Sometimes the behaviour of our dogs can seem strange to us! But then again, sometimes our behaviour must seem very odd to our dogs! Therefore, when looking at our dogs’ behaviour, it’s helpful to understand the reasons why they might be acting like they do. Here are some general explanations to give you a better insight into the mind of your dog.
Why do dogs lick?
Some dogs love to lick! They use this as a form of communication, to demonstrate their affection and is often their way of saying “I love you!”. So next time your dog is licking you, remember they might just be feeling emotional towards you. Your dog may also be trying to groom you as licking is a helpful tool in keeping each other somewhat groomed.
Dog saliva also contains enzymes that kill bacteria, so they also try to clean their wounds through licking. Although, too much licking at a wound can open the wound or slow the healing process. Excessive licking can also be a sign of anxiety. If you are worried about your dog’s licking behaviour, you can always talk to your vet or vet nurse about it.
Why do dogs eat grass?
One of the main reasons that dogs eat grass is that they simply enjoy it! While it may seem peculiar, some dogs can just like the taste of grass while other dogs can graze as it gives them something to do. The other main reason your dog may gobble down on some grass could be that they are feeling slightly unwell. Grass can help to settle their stomach or when swallowed quickly, it can tickle their throat to stimulate vomiting. Either way, eating grass is a very normal behaviour and not something to be overly concerned about.
Why do dogs eat poo?
Eating poo is also called “copraphagy” and is a common behaviour for many puppies and young dogs. Mother dogs will often eat their puppies’ poo instinctively to keep their “den” clean, or to hide the scent from any potential predators. Sometimes puppies will then imitate this behaviour. If you notice your puppy eating poo, it’s best not to react as a large reaction can prompt the behaviour in the future. In other words, the puppy learns that eating poo equals attention.
It’s also important when toilet training your puppy, to never respond negatively to an accident as this can result in the puppy eating their poo to avoid being punished. When you get a new puppy it’s important to consult your vet on how to feed them a nutritionally complete diet. Poor digestion or nutritional deficiencies can prompt a puppy to eat poo.
Why do dogs howl and bark?
Howling and barking are natural behaviours for dogs as they are methods of communication. Howling is often used to alert the dog’s owner to something that they feel is a danger, or is a response to high pitched noises such as sirens. There is only cause for concern if your dog is howling because they are in pain (click here for a guide on how to take care of your injured pet safely) or due to separation anxiety when you leave them alone.
Barking can also be a sign of separation anxiety. Although, in most cases, dogs bark with when they are bored or frustrated. Keeping your dog physically and mentally stimulated helps to minimise this behaviour. If you do have concerns about your dog howling or barking, speak with your veterinarian to implement some strategies to help you both out.
Why do dogs hump things?
There are countless YouTube videos of dogs humping their owners’ legs or favourite toys, even if they are neutered. But why? It’s a very normal behaviour that is often unrelated to mating. Indeed, dogs will hump things when they are particularly excited or just want to play or burn off steam – much like the way some dogs will jump up or bark.
Humping can be hormonal behaviour if your dog is entire and, after they are neutered, they may continue to hump things out of habit. Humping is usually a harmless behaviour. If you find it is embarrassing or excessive, you can gently encourage your dog to stop the behaviour when you find them doing it and reward a different behaviour such as a sit.
Why do dogs sniff?
While humans have 5 million scent receptor in their noses, dogs have over 220 million! So it’s no wonder that dogs love to put their noses everywhere.
We’ve all watched in bewilderment as a dog, upon meeting a new friend, goes straight to smell their bottom! Humans have 5 million scent receptors in their noses, but dogs have over 220 million! Given that they can’t pick things up to examine them like we can, a dog’s nose is an incredibly important tool for them to sense and interpret their surroundings. Dogs have special receptors for pheromones and hormones. Which is why they are so good at recognising people and animals by scent alone.
We’ve used this incredible sense of smell to good use. It enables dogs to detect drugs or bombs, or to find survivors following natural disasters. When a dog sniffs us, it can not only recognise us. The dog also understands where we have been and who we have met. When they sniff a tree, they can tell if another dog has passed and whether or not that dog was male or female. And when they meet another dog, they want to sniff where that dog’s scent gathers and disperses. Which, you guessed it, is usually around their bottom
Why do dogs scratch?
Most of the time a dog scratches itself for the same reason we do – sometimes we get itchy and a scratch feels good! However, if your dog is scratching excessively or to the extent that it is hurting itself, there may be an underlying medical issue. The most common cause of itching is fleas. Check your dog thoroughly for adult fleas, flea eggs or flea dust. This looks like thick black grit at the base of your dog’s coat. For long-haired breeds, a fine tooth comb can help find any fleas that are hiding.
If your dog has fleas, there are many topical or oral medications you can use to rid your dog and their bedding of fleas at all stages of their life cycle.
Allergies can often lead to scratching, but are usually accompanied by other allergic symptoms such as a runny nose and eyes. In this situation a veterinarian can help you identify what your dog is allergic to so you can minimise any contact with it. Finally, yeast infections or fungal infections such as ringworm can make your dog scratch. Yeast infections are common in dog’s ears and are accompanied by a bad smell. Ringworm appears as a round patch of reddened skin. Fortunately, both can be treated with medication to get your dog itch-free as quickly as possible!
Why do dogs bite?
The main reason a dog will bite someone is out of fear. If they are stressed, feel threatened or are in pain, even the most friendly dog may be provoked to bite. Some dogs feel threatened if they think that you will take their food or toys, or they may just want to be left alone. Sometimes dogs may nip during play as they get overexcited. Here you can discourage play-biting by stopping the game if your dog bites. Over time they will learn that it is not a tolerated behaviour.
Why do dogs shake?
You’ve just finished giving your dog after a long-awaited bath when all of a sudden, after a good shake, your dog is much drier, and has returned the favour by giving you a wet-dog scented shower of your own. Dogs have loose skin, and this in combination with an incredible ability to control the exact speed of their shake allow them to dry themselves as efficiently as possible.
Dogs also shake after they experience intense emotions. Which explains why they make shake after a hug, or when they wake up from an exciting dream. It could also be an instinctive response, as wild dogs shake when they get up to rid themselves of any bugs or leaves that settle on them while they sleep.
If you have more questions about your dog’s behaviour or if you want to speak with one of our dog behaviour specialist please call us at: 02-94161300