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7 Weird Dog Habits Explained

By Colleen Williams
May 24, 2016 • 2 min. read

Granted, it’s a little bit easier to decipher your dog’s behavior compared to the cat, but they still have some pretty mysterious habits. So why do they do what they do?

1. Why do dogs circle before they lay down?

Like fluffing a pillow, dogs are making their sleeping space comfortable. A throwback to dog ancestry, they circle in order to smooth out their spot—push down leaves and debris and scare away any insects or rodents that may tickle them. They may even dig or scratch, which is part of their instinctive nature to regulate the temperature of their sleep nest.

2. Why is my dog chasing his tail?

This one is a bit controversial—some people swear it’s done out of boredom or play, whereas veterinarians and animal experts think it might be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder, a medical condition from birth, or even a sign of malnutrition. The best idea would be to bring it up with your vet at your next visit.

3. It’s cute, but why is my dog tilting her head to the side?

Some of the best Instagram posts have a furbaby with her head cocked to the side. Strange noises, speaking in an unfamiliar tone, or even whistling can lead to the best pictures (or videos!). The science behind it is simple—your dog’s super-sensitive hearing is picking up something different; she’s interested in figuring out what the noise is and how to make sense of it. The more we love it, though, the more our dogs will respond in kind—so, your positive reinforcement leads to many more photo ops.

4. My dog thinks he is a wolf, what’s up with all the howling?

Blame biology. Your little pup’s ancestors howled to send messages to the pack, enforce rank, and express emotions. An interesting finding by researchers: when you leave the house and your dog begins to howl, he is acting just like his wolf relatives, calling you (a member of the pack) back home.

5. Why does my dog thrash her toys?

Last you checked, your dog wasn’t crazy about head banging, so when playtime gets wild, you’re wondering what is going on. Another primal instinct at play: your dog is acting out how she would be killing her prey. Luckily it’s just a squeaky toy!

6. Why does my dog kick up a storm after going to the bathroom?

Not surprisingly, your dog is trying to tidy up post-bathroom. However, your dog is also marking his territory. There are glands in the feet that secrete pheromones and the action releases the scent. This also explains why your dog is smelling every inch of every patch of grass—they’re smelling all the other dogs who have visited those spots.

7. My dog licks too much!

From pure affection to communication (“I love you!” to “pay attention to refilling my water bowl, hello!”), licking can get annoying if you’re on the receiving end (leaving the room usually teaches your dog to stop). Dogs also lick to groom, and their saliva has some healing benefits should they have a cut or scrape. However, excessive licking can be a problem and may be a sign of hot spots or obsessive compulsive behavior and can lead to topical harm. If it’s gone to the bad place, call your vet and determine the next steps you can take.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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