You may think you know what every tail wag, raised ear, or yelp means from your devoted pup, but chances are, your canine companion probably engages in some behavior that leaves you confused… and maybe even grossed out. Us humans don’t understand why dogs do the strange things they do sometimes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their reasons. Read on to find out what’s behind all that butt sniffing, tail chasing, and so much more, according to experts.
Read the original article on Best Life.
While it seems like the most awkward and embarrassing thing to do, it is a courteous way of greeting someone in the canine world, much like shaking hands for humans. The canine nose has over 150 million olfactory receptors compared to a mere 5 million in the human schnoz, according to vets Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM, and Lynn Buzhardt, DVM, of VCA Animal Hospitals.
This super-sniffing ability allows pups to gather a lot of interesting information about their newfound friend from the pheromones released around the anus. “Inside the rectum are two small sacs called anal glands which secrete a noxious smelling substance into the rectum through a pair of tiny openings. The glands are emptied naturally when the rectal sphincter muscles contract during a bowel movement,” Llera and Buzhardt explain on the VCA website. “That aroma emanating from the anal region is a unique form of canine identification. … Dogs sniff rear ends as a form of greeting and obtain vital information from the anal secretions. Is this dog friend or foe? Is he going to be a good ‘date’? Will he be aggressive? Is he feeling ill?”
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Hanging their heads outside a moving car
Dogs are getting a sensory overload during a car ride, Natalie Zielinski, director of behavior services at the Wisconsin Humane Society, told Discover magazine. “Dogs receive more olfactory stimulation with their heads fully outside the car versus inside the car. And even having the windows down only a few inches seems to provide enrichment and stimulation that dogs will seek out,” she said.
This is why our canine companions are willing to have their faces pummeled against the wind while hanging their heads outside of a moving car; it floods them with exciting new smells. Since our olfactory membranes are only about the size of a postage stamp, we can barely appreciate how gratifying this is.
Staring at your while pooping
Are they trying to tell you to give them some privacy? Nope. Madeline Friedman, a dog behavior expert with Innovative Dog Training, told The Dodo that dogs might be hoping for a reward for doing their business outside (you know, instead of inside). When they’re puppies, most dogs are rewarded for going to the bathroom in the right spot, but “most owners don’t maintain the reinforcement when the dog is reliably house-trained, at least not as frequently,” Friedman explained. “I think the dog remembers the reinforcement and hopes for more.”
Kicking their feet after pooping
No, they aren’t doing a poor job of covering up their poop. They are marking their territory with scents from their paws. Canines have scent glands in their feet that make secret pheromones more pungent and last longer than scents of urine and feces, explains Allison Birken, DVM, on PetMD.com. Kicking dirt after defecating is an instinctual way to communicate with other dogs, relaying territorial claims, messages of sexual availability, and warnings of danger.
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Zipping around the yard or living room at lightning speed
Technically called FRAPS (frenetic random activity periods) but better known as “the zoomies,” speeding around the yard or house in a sudden burst is simply a way for the dog to release pent-up energy, according to PuppyLeaks.com. It usually occurs in younger dogs and those who’ve just been lying around the house all day. The behavior is most seen after a bath or during play.
Circling before lying down
No one seems to know for sure why dogs circle before they lay down, but theories abound, according to ipupster.com. Among them:
- It’s an evolutionary self-protection behavior. Turning in a full circle lets the animal check its surroundings and position themself facing the wind so they can smell approaching predators.
- They’re mimicking the alpha dog. Dogs’ ancestors were pack animals. Circling distinguished leaders from the rest of the pack.
- They’re preparing their bed. By walking in circles, their wolf ancestors could pat down grass, making a softer place to sleep and clear the area of snakes and insects.
- They’re getting comfortable. Just as humans toss and turn before falling asleep, your dog might habitually circle their bed to get themselves ready to finally rest.
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Whining in the car
Whining and crying when in a car is very common among dogs, according to mypetchild.com. It’s likely due to the stress or fear of being in a small space, anxiety about past rides to the vet, or it could simply be that your dog doesn’t enjoy the motion of a turning car. To break a pattern of anxiety, try distracting them with treats.
Travel sickness could also cause your dog to have an upset stomach and whine in the car. You can remedy that by opening a window to give your dog some fresh air or moving them forward to look out of the window.
Chasing their own tails
Why? Because they can, and it’s fun. They’ll do it out of boredom and to expend some energy, says dog behaviorist Cesar Millan, of the Dog Whisperer television series and cesarsway.com.
Some dogs may chase their tails to get your attention, especially if you’ve given them positive feedback by watching and laughing in the past. Your dog might do it whenever he wants you to take notice and play. Another potential reason could be when something’s wrong. Sometimes dogs will chase and chew their tails when they are bothered by worms or fleas or experiencing some other medical problem.
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Humping legs, blankets, and stuffed animals
You may find it embarrassing when your pup mounts your guest’s leg during a dinner party, but humping things is natural for your pup. It’s simply sexual behavior among all dogs, says Millan, no matter if they are male or female, even if they’ve been spayed or neutered. But other things trigger the humping, too. It’s a way of exerting power and control, establishing a social hierarchy.
Also, it often occurs when a dog becomes overexcited during play, their feelings get out of control when someone pays a visit, or they become stressed. It could also be a sign of under-socialization if your pooch isn’t used to doggy playdates.
Kicking, whining, barking, or growling while sleeping
Dogs do dream. “Researchers found that a dreaming Pointer may immediately start searching for game and may even go on point,” Stanley Coren, PhD, columnist for the American Kennel Club’ Family Dog magazine, told Psychology Today. “A sleeping Springer Spaniel may flush an imaginary bird in his dreams, while a dreaming Doberman pincher may pick a fight with a dream burglar.”
If you want to know if your dog is dreaming, Coren suggests watching about 10 to 20 minutes after they fall asleep. If you can see your dog’s eyes moving behind their eyelids, that means they’re in REM sleep and has started dreaming.
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