Ten Baffling Dog Behaviors Explained

10 Baffling Dog Behaviors Explained

Dogs sometimes exhibit behaviors that are baffling to humans. These odd habits can be amusing, embarrassing, and occasionally disgusting. But what lies behind the more extreme behaviors, and are they a cause for concern?

In most cases, what a dog owner thinks are bizarre behaviors are simply a dog being a dog. However, excessive displays of certain behaviors can indicate the dog is unwell. Here are explanations of 10 strange things dogs do.

1. Cocking Head to One Side

It looks adorable when a dog cocks its head to one side, listening to you or another sound. The action makes them look like they are engrossed in a conversation. Cocking the head to one side is a perfectly natural behavior believed to be the dog attempting to better hear an unusual sound.

A dog occasionally coking its head to listen to a sound is no cause for concern. However, if your dog repeatedly exhibits this behavior without audible stimulation, it could indicate an ear infection.

2. Eating Poop

One of the most unpleasant habits of dogs is eating poop. The scientific name for this behavior is coprophagia. Dogs may develop a taste for their own excrement, or they may eat other animals’ poop. The explanation for this behavior is as gross as the act; some dogs like the taste of poop.

While the thought of eating poop will turn your stomach, coprophagia is not usually a sign of illness. However, if your dog becomes obsessive about poop eating, it may indicate a nutritional deficiency.

3. Walking in Circles Before Lying Down

You might have noticed your dog walking around in circles before lying down. This act seems like a pointless but amusing exercise to humans. It looks like the dog is indecisive about taking a nap, or they can’t find the perfect spot.

Walking in circles before settling down is believed to be a habit developed by wild dogs and wolves, your pet’s ancestors. The dog is flattening down the grass and leaves to make a warm nest for the night.

4. Sniffing Butts

Another unsavory habit of dogs is sniffing each other’s butts. This is a perfectly natural and acceptable greeting in the canine world. Occasionally, you may also see your dog greeting humans similarly.

Dogs have a keen sense of smell and can discover much about other animals by smelling their rear ends. The aromas reveal the gender of the animal, its state of health, and current emotions.

5. Eating Grass

There are many possible explanations for a dog eating grass. Blades of grass have high fiber content, so some people believe that dogs self-medicate stomach problems when munching on grass. On the other hand, it could simply be that your dog likes the taste. Another theory is that dogs in the wild would eat almost anything if they were hungry, and this behavior is a throwback to that scavenging instinct.

Eating grass is not harmful to a dog, although it may cause vomiting. However, your dog will ingest potentially harmful chemicals if your lawn is treated with herbicides and pesticides. The dog could also pick up parasites, such as intestinal worms.

6. Chasing Their Tail

A dog running around in a circle chasing its tail looks hilarious. Occasional exhibitions of this kind are normal; the dog is merely playing. However, if the dog incessantly chases its tail, it could indicate canine compulsive disorder (CCD). Other possible explanations include anal gland problems or flea bite allergy.

7. Humping People and Objects

It can be highly embarrassing when your dog starts humping a visitor to your home. Dogs may also display amorous intentions to other dogs, you, and inanimate objects. If the dog has not been neutered or spayed, this could be what you think it is; a sexual act. But dogs that have been “fixed” may also exhibit this behavior.

When dogs that have been neutered or spayed hump things, it is usually a sign they are overexcited. When dogs get overexcited, they may not know how to express their emotions, so they exhibit this behavior. It might also be that the dog is seeking attention.

A dog humping people, dogs, or objects is embarrassing but not a cause for concern. If the behavior becomes a problem, try distracting the dog with a reprimand or treat.

8. Rolling in Smelly Stuff

Dogs take immense pleasure in rolling in strong-smelling substances, such as poop, urine, or rotting animal or vegetable matter. Often, dogs will exhibit this behavior shortly after their coat has been shampooed, much to their owners’ annoyance.

The reason dogs roll in smelly substances after a bath is likely to be because they don’t like the perfume smell of the shampoo. You might want your puppy to smell of roses, but it’s not the natural smell of a dog. Consequently, he will go straight out into the yard after a bath and roll in something that smells more “doggy.”

Dog behaviorists also believe that dogs may roll in strong-smelling substances to disguise their scent. This behavior relates to their ancestors, who would attempt to conceal their smell to deceive their prey when hunting.

9. Ripping Apart Toys

When you buy your dog a new toy, and he immediately rips it to shreds, it probably wasn’t the reaction you were anticipating. But this behavior isn’t a sign that he hated your gift; it’s another example of instinctive dog behavior inherited from wild ancestors. Although the dog is only play-acting, when he thrashes it from side to side and chews it, he is acting out the killing of prey.

10. Gulping Down Food

Dog’s eating habits can be baffling, too. For example, why do they gulp down their food when there is plenty of time to enjoy the meal? This is another throwback to a dog’s wild ancestry. Wolves are pack animals, and when you live in a pack, there is competition for food. So, dogs wolf down their food to ensure they get their fair share.


There is evidence to suggest that dogs were domesticated 14,000 years ago. But, despite all that time in the company of humans, there is still a lot of wolf instinct in today’s dogs. Consequently, most of the dog behaviors that humans find odd are instinctive and perfectly natural to a dog. Still, unusual or obsessive dog behavior could signify a medical problem. So, if you are concerned, you should take your dog to a vet.

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