Dog Behavior, Explained
There really are reasons behind your pet’s weirdness.
Our dogs do a variety of strange things, from walking in a circle three times before they lie down to running a special pattern before eating. However, believe it or not, there are often some very legitimate reasons for them to do these things. Here a few of these behaviors and the reasons behind them.
Why Does My Dog Press His Head into the Wall?
Recently, there was a “wall-staring” meme that started on YouTube, where people posted photos and videos of their dogs and cats sat staring at a wall—or pressing their head against it—for extended periods of time. If your pets do this, you should consider it an emergency situation and get them into the vet. Known as “head pressing,” it is an indication of neurological damage. Causes of head pressing can include tumors, liver shunt, stroke, encephalitis, hepatic disease, prosencephalon disease and even toxic poisoning. Take this behavior very seriously.
Why Does My Dog Run in His Sleep?
You see your dog running in your sleep and wonder what he’s dreaming about. The truth is, he might have a sleep disorder. REM sleep disorder occurs when the brain signals the large muscle groups in the body to move. Usually this is harmless, but if you’re really concerned because your dog has begun injuring himself (such as suddenly standing up and running into a wall), it’s time to see a veterinarian. They can provide medications that will help control the disorder.
Why is My Dog Crying?
Dogs sometimes start “chuffing” and make a snorting or choking sound, they might even appear to be crying. The phenomenon is known as paroxysmal respiration. It sounds awful, but it’s really a reaction to several different factors, including eating too fast or reacting to an irritant in the air. If it happens often, you’ll want to see a veterinarian.
Why Does My Dog Roll in Dead Things?
There isn’t a dog alive who wouldn’t choose to roll in stinky stuff if given half a chance. There are many theories as to why dogs do this. Some people believe the dogs are “disguising” their own scents—an instinct leftover from the days when dogs were actual hunters. Some believe it indicates a dog doesn’t like the way he smells (especially right after a bath). I subscribe to the theory that they are showing other dogs where they have been that day (similar to a child running up to you and saying, “Look what I found!”). Still, others believe their pets just really like the smell. The real reason? Only our dogs know for sure.
Why Does My Dog Circle Three Times Before Laying Down?
This is likely another instinctual behavior leftover from the good ol’ days of being predators. In order to pat down the long grasses on ranges, dogs would turn around in a circle (usually three times is enough to pat down grasses), making a perfect grass shelter bed. Dogs are pack animals and the circle is a way of staking out a preferred sleeping area.
Why Does My Dog Pull the Stuffing Out of His Toys?
If your pup enjoys disemboweling her toys, don’t be too concerned. There is nothing more instinctual to a dog than pulling all the stuffing out of her toys. If you watch the process, you’ll see there is a specific way she accomplishes this behavior. She will first pull out the “perceived” intestines, kidneys and liver, then the heart, lungs and spleen. This is because the organs are “high-value” targets due to their concentrated levels of vitamin B, which wild animals need a lot of to survive. If your dogs were in the wild, they would then move on to the large muscle mass of each leg, then to the ribs and finally to the tougher portions (like bone, tendon, cartilage and hide).
Of course, it might also be that the stuffed toy “stomach” is generally where the seam is usually located. However, personally, I like the hunting theory.
No matter how strange your dog’s behavior is, you can rest assured there are physiological or instinctual reasons behind it. Taking the time to explore the history of your dog and understanding her reasoning for doing certain things will give you a huge advantage in distinguishing between “learned behavior” and “instinctual behavior.” This will go a long ways toward helping you train your dog.
About the Author: Stacy Mantle is the founder of PetsWeekly.com and the bestselling author of “Shepherd’s Moon.” Learn more great tips for living with animals by visiting PetsWeekly.com or get to know a little more about the author at www.StacyMantle.com