Funny but baffling things dogs do
Our doggie friends are a valued member of our family. But unlike a human friend or close family confidante, our furry pals do some decidedly un-human things that leave us scratching our heads and reminding us that they are, after all, a different species. But no matter, since these things are endlessly entertaining, making them what they are, dogs, and makes us fall in love with them even more, it’s perfectly alright!
Garima Singhal with Bruno Boo
We love our dogs and are amused with their antics. They give us unconditional love, loyalty and also keep us entertained all the time. Here are a few funny, but baffling, things which our tailwaggers do.
They stash things away! They aren’t called hoarders for just about any reason. They are called that, because they exhibit very strong hoarding tendencies! They often have favourite hiding places, like behind the couch cushions or at the bottom of the laundry pile. This behaviour can occur due to a variety of reasons, either boredom, or they just like your scent and want to keep it close. Sometimes, this is simply attention seeking behaviour and might need the help of a behaviorist to rectify.
Facing the same direction every time they poop: There is research that points to the fact that when our doggies relieve themselves they follow a north-south magnetic axis if the earth’s magnetic field is stable at the time of the nature’s call. This is done more often when defecating as opposed to urinating. This behaviour was found to be consistent amongst breeds and sizes of dogs. Fascinating!
Lifting their leg while peeing: Not only are they marking territory while doing so, they also want to appear taller and more dominant to other dogs, which is why, they will often make a vertical line when they pee. Peeing is a powerful communication tool used by dogs of both genders to assert social standing, look for potential mates, evaluating their healthy and virility, and even threaten intruders. This is like that mail, they need to check what’s in there and leave appropos messages behind.
Make their beds: Who doesn’t like a warm, snuggly place to lie in, and dogs are no exception. When they want to crash, they want comfort and warmth, and they will try to make their resting area just so. If you have ever seen this, dogs will walk around in circles a few times, sniff and then sit. This habit goes back thousands of years when dogs (and their wolfish ancestors) would build nests for themselves by stomping on the grass. This action accomplishes many goals. Not only does it create a warm, snuggly place for the doggies to lie in, they also mark it with their smell, and signal to other that this place belongs to them.
This habit has translated into modern dogs. Some dogs are happy just collapsing where they are and going to sleep. Others will drag their beds around, take a stroll, collect all their favorite toys (remember magpie stashing!) and then go to sleep.
Solving puzzles! Have you ever seen your dog digging through trash, running away, or chewing and burrowing. All of these are more than just signs of boredom, and more and more experts agree that these are just the dog’s effort to keep his mind active. Giving them puzzles is a good way of engaging them. Food puzzles work easily as most dogs are highly food motivated, and they should be used instead of regular mealtimes out of a bowl. A puzzle that requires a dog to lick, shake, chew, paw, move or remove something to get his food bite will keep him entertained for hours.
Kicking the grass (and dirt): Some dogs kick the grass after relieving themselves (more often after pooping) to cover their deposit. Others are releasing pheromones from their paws to mark their territory. That explains why dogs spend so much time sniffing the ground, bushes, tree trunks, and anywhere another animal may have eliminated on. They are constantly monitoring their territory and sniffing out information about other dogs who have come and gone.
Eating in private: People like company when they eat, big tables, feasts, dinner parties. But this isn’t how it is with dogs. Your puppy might feel comfortable eating alone in his private space where he knows that no one else, human, canine or feline will lay claim to his grub. This habit will also show itself when you dole out treats. So if your dog’s feeding area is in a part of your house where there is a lot of visual stimulation (near a window) or footfall (near a door) or mental stimulation (living room, where the family spends most of its time), it might be kinder to move his feeding to a slightly more private area, like the kitchen, or your bedroom.
Sleeping belly up, like a fish: Dogs are lazy, they want to be comfortable when sleeping, and what is more comforting than airing out the family jewels for the world to see. Not only is the belly exposed, but also, there is a constant flow of air that keeps his body cool. Also, be proud that your dog is doing this in your home. No dog will ever be caught with their belly up in the wild, unless he is in an extremely life threatening confrontation with another. But if they do so in your home, rest assured that they are comfortable enough with you to assume this vulnerable position. Many dogs roll onto their backs when they’re feeling playful, and some find it interesting to view the world upside down now and then!
Listening to music: Yeah, you read that right, dogs just love music. They are known for their sense of smell, but they have a great sense of pitch too. When they howl, they pay attention to what other dogs like, and change or alter their tones accordingly. Besides, research is rapidly indicating that soothing music calms dogs, whereas heavy metal agitates them. Some experts believe that dogs like vocal music. Watch your dog and take cues about what he likes and dislikes and use this to your advantage.
Sticking their heads out car windows: Dogs love a car ride, particularly with their heads sticking out the window, and this doesn’t just have to do with the wind on their faces. There are amazing smells to be smelled and sights to be taken in. Some research also indicates that the wind on their faces might help them with motion sickness. Be a responsible pet parent and protect your dog, just like you would with a child as dog can fall out of moving vehicles. Also, the flying debris, bugs and dirt can get in their eyes, noses and ears and cause serious harm. Use appropriate car harnesses and don’t roll the windows down too far that they could fall or jump out.
