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While you likely think your pup is the sweetest, most adorable furry creature in the land, you also have probably raised your brow regularly at or worried about some of his strange, funny behaviors. As pooch experts, we’re here to explain some of these questionable tendencies, and assure you they’re completely normal!
- Sneezing…In Reverse
If your dog’s sneeze sounds like he is rapidly pulling air into his nose, rather than blowing air out of his nose, he may have what is called a “reverse sneeze” medically known as a pharyngeal gag reflex. In most cases however, this is not something to worry about and could be caused by a variety of environmental irritants, mucus, or infection similar to a regular sneeze. If the sneezing seems to be getting worse or more frequent, visit your veterinarian. Typically, an antihistamine or decongestant will effectively reduce a dog’s involuntary reflexes.
- Chasing Shadows or Lights
Some dogs, especially those with high chase drive, become fixated on lights, shadows or reflections. This behavior is typically the result of boredom. Chasing can be an effective game to self soothe and relieve tedium. The best way to combat this habit is to distract your pooch with a more positive and interactive form of exercise such as fetch or tug of war. If your dog has this affinity, you may want to avoid shiny toys or bowls which reflect light.
- Sniffing Other Dogs’ Rear Ends
Dogs sniff each other’s bottoms as a form of greeting. Consider this somewhat off-putting habit as a form of the human handshake. Since the rear end has the strongest odor on the body, it’s the most popular area for dogs to whiff in order to get to know one another.
- Scratching the Ground After Potty
An evolutionary behavior descended from wolves, scratching the ground after defecation is your dog’s way of leaving his scent and a visual message to other pooches who may pass by later. Dogs possess scent glands underneath their paws and between their toes. So, when a dog scrapes the ground near fresh poop, the scent from these glands is then transferred to the ground. This is a way to mark and protect territory, which back in the day was too large to patrol each day. Also, long and deep scratch marks on the ground send the message to other dogs that the dog is strong and powerful.
- Circling or Scratching Before Lying Down
Before you attribute your pup’s habit of circling or scratching to a nervous tick or obsessive compulsion, understand that these behaviors are derived from your dog’s ancestors long ago. As a way to pat down uncomfortable grassy patches or raised dirt on the ground, dogs would circle their sleeping space in order to create a cozy, warm spot. Also, because dogs used to sleep in packs together, the reason many of them curl up in a circle formation while sleeping is to protect themselves from outside danger.
- Eating Poop
There are several causes of coprophagy (the medical term for consuming feces). This behavior, while common, should not be ignored and should be remedied as soon as possible because eating feces can result in serious illness such as contracting parasites. Contact your veterinarian to determine whether your dog is hungry, missing key nutrients from his diet or simply acting out to get attention.
- Humping Dogs, Objects or People
If your dog is neutered or spayed, contrary to popular belief, this embarrassing behavior is not of a sexual nature. Fixed dogs hump because they are excited or seeking attention. To prevent this from happening, firmly say “no” and redirect your dog’s attention with a treat or toy.
- Tilting Head to One Side
When a dog cocks his head intently to one side after hearing an unfamiliar noise, he’s trying to intently focus, listen to the sound and figure out where it’s coming from. Since canine hearing is more than 1,000 times more sensitive than human hearing, it’s not surprising for a strange sound to catch puppy’s attention, even amidst distraction.
- Scooting on Butt
While common, again this behavior is not something to ignore. Your dog is scooting or dragging his butt along the ground because his rear end is uncomfortable and itchy. The culprit is typically an anal gland problem. Anal sac disease is easily treated by expression of the glands by a veterinarian. If the problem persists and the glands continue to be severely infected or impacted, surgery may be required. When in doubt, call the vet.
- Eating Grass
Did your pooch turn into a cow overnight? Don’t fret, eating grass every once in a while isn’t a cause for concern. However, dogs that frequently choose to consume grass could either be missing core nutrients from their diet such as potassium and fiber, or are instinctively trying to remedy an upset stomach. Frantic grass eating is typically a sign of a gastrointestinal issue. Grass texture can trigger vomiting or a bowel movement, which can relieve tummy discomfort. Monitor your dog’s grass eating behavior closely and consult with your veterinarian to discuss a change in diet.