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Why Does My Dog Do This?…10 Odd Dog Behaviors Defined

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It’s no secret that dogs and humans often exhibit very different behavioral habits.

After all, if you walked around sniffing others people’s butts in an attempt to get to know them, you might be sent in for a mental evaluation.

Yet, some of these odd behaviors—like sniffing butts or rolling around in stinky things—are very important behaviors for dogs.

Not long ago, I wrote a post about things our dogs don’t understand about humans.

(If you missed it, I encourage you to go check it out here!)

And today, I thought it would be fun to turn the tables and take a deep dive into 10 things—odd behaviors—that we humans don’t understand about dogs.

Want to know why your dog feels the need to eat poop or smell everything in sight? Keep reading to find out…

Odd Behavior #1: Why does my dog feel the need to smell everything?

Your dog’s primary sense is his sense of smell.

In fact, according to Purina.com…

“The area of the canine brain that is devoted to analyzing scent is 40 times greater than that of the human and dogs can identify smells at least 1,000 times better than we can! The dog’s superior sense of smell comes from 220 million olfactory receptors in its nose. Compared to the human’s paltry 5 million, it’s no wonder smell is considered to be the dog’s primary sense.

When a dog sniffs, air is taken in and passes through the olfactory epithelium (nasal skin cells). These calls are also found in a special organ that dogs (and cats) possess, called the Jacobsen’s or vomeronasal organ. This organ is thought to be important in the detection of pheromones (body scents), perhaps giving the dog its tremendous ability to identify and recognize animals and people.”

There’s also a great post from our friends at Your Dog Advisor on Why Sniff Time Is so Important to Your Dog

Odd Behavior #2: Why does my dog like some people and not others?

Much like humans, dogs have preferences on whom they like to hang around.

This preference can be dependent on a large variety of factors.

First and foremost, our dogs have the ability to sense whether someone has good energy generally and if they are a good person or not. It’s the reason some dogs will lie on the floor happily when friends are over, yet, in an instant, turn into an attack dog when someone breaks into the home.

We don’t really understand how dogs are able to “feel people out,” but it’s clear that they have the ability to judge whether someone has good intentions or not.

Another way dogs pick whom they want to hang around is by observing human behavior.

If you have a very social dog who loves to be fussed over and petted, he might choose to hang around the people who are willing to give him unlimited attention.

On the flip side, there are dogs that are less social or get overwhelmed by people who want to be all up in their business.

This type of dog might choose to hide from people that seem too overbearing or children/adults who are too loud, obnoxious, and don’t respect the dog’s space.

Odd Behavior #3: Why do dogs love being around people so much?

As I just mentioned above, most dogs are very social creatures.

By nature, dogs are pack animals and often desire to feel as though they are part of a pack or family.

If your dog has had positive experiences around humans, it’s likely that he’s going to want to be a part of everything you and your friends do.

Not to mention, if you regularly play with your dog, shower him with love and affection, and provide him with treats, he’ll never want to miss out on an opportunity to be spoiled by you.

Odd Behavior #4: Why doesn’t my dog like toys?

Dogs are a lot like kids in the sense that they all have very different play preferences and personalities.

The environment in which your dog grows up contributes to these play preferences.

To set the foundation, I want to be very clear on the fact that while toys are a lot of fun for most dogs, not all dogs need toys to be happy!

For this reason, some people opt to never give their dog toys, or the dog only has one or two favorite toys—especially if their dog is known to chew up toys and swallow dangerous materials.

When a dog grows up in this environment, he will learn to enjoy playing in other ways, such as a trip to the park, a walk around the block, or some quality time wrestling on the floor.

Another reason your dog might not like toys could be because he grew up without them. For instance, you may have adopted a dog from a shelter who never had access to toys.

Because of this, your adopted dog may simply have no idea how to even play with toys.

Finally, as I said above, all dogs have different play preferences that come naturally programmed.

Some dogs love hard toys, some dogs love soft toys, some dogs love to play fetch, and some dogs don’t care about toys at all.

Odd Behavior #5: Why does my dog eat poop?

Eating dog poop is by far probably one of the most disgusting dog habits that we humans simply don’t understand—and for good reason.

It’s gross, unappetizing, and downright nauseating.

