They may be man’s best friend, but like all relationships, sometimes one individual resorts to behaviors that seem confusing or even bizarre to the other person. This is often the case with our puppy pals. From licking dirt and chewing sticks, to booty-scooting across the floor, or ripping up the couch cushions, we may never fully understand the intricate ways a dog’s mind works, but we can identify some of the motivations behind their strangest behaviors and habits.
Unusual Dog Behaviors and What They Mean
Licking: Dogs of all ages love giving kisses as signs of affection to their owners, or to ascertain the content of something (aka, to taste it!). They lick to clean scrapes and soothe wounds, or when they are nervous or simply excited. They also lick feces, or other animals’ unmentionable places to get a better idea of their hormones, who they are and where they come from. There are also numerous other reasons why dogs lick people.
Eating Grass: Dog-observers have speculated for years as to what causes a dog to munch a mouthful of grass. Conclusive evidence points to a dog’s need for 1) fiber 2) vitamins or 3) activity. Boredom brings about all kinds of mischief for dogs, and even ailments like stomach pain or worms can cause a dog to eat grass.
Digging: Canines are explorers, who will follow a promising scent just about anywhere… even deep into the ground. Dogs love digging because they unearth all kinds of treasures like bones, toys, rubber, stinky clothes and a wealth of other exciting items – often at the cost of your fresh flower bed. This is simply a natural instinct for them.
Chewing objects from the house and garden: Like humans, dogs teethe. They like to chew things that will help them with their aching teeth, strength their jaws, or will distract them from boredom for a time. If the wood of a chair leg is particularly hardy, or those new leather shoes smell like their owner –they will dig in and start to nibble! This also applies to unusual objects in the yard or garden as well; don’t be surprised to see your pup chomping on a pine cone or sharpening his teeth on a sappy stick.
Chewing their paws: Pet owners have watched their pets nibble on their tails, bottoms, and paws, often having no idea what causes this oddity. Dogs chew their paws and other parts of their bodies when the skin is dry and itchy, or when they have pests like fleas or ticks, when they are have a nervous habit, or they are allergic to either their food or shampoo.
Drooling: Globs of soupy saliva frequently hang from the mouths of pooches large and small. Dogs drool when they have cuts, sores, or pointed objects in their mouths; they drool when they are anxious or have illnesses like inflamed gums or digestive difficulties.
Snoring: Not all dogs snore, but ones with short little noses are often the most susceptible. Pups tend to snore if they are obese, suffering from allergies, breathing in smoke or dust, or if they are ill with diseases like kennel cough, or throat maladies.
Begging: One behavior that is classically characteristic to canines, is begging. Though some breeds are more inclined than others, most dogs snoop around the kitchen or dinner table any time food is out, in hopes of getting treats or scraps from the meal. Dogs also tend to beg just to get your attention!
Booty-Scooting: Some dogs will take a sitting position, and then drag their rear-ends across the floor, using primarily their front legs to do move forward. Though this posture is humorous to watch, the behavior indicates that the dog most likely suffers from worms. Scooting across the floor relieves some of the itchiness that ails a dog’s anus when worms or other parasites are present. (If your dog is a booty-scoooter, go see a vet for worm treatments!)
Howling at night: The loud wailing many dogs do at night, often makes it sound as if their very hearts are breaking. Dogs howl at night because it is their predatory instinct, because they are suffering from separation anxiety, or they are physically in pain and suffering. Dogs also howl as a warning to neighboring animals to stay away from their territory. Howling is an deep instinct that originated (and is still practiced by) the earliest domestic dog ancestors: wolves.
Eye contact: From the “guilty eyes” look, to the unwavering attention that a treat bag demands, dogs often focus their gaze on humans in order to understand what we are thinking. They try to ascertain our emotions and anticipate what we might do next by staring us with an alert focus. Eye contact is a fascinating component of communication in the dog behavior department as well as in obedience training.
Why dogs run away: Some breeds are more prone to practice escape artistry than others, but the dogs who do try to dig under the fence, or leap over the gate certainly have reasons for this unusual behavior. Dogs run away when they feel afraid (usually of something or someone in the home), when they are trying to find a dog to mate with, when they are too bored, have too much energy, or if they feel trapped or cooped up in any way.
Room destruction: Dogs seem so well intended and eager to please, but so often pet parents return to a disheveled home, or a room in complete disarray. Dogs have destructive behaviors (like foraging, eliminating inside, chewing household items, etc.) when they are bored, anxious, cooped up, or are in need of more exercise and mental stimuli, or tasks and challenges.
Repeated yawning: Dogs often yawn as a sign of stress. Though we usually write this behavior off as fatigue, yawning reflects nervousness in dogs, often caused by separation anxiety or recent changes in their lives.
Each dog is unique, and will have his own slew of funny mannerisms or curious behaviors that set their owners to scratching their heads! Canines love chasing their tails, sticking their heads out of windows, rolling in dirt after a bath, and pawing at the floor before they sleep. For all their silly shenanigans, we still love our pups!