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Understanding Strange Dog Behavior

by ron.r (follow)
General (50)      Dogs (161)      Behaviour (45)      Training (30)     

dog, strange dog behaviour

Many people notice a change in habits of their pet, or really any habit, and automatically assume the animal behavior is weird- or strange, and they anthropomorphize the behavior believing that the pet has the capabilities of thinking like a human, therefore the actions must be human like. I love my pet as much as the next person, however, some characteristics and behaviorisms that I would like to think are the result of being “missed”, “loved” (etc) are actually the result of domestication, and natural actions as a pack member.

Your dog spins before he sits down
Although a bird and a dog have very few characteristics in common, your dog is a nester (more specifically, they are den oriented) too. Your dog’s ancestors had to sleep outside, in the elements, without much warmth or safety. Walking around a spot was a way to stamp down grass, leaves or snow and create a soft, level surface — something akin to carving out a nest. Just like circling, if your dog is doing the digging action, it is probably an ancestral behavior related to staying safe and comfortable.

In extreme heat, digging a hole was a way to reduce a dog’s body temperature by surrounding herself with cool soil that could help regulate body heat. When it was cold — or even freezing — climbing into a hole allowed a dog to retain body heat and keep cozy.

Puppy kisses
There are many reasons why dogs lick your face, however, because he loves you probably isn’t one (sorry). If your puppy (young) is licking your face it may be an instinct of trying to receive regurgitated food from the mother. If your older dog is licking at your face, it is often a sign of submission. Younger dogs will often lick the face of an older dog to show that they are not a threat and will appease the instinct to fight future competition for the alpha position.

Lastly, licking and sniffing at humans can be a way of learning about someone, or learn about your whereabouts. Dogs use their senses to process information about us such as who we are and where we came from, etc. Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, far superior to what we can even imagine as humans. They are equipped with a unique organ, known as the Jacobson's organ, on the roof of their mouths. When they breathe in air, it flows across this organ, cluing them in to substances that have no known detectable odor.

Rolling and rubbing
How many times have you seen your dog happily rolling in something, only to find out it was a carcass or something icky and smelly. This is because your dog likes to pick up scents from around him to alter his smell. If you have recently bathed him he will roll in any surrounding objects in order smell more “natural” and more like outside scents he prefers.

Another reason this occurs is because the wild ancestors of dogs were not only hunters but also scavengers, much of the stuff that they are rolling in could still possibly be edible. The notion then is that the wild canine rolls in this material and then returns to the pack. The other members of his group immediately pick up this scent and know that there is something which can pass for food nearby.

Our pets are more instinctual than us, and often times the behaviors they are doing are not what you may guess. Assuming your pet is participating in some behaviors because they love or miss you- can overtime, prove to be a result of poor training and can become an issue.


Ron Rutherford works for Havahart Wireless as a freelance writer and media specialist. In his free time he enjoys walking and hiking with Cooper.
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