If you have ever spent any time watching dogs’ antics, you probably have been curious about the reasons they exhibit such strange behaviors. Many of their habits are confusing to humans, but they are actually understandable once you know the reasons. The Alpine Animal Hospital team decided to clarify the reasons behind seven of these behaviors.
#1: My dog sits on my feet
No matter where you go, your dog immediately takes up position on your feet once you remain still. Many people believe that this behavior is your dog showing dominance, but dogs are actually expressing anxiety. They trust you, and want to be as close to you as possible when they are stressed. You are their security blanket.
#2: My dog sniffs other dogs’ hind ends
You may think this practice is a little offensive, but this is a necessary part of canine communication. Pouches on either side of the dog’s anus, called anal sacs, produce pheromones that give the dog their unique scent. Another dog who smells the scent receives an array of information, including the dog’s emotional status, gender, diet, state of health, and breeding potential. While you may consider this a bit odd, your dog is only getting to know their new friend a little better.
#3: My dog scoots
Watching your dog use their front legs to drag their hindquarters along the floor can look humorous, but scooting actually indicates that your dog is experiencing an inflammation of the anal region, most commonly caused by an anal sac blockage. Glands in the sacs secrete fluid that is normally expelled when your dog defecates. If these glands become inflamed, the fluid becomes thickened and can obstruct the anal sacs. This condition is uncomfortable for your dog, who will scoot to alleviate their discomfort. Our veterinarian will need to express the anal sacs to relieve the pressure, and may also need to irrigate the pouches with an antibiotic solution if the blockage has caused an infection. Other causes of inflammation in this area include allergies and trapped foreign material, such as grass or hair.
#4: My dog kicks their hind leg when I scratch their stomach
Every time you go to give your dog a belly rub, their hind leg starts beating a rhythm—a cute, but confusing, response that occurs because of the dog’s scratch reflex. This involuntary response is activated when a cluster of sensory nerves is stimulated, sending a message along the spinal cord to the hind leg. The reflex is thought to help protect your dog’s sensitive areas from irritants such as fleas and ticks.
#5: My dog stares at me
Does your dog continually keep their gaze centered on you, regardless of what you are doing? Dogs stare for a number of reasons. They may be trying to communicate something to you, or to figure out what you are trying to communicate to them. Dogs also stare to communicate affection to their humans. Mutual gazing between dogs and their humans can cause the release of oxytocin, also known as the love hormone. Showing your pooch a little attention and affection will likely break the thousand-yard stare.
#6: My dog chases their tail
Do you wonder how your dog doesn’t get dizzy and fall over as they go round and round? Dogs engage in this behavior for many reasons, including simple boredom, which can make finding their tail an amusing pursuit. Some dogs use this activity to expel excess energy. If your dog’s hind end is itchy, they may seem to chase their tail as they try to scratch the irritated area. Dogs with anxiety have also been known to behave this way. If your dog is circling and is unresponsive to your attempts to stop them, they may be suffering from a medical condition and need veterinary attention.
#7: My dog yawns frequently
When humans yawn, we are typically tired or sleepy, but dogs yawn to express anxiety and to signal that they are uncomfortable in the current situation. You should pay close attention to this behavior, especially if your dog tends to nip when feeling stressed. This is a warning that strangers should not pay them any attention until they calm down.
Now that you know the reasons behind some of your dog’s more curious actions, we hope you can better understand your four-legged companion. But, if you have any questions about any of your dog’s behaviors, do not hesitate to contact our Alpine Animal Hospital team. We will be happy to discuss your concerns and to schedule an appointment, if needed.