowledges you as “the boss.” Suddenly makes all those slobbery kisses seem a lot more endearing, right?


4. The Circler

Why does my dog walk in circles

Most dog owners have stood in their backyards or at dog parks, poop bags in hand, waiting for their furkids to stop circling long enough to answer the call of nature. These same owners have probably also seen their dogs doing the circle dance before settling down for a nap. So…what’s the deal with the circling? According to scientists, this behavior is a remnant from the days when dogs lived in the wild. To create a safe, comfortable place in which to sleep or “use the facilities,” dogs walked around, flattening grass and snow until the ground suited their purpose. Do you have a dog that scratches or digs at his or her bedding? The stimulus behind this behavior is similar to that behind circling, as wild dogs often dug holes to regulate their body temperatures while they slept. By circling and scratching, your dog is continuing a legacy handed down through generations of doggy kin, albeit in an irritating way.


5. The Butt Sniffer

Why does my dog sniff butts

This is probably the best-known and most laughed-about canine behavior. Just what in the Sam Hill is your dog doing when she approaches another dog and takes a good whiff of that canine’s backside? Why, just being friendly, that’s all. A dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 times better than a human’s, so dogs pick up an insane amount of olfactory (i.e., smell-related) cues that their two-legged companions miss. By checking out another dog’s keister, your dog is immersing itself in aromas that emanate from the anal glands and that reveal information about such things as what the newcomer ate, what her personality is like, and even whether she’s in heat. So basically it’s a form of greeting, though one best left restricted to canines.


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