Doggos. Need we say more? Probably not, but we will because, sigh—aren’t they just the best? Admit it - you even love their funky smells, including that stinky breath and those paws which inexplicably smell like Frito’s. As Author of tearjerker Marley & Me, John Grogan, says, “Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.” Need a tissue? We get it.
On top of their unending loyalty and dedication to us, though, some of the stuff they do is just plain weird, right? From circling and sniffing to racing and digging, much of their dog behavior leaves owners and even those of us in the veterinary community scratching our heads. That’s why we’ve taken the time to explain 10 of the wonkiest behaviors by dogs below and the (likely!) reasons they do them.
1. Boot Scoot Boogie
Whether you call it this or the “butt scoot” or simply the “boot scoot”, this will have milk coming out of your kids’ noses, as nothing makes us laugh more than the dog scooting across your clean floor or brand new carpet. Unfortunately, it can have a more ominous meaning, including allergies, a dirty butt, or anal glands that need to be expressed.
2. Trashing Your Stuff
We’ve all seen the photos on social media of toilet paper ravaged, a pillow murdered, and even couches absolutely obliterated and, while we laugh and laugh, we know this owner’s first reaction likely wasn’t to make the dog an internet sensation. If you’ve ever come home and your house looks like a hotel room that Motley Crue just partied in, it can very frustrating. What’s truly sad is that a lot of dogs end up in shelters for this very reason, which is why we want you to understand this behavior if you experience it so you can nip it in the bud to save your sanity and your doggo’s life.
A few of the reasons behind your dog could be trashing your stuff are as follows:
- Separation anxiety
- Because, puppies (duh!)
Talk to your vet about finding a trainer that is good with positive reinforcement techniques. Godspeed!
3. Circling Before They Do Their Business
If you haven’t experienced this as a dog owner, be very, very grateful, as Murphy’s Law dictates that they do this when you are in a rush. They circle...and circle...and then circle some more, only to decide in the end to move five inches to the right and start the circling process again. Serenity now! You might think they are doing this to antagonize you or even draw out their morning walk, but it turns out that one of the most interesting theories is that our dogs are actually geniuses. Whoa.
Czech researcher Hynek Burda spent 2 years watching 70 dogs poop (now that’s fortitude!) and reported his findings to The Washington Post, noting that this behavior has to do with the earth’s magnetic pull. When the magnetic field was calm, the dogs in the study preferred to poop facing north or south. Now, this might sound crazy, but what the study implies is that the dogs could be using this as a way to find this prime poop spot again, just as they are able to do when finding a bone they’ve hidden.
4. Hanging Their Heads Out the Window
You’re having a horrible day, driving home from work, ruminating about the events that are bringing you down when, BAM, you pass a dog with their head hanging out the window. Instant mood-lifter, right? Experts mostly agree that dogs do this simply because it’s exhilarating and it feels good, but they also say there is a huge olfactory reward for them, as dogs always try to figure out where they are with their noses. That’s why, if they’re not hanging their head out an open window, you can often see them smelling the crack where the window opens.
Our only recommendation is to avoid doing this on the highway to avoid having your doggo get something in their eye while going a high rate of speed.
Is there anything funnier than watching your dog do zoomies? We think not. Even dogs who carry a few, ahem, extra pounds love these. While they often happen after a somewhat unpleasant experience, such as being crated for a while or their owners dared to bathe them (the horror!), there’s no reason to feel bad about zoomies. They’re just good for everyone.s
6. Teeth Bared and Low Growl
Many dog owners are shocked and horrified when their normally friendly pup who is only known for sloppy kisses exhibits this behavior. "Not my Mr. Higgins Picklebottom!" Don’t be appalled—just know that something really freaked out your poor pup, and they are telling you or the other people around that it’s not the time to engage with them. Warnings are never a bad thing! If it starts happening more regularly, talk to your veterinarian.
7. Butt Sniffing
Ahhh, that fateful moment in the dog park when you see someone who makes your heart go pitter-pat. Is this it? Is this your meet-cute? And then it happens. Your dog sniffs their dog’s butt and the moment is ruined and you decide you need to move far, far away. Witness protection is the only way. Nonsense! This is totally natural doggo behavior! This is how dogs learn about each other’s diet, gender, reproductive status, and temperament. Feel free to share this information with your new friend, after you both get the requisite awkward laugh out of the way.
8. The Head Tilt
Contrary to popular belief, this is not meant to secure the pet’s status as the cutest doggo in history, although it likely does. Dogs that do this are curious, and they are simply tilting their heads to get their ears in the best position to hear where the sounds are coming from.
9. The Dead Animals “Gift”
“No, really, you shouldn’t have.” Your normally gentle dog that sleeps at your feet brings you a dead bird. Are they now a cold-blooded killer? Of course not! Dogs weren’t always domesticated animals, so this behavior is in homage to their wild roots. And if you have a herding dog or a hound (bloodhounds, basset hounds, beagles), this might even be a regular occurrence. Some have posited that this means that they are telling you that they consider you to be the leader of their pack. Whatever the reason, don’t panic.
First, make sure that the animal is, indeed, dead, as some have known to play possum...especially possums! Don’t punish the dog for doing what is instinctual. Some farmers and/or those who live on large plots of land even encourage this behavior to keep their cattle and other animals safe from prey. Of course, you don’t have to encourage this behavior if you live in the ‘burbs and, quite frankly, find it behavior sad and gross. If you simply say, “Drop it!” every time the dog brings you a gift, they will likely pick up on the fact that this isn’t your favorite behavior. Lastly, make sure to dispose of your “gift” in an area where it can’t be re-gifted!
10. Eating Poop And/Or Grass
Let’s say it together: “Ewwww.” While the grass isn’t that gross, the feces is the last thing you want to see knowing you just got a big ole kiss in bed this morning. The good thing is that these things don’t necessarily mean your dog is sick or even trying to tell you something. In the case of feces, the dog might simply be trying to clean the area where they “go.” Dog parents will sometimes eat puppy poop to keep them clean. Of course, you don’t want to encourage this behavior but they will be okay.
And while many people think that grass-eating means they are missing something in their diet, that isn’t necessarily the case either, especially if you are already feeding them a food that is well balanced. It could mean that they have eaten something that has upset their tummy or they might even be dehydrated.
Wonky behavior by doggos is often just par for the zoomie course. If you have concerns, however, call your primary care veterinarian.