But, there are many reasons our pups do it.

First and foremost, eating poop could be a sign that your dog has a deficiency of something in their diet.

The most likely culprits are…

  • Enzyme deficiencies.
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.
  • Mineral deficiencies.

It’s a dog’s natural instinct to curb these deficiencies by eating poop as other foods often contain the nutrients your dog might be missing.

If your dog regularly eats poop, talk to your vet about your dog’s food and what you could be doing differently to give him the nutrients he needs in an attempt to curb the behavior.

Believe it or not, another instinct that causes dogs to eat poop is cleanliness. This is especially true if you have a dog that has had puppies before.

Mama dogs are programmed to keep their pups’ environment safe and clean—and in the wild, that often means eating poop out of their pups’ living space.

While this instinct is mostly present in dogs with new puppies, the instinct can carry over into later years of a dog’s life.

Lastly, some dogs simply just think it tastes great.

This is especially true when it comes to cat poop—what a delicacy!

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to curb this behavior aside from keeping your dog away from other animal droppings. Although one very popular tip is to feed your dog a little bit of pineapple! Yep, that’s right. A bit of pineapple may do the trick in stopping them from eating their own faeces.

Odd Behavior #6: Why does my dog feel the need to always be on top of me?

Dogs love having contact with us much in the same way small children desire to hold our hands/cuddle or adults feel the desire to hug/be close to those they love.

It’s usually a sign of affection.

However, it can also be a sign of dominance. For example, imagine invading your boss’s space by leaning on him when you are trying to discuss a pay raise. Not a good idea!

As a dog owner and trainer, I understand that it can be obnoxious when your dog feels the need to constantly be on top of you.

And, I also believe that boundaries and training should be put in place in order to ensure your dog doesn’t need to be constantly sitting on top of your head. That’s right. I actually worked with more than one couple whose dog lies on their heads when they are sitting in their arm chairs or sleeping at night! (The dogs are not German Shepherds!)

That being said, a dog who loves you will always feel happy in your presence and have the desire to feel your warmth, which bring him comfort.

One suggestion is to make all the interactions on your terms so YOU initiate the interaction with your dog.

If you’re struggling to set space boundaries with your dog, I highly suggest you check out how I’ve successfully trained over 37,000 dogs here!

Or, if you have a puppy, you can start setting a solid foundation with my Puppy Coach training program here!

Odd Behavior #7: Why does my dog eat grass?

There are two big reasons dogs eat grass.

The first reason is very similar to the reason dogs eat poop.

Your dog might be missing vitamins/nutrients in his diet, and eating grass is his way of trying to rebalance his diet and make up for what is missing.

If you notice your dog chowing down on grass, talk to your vet about what supplements your dog might need to rebalance his diet.

The second reason dogs eat grass is to induce vomiting.

If your dog has an upset stomach, eating grass is a natural, instinctual way to throw up whatever may be causing his discomfort, so I always let my dogs do it.

Pay attention to your dog and take note if he’s acting odd, lethargic, is biting at his abdomen, or refusing to eat his normal food.

Eating grass could be a sign that a bigger health issue is at play however its not always a reason for alarm. It could be your dog simply knows they need to be sick and then they will be fine.

Odd Behavior #8: Why does my dog chase his tail?

Ah, the age-old question…Why does my dog chase his tail?

The answer: why not?

I mean, have you ever tried it? Can you imagine how much fun it would be! The best analogy is probably chasing a sibling or a friend when you were a child and they were just out of reach!

The other thought is that maybe our dogs aren’t that smart! Personally, I doubt this theory, but maybe it’s true!

It has been suggested that, while dogs are incredibly intelligent animals, they simply don’t have the ability to understand their own anatomy.

For that reason, a flash of a tail-chasing behind them quickly turns into a game of “I must chase and catch what is following me.”

I shall leave you to decide what you believe 🙂

Most dogs eventually grow out of chasing their own tails as they become used to having a tail and get bored with it. If your dog is doing it too much then consider stepping in and doing a ‘calm freeze’ to put a stop to it.

The bottom line: Tail chasing is either a lot of fun, and why not, or it’s just a silly game dogs play because they don’t know any better.

Odd Dog Behavior #9: Why does my dog gets anxious when I leave the house?