Sniffing the behinds of other dogs: Dogs communicate with one another through the chemical compounds in their bodies. Butt scents provide a wealth of biochemical information that dogs use to communicate with one another, which is why they always greet each other with a little mutual bottom sniffing.
Getting stinky: Dogs love to roll around in anything that stinks, dog poo, cat poo, horse poo, dirt, garbage, because these materials have scents that mask the dog’s own odours. This is a natural version of an ‘invisibility cloak’ if you will, disguising the fact that the dog is nearby. In the wild, dogs need to roam, and preventing other packs and animals from getting a whiff and chasing them is an important life skill. This is however quite disgusting to us humans, so rub-a-dub-dub.
Tail chasing: This can be a sign of a bored dog or one with obsessive-compulsive tendencies, a problem with anal glands or flea allergy dermatitis, or perhaps a genetic predisposition. Make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out any health issues. Also, latest studies and work indicates that there is a genetic component to this behaviour. A 2012 study indicates just this – “Although the definitive mode of inheritance is often difficult to estimate from Pedigrees due to missing phenotypes, our Pedigrees in all breeds suggest a strong genetic influence with multiple affected dogs across generations and even within several litters.”
Tilting their head: This is most pet parents’ personal kryptonite. Once a dog cocks their head, there is no chance they won’t get something or another. This happens especially when you speak to your dog, in a tone that tells them that good things are happening! And on comes that unbearably adorable head tilt, a genuine show of interest! Canine behaviourists suspect the head tilt is your dog’s attempt to make sense of what you’re saying to him. He might be listening intently for a word cue like ‘treat’, ‘walk’, or ‘play’. However, as with anything else, if happening in excess, it is time to consult your veterinarian.
Love to lick: Dogs are very social, and in a group, they tend to show affection towards one another, and the easiest way to do this is by licking. So if your dog has planted a wet, stodgy kiss on your face, the fact that he loves you isn’t just an assumption, but a fact. But at times, you will see your dog licking himself. Sometimes, the animals might be trying to show submission to you, or other animals. Self licking beyond a point can fall under the category of self mutilation, and can lead to acral lick dermatitis, a condition which is not easily treatable, so keep an eye out for that. Self licking typically happens when the dog is trying to pacify himself, from whatever it might be that is upsetting him, much like a toddler sucking his thumb. Elimination of the stressor can often lead to removal of this behaviour, so do pay close attention to your dog’s immediate environment.
Carrying things around: Dogs don’t have hands, like we do, so they will often be found carrying things around in their mouths. Exactly why dogs want to take possession of objects is a little more complex. Sometimes, it is a comfort factor, the object might be tasty, or the texture might be enjoyable to have in their mouths, or near them. Or it could be their security blanket. The dog feels safe to have that object around him. Sometimes, it has to do with their hierarchy instincts. If the dog brings something and drops it at your feet, the dog is recognising your position as the parent and provider, and it is his little gift to you. Treat it as such (even if it is something nasty- a dead squirrel, for example).
Watching TV! That’s right, dogs love TV. But they perceive television a little differently than people do. They don’t see as many colours, and the strobe in the TV is quite annoying to them, yet the modern TV can be a good source of entertainment. Scenes such as bouncing balls, relaxing landscapes with soothing background tracks and even the sounds of vacuum or washing machine, or dishwasher, anything that dog is scared of, and the television can be a good source of desensitisation. Having said this, television isn’t a substitute for one on one care.
Falling asleep anywhere: Dogs are like children, and just like children, they will sleep if they are tired, and it could mean wherever they are. If you push your dog past the point of exhaustion, you will go against nature, and this is counterproductive in the long run. A tired body is not upto the mark when it comes to a robust immune system, and is prone to falling prey to diseases. Tired dogs are annoying dogs. So if you see your dog stretching out to snooze, don’t disturb him, don’t push him past his endurance. Let sleeping dogs lie. And what’s more, get in there for a little snuggle time of your own.
Follow you around: There can’t be a greater expression of a dog’s love than this. Experts believe that this behaviour is mostly about security. You are your dog’s world, and when you leave for a long (or short) period of time, your dog’s security goes for a toss. However, if the following is out of control, your dog very likely has separation anxiety, which is a behavioural problem, and you must deal with it immediately, with the help of a certified and experienced canine behaviorist.
Nibbling on grass: This is the subject that causes most consternations and thought amongst pet parents! Some dogs just like the taste of grass and will sample it occasionally. Some dogs nibble only certain grasses, presumably to meet enzyme or trace nutrient needs. And some dogs eat grass because they’re trying to sooth their GI tract (which is why they often vomit or poop after grazing on grass for a few minutes). Just let them be. In fact, it is advisable to have a suitable pesticide and herbicide-free ‘grazing pasture’ available for them. Sunflower seed sprouts and wheatgerm, barleygerm are easy and inexpensive source of live, organic vegetation and they even provide some antioxidant benefit.
(Garima Singhal is KCAI accredited canine behaviourist, neurobiologist, school teacher and long-term pet parent).