From chasing their tails to howling, our dogs do lots of weird and funny things. But do you know what these behaviors mean? Do you know why your doggy does these odd things? Are they trying to communicate, or are these habits maybe a sign of some underlying health condition? Here are 8 common canine behaviors explained.
Howling is an evolutionary holdover from our pup’s ancient ancestors. Experts believe howling was probably used originally to communicate and claim territory. But modern dogs don’t really need howling for these reasons anymore, so why do they still do it?
The American Kennel Club argues there are several reasons our dogs still howl, including separation anxiety, boredom, to warn us of potential dangers, and to grab attention. Dogs also commonly howl in response to sirens or other high-pitched noises that mimic distant howling. If your pup suddenly develops this habit out of nowhere and the urge to howl persists for several weeks, it could be a sign of a medical condition. In this circumstance, we suggest having them checked over by a vet, just in case,
2. Chasing Tails
Most dogs start chasing their tails as puppies and then slowly grow out of the habit as they age. This youthful quirk is usually borne out of confusion. In other words, the pup hasn’t learned their tail is part of their body yet and so they chase it.
However, if you praise this behavior with laughter or attention, your pup might keep chasing their tail as they age as a means of grabbing more of your attention. Sudden onset tail-chasing as an adult could be a sign of food allergy, parasites or infection. These afflictions can all cause an itchy backside, leading your dog to chase their tail in order to relieve the irritation. If this sounds like your canine, schedule a vet visit as soon as possible.
3. Circling Before Lying Down
Walking in circles before lying down is another evolutionary trait passed down by your dog’s ancestors. Before plush doggy beds and human laps, wild dogs had to prep their own resting places. This circling behavior served several purposes, including flushing out pests, flattening the grass, and making the earth more comfortable to lie down on. Ever seen your pup scratch or dig at bedding or pillows? This is a similar trait to circling, in that it’s tied to your dog’s instinct to create a den.
4. Smothering You
If your pups are anything like ours, then you often find them snuggling up so close they’re basically sitting or standing right on your feet. The same goes for bedtime, sometimes our pups sleep so close to us they’re more like a second blanket than cuddle buddies. So what’s up with this behavior? Are they trying to dominate us, or are they simply looking for some extra love?
Thankfully, this habit is as sweet as you hoped: Your dog just wants to cuddle with their best friend! 😭But there’s an instinctual element to this behavior, too. Dogs are pack animals, and pack animals feel safest when in close contact with other members of the pack (Psst—that’s you!).
5. Doggy Kisses
Ever wonder why dogs lick our faces? Are they really the canine equivalent of kisses? Experts believe this behavior stems from a similar activity in the canine world, where dogs lick each other’s mouths as a way of indicating respect, especially to those with higher status in the pack. So, whether you think it’s gross or not, take those sloppy kisses as a compliment. Experts also believe dogs may have evolved this habit as a way of earning additional affection and therefore food from their human companions.
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Humping—whether other dogs, objects or humans—is a perfectly normal behavior that isn’t always sexual. In fact, it’s not usually about dominance either, which is another common misconception. Humping is more or less just another component of normal canine play. If you justify this behavior through more play or laughter, your pup might also continue humping simply because it gets your attention.
7. Sniffing Butts
The canine sense of smell is roughly 10,000 times stronger than ours, so why oh why would they sniff another dog’s butt? Well, dogs see the world mostly through their noses, and in the canine world few things give off as much information as the booty. In fact, a dog can uncover far more than you’d expect from a quick sniff—including personality, diet, and even if the other dog is pregnant or has ever been pregnant. Crazy, right?
There’s several reasons a dog might dig. Anxiety, boredom, hiding toys, or creating a cool spot to lie in hot weather are the most common. The easiest way to prevent digging is to minimize the amount of time you leave your dog outside unattended. This will likely decrease boredom, ease anxiety, and prevent your pup from overheating, thereby addressing the root causes of digging.