First and foremost, dogs are pack animals.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re part of your dog’s pack.

Here’s where the anxiety comes into play…

Leaders in a dog pack are responsible for ensuring their pack members are safe and taken care of.

If your dog thinks he’s the pack leader, it’s likely that he’s going to freak out when you go missing.

That being said, in the world of dogs, pack leaders are allowed to leave the group to do things like hunt.

If your dog recognizes you as the leader of the household, he will come to realize that it’s ok if you leave to “take care of business” and his anxiety will diminish.

Being the “leader” of your pack isn’t about being mean, in control, and overpowering your dog. It’s about establishing a relationship in which your dog trusts you to care for him and provide.

If you believe your dog’s anxiety or other bad behaviors are caused by you not being seen as the household leader, I invite you to check out my program The Dog Calming Code.

➜ Check out The Dog Calming Code here.

This program is designed to help dog owners establish leadership roles in a kind, compassionate way that helps dogs relax, calm down, and let go so they can enjoy the life they deserve.

The best news is that this issue is one of the simplest in the world to fix.

Odd Dog Behavior #10: Why does my dog spin in circles before lying down?

We’ve all seen it happen…

Whether it be on the floor, a bed, or a couch, we’ve all witnessed our pups spinning in circles before lying down to sleep.

Why does your dog feel the need to spin around 7 times before finally lying down?

Easy…

It’s a safety instinct that is ingrained in our dogs from long before they were domesticated.

According to Livescience.com…

“Wild dogs had to pat down tall grass and underbrush to make a comfortable bed for themselves and their pups. The easiest way to prepare that night’s sleeping area was by walking around in a circle.

The rounding ritual may also have served as a safety precaution. ‘In the wild, the circling would flatten grasses or snow and would drive out any snakes or large insects,’ said Irvine, a sociologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder who specializes in the role of animals in society.

‘I have also heard that circling the area and thus flattening it leaves a visible sign to other dogs that this territory has been claimed,’ Irvine said. ‘Even though our dogs now sleep on cushions, the behavior endures.”

There you have it—10 odd dog behaviors explained!

Before I end this post, I want to make one thing really clear. Dogs have many funny behaviors, and while most are silly things out of instinct, there are things dogs do to communicate that they are stressed out.

So to avoid a stressed out dog, I’ve created a FREE pdf that gives tips on how to keep your dog entertained and tips on how to keep your dog relaxed.

↓ Download the FREE guide here ↓

I encourage you to check it out and see if any of my recommendations will help relax your pup and keep him occupied.

It’s my hope that you’ll be able to use this guide to ensure your dog stays happy and stress-free.

If you’re still struggling or want additional help, please go ahead and check out my Dog Calming Code here.

Cheers,

Doggy Dan Signature
~Doggy Dan

Doggy Dan

Doggy Dan is the founder of The Online Dog Trainer, a wildly successful online training program for dog owners. His goal is to continue to share his unique approach to dog training with like-minded people who wish to make a difference in the world of dogs. His training methods focus on creating and building the connection between dogs and dog owners, and are shared and used around the world.

12 Responses

  1. I am concerned about Bruno. We are starting to go through the Calming Down, time out, process. He is constantly scratching at the door.
    Another thing is digging. Please help

    1. Hi Alice,
      It can be really common for dogs to scratch at the door, bark or whine when they are in time-out. Remember that the time-out doesn’t need to be excessively long, just a few minutes for minor indiscretions, and you only need to wait for 10-15 seconds of silence (no scratching/barking/whining) in order to let Bruno out. Unfortunately if you do open the door in response to scratching, barking or whining then Bruno will learn the behaviour works for him and he will continue to do it. It can be helpful to attach a thin piece of plywood on the back of the door to protect it and when you no longer need the time-out room you can remove it again! As far as digging goes we have a topic covering this on my website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com as it is important to identify whey the behaviour is occurring…maybe take a quick look…its a $1 trial for 3 days…all the best Doggy Dan

  2. When my dog was a little puppy he chased his tail until one day he caught it. With one yip when he bit it, he has never chased his tail since.

