(Ab)Normal Dog Behaviors and the Reasons Why
From humping to targeted sniffing, our dogs seem to have a plethora of somewhat disturbing behaviors– that is, if you happen to walk on two legs instead of four. While no one knows for certain the “why” behind these behaviors, we do have some theories. And until the time dogs begin to speak human and divulge all of their secrets, we’ll just have to continue to make our best guesses of the weird, true and freaky.
It is general custom for Spot to greet Rover with a poke and sniff of the behind, but why share this custom with us bipedal bystanders? Bad manners? Well, not according to the canine code of conduct, as this is a perfectly acceptable way of collecting personal information about one another, including us humans. So the next time you are surprised by a nosey nudge, just know that you are being greeted and assessed (and don’t worry, dogs generally won’t be offended if you give them “just” a pat on the head in return).
When puppies chase their tails, it’s like babies grabbing their toes – and this is a normal way for them to explore their bodies. But like anything in life, moderation is key, and problems can arise if this behavior becomes compulsive. So, how do you determine if your pooch has a case of OCD? It comes down to whether you can distract them from this behavior. If they would rather chase their tail than go with you for a walk, your pet may have a compulsive disorder and veterinary assessment may be needed.
It can be common for dogs to drag their bottoms across the ground after doing their business, particularly if their stool is loose. But if this behavior is noted frequently throughout the day, this may be a sign of impacted anal glands, a condition that can have serious complications if left untreated.
Watching your dog get personal with its stuffed toy can make you cringe (or even laugh, depending on your mood) but it’s not abnormal. Many dogs discover that humping feels good, that it can relieve stress, or serve as an outlet for excessive feelings of exuberance and excitement. Both males and females are known to partake in this behavior, though males do it more often. However, if your dog frequently attempts humping family members or guests who come to the house, modification may be in order as this could reflect a behavioral issue.
People often think that when their dog eats grass that its stomach is feeling upset or that they are ill. However, a good ol’ lawn actually serves as a gourmet snack to many dogs. Dog by nature are omnivores, meaning they like to eat their meat and veggies, too. Eating grass in moderation is a normal part of a doggy diet, and a walk in the park for me and my dogs always includes a stop at the grass buffet where their favorite patches can be found. With that being said, if all of a sudden you see your dog frantically binging on grass, this could be the sign of distress.
This is a question I get asked all of the time and all I can do is answer back with an empathetic smile and a shrug of the shoulders at the disgusting nature of it all (my dog Mickey used to raid the cat’s litter box, coming out with a “kitty cigar”). As stomach turning as this is, it is a “surprisingly normal” behavior for dogs, and eating excrement has been part of their evolution. In the early stages of domestication way back when, dogs performed a hygienic function of cleaning up their own feces. Additionally, their digestive system is very efficient, and they can actually get some quality nutrients out of it (although I can imagine much better sources!).
Rolling in Garbage
When we see a decaying animal or a pile of garbage, our first instinct is to step around it… waaaaay around it. But, keeping true to our dog’s oddities, it is their greatest (and uncontrollable) desire to jump right in, getting a good coating with a strategic roll. The more foul the smell, the stronger the lure, and the more joy that is experienced by our now perfumed pups. One theory is that dogs like to cover their own scent with horrible odors to make it easier to surprise prey. You probably can’t curb your dog of this pastime, so your best hope is to spot smelly things first and steer your pal clear.
As I sit here finishing typing this list, I find myself looking over to my own dog, wondering if he is looking back at me and thinking, “Wow, there she goes again, sitting in front of that computer when she could be outside playing with her ball. Now that’s just weird.”