  3. We have a 9 month old Cavoodle and he get very excited and jumps in front of our old girl a 12 yr old Blue Heeler x trying to lock her usually first thing in the morning when we get up and every time we feed them. We usually put him on his lead to calm him down.
    I don’t understand why he does it to Bella

    1. Hi Anne,
      It can be pretty common for dogs to get a bit excited when they haven’t seen family members for an extended (or short) period of time. If your puppy is getting a bit too pushy then placing him on leash is the perfect solution to calm things down. You could also feed him in a separate area to your other dog if he is really pestering her. Well done in coming up with a solution that works best to help calm things down, but also try delaying greeting your dogs in the morning until they are both calm and relaxed. Best, Doggy Dan

  4. Dear DoggyDan, I enjoy so much your emails. Thank you. I am sorry to hear about your dog Peanut. I know death is a part of life , and personally I do not fear death, however loss isn’t easy. My question is, I have five dogs and on newest acquisition is a yellow lab. I have them on a high quality canned food with supplementation of steamed carrots, green beans and sweet potatoes. I don’t think there is a deficiency in there diet, however the lab is very prone to eating the other’s poop. Could this be a lab thing since he is so motivated by food? The food must smell close to the original food. He also eats grass regularly munching all the time but doesn’t throw up. I have thought of it as fiber and possibly a source of antioxidants. Also is the pineapple similar to Bitter Apple that would throw off the taste buds. I have found that he would prefer to eat apples if given the choice however I haven’t tried pineapple. How much pineapple do you think. I know that citrus isn’t supposed to be good for dogs. I don’t think of apples as citrus. Do you think crushed garlic with sautéed sweet potatoes will do any harm? I know garlic isn’t supposed to be good for dogs but in small amounts cooked, do you think that it may be helpful for pests that could cause skin disease? thank you for your time in answering these questions.Sincerely, Mary Ann

    1. Hi Mary Ann….there are many reasons dogs eat poo….from it being a learned behaviour to indicating a deficiency in their diet. I always recommend running this behaviour past your Vet in case there is an underlying health issue. Where food has been scarce it can result in a dog viewing poo as a source of nutrition as well. Generally the behaviour is nothing to be concerned about, unless it is making your dog unwell. The best advice is to try and collect any poo that is left lying around and adding certain foods to a dog’s diet…like pineapple…can help but not always. This behaviour may calm down over time if your dog is only new to your family as well. Best, Doggy Dan

    1. Hi Sandra, it’s really important to identify why your dog pees inside, for example is the cause behavioural or health related? My website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com goes through a number of causes of this behaviour, but more importantly we teach you how to overcome it…maybe take a quick look…its a $1 trial for 3 days…all the best Doggy Dan

  5. I am so thankful for your program! We have done extensive training with our lab/border collie mix, but now understand she thought she was the leader and was overprotective of our space. What do you think about letting our dog sleep with us? Is that considered invading our space? She can plop down in the middle of the night right against us in a big bed, taking up too much space.

    1. Hi Patrice!
      We get a lot of questions about whether or not it’s ok to allow dogs to sleep in bed with their owners. Generally, as long as you’re the one who has invited your dog onto the bed then that’s totally fine, it will be clear to her that it’s your decision and not hers. However if she jumps onto your bed, and you didn’t invite her to, I would gently remove here and when you are settled in bed you can call her back up. It may seem like a small detail but to our dogs it’s an important one…essentially that you are allowing her to be on the bed rather than her feeling entitled to. Best, Doggy Dan

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“Dan’s videos are just terrific. He doesn’t skimp on the videos and you really get your money’s worth. He grounds his training in dogs’ intrinsic traits, which really makes sense. I’m so pleased and would purchase the trading all over.”

Dexter C.

“I am amazed at how quickly I saw results. Cannot recommend this enough! Brilliant!”

Robert T.

"You have explained why we're having problems with our terrier and given us the tools to help him. For the first time in nearly a year we don't feel so anxious and have confidence that things will get better."

Alison M.

"All of the training in the complete pack fits together like a puzzle. Each video is valuable in learning how to read dogs and respond appropriately. So easy to use and fun to watch Dan interpret situations. All of the training has worked with my 3-month-old pup and I'm SO grateful! Thank you Dan and team!"

Sara M.

"I really like learning how to be calm & effective with training. I also appreciate the encouragement I receive to be the pack leader that my dog wants and needs."

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