As pet parents, we’ve all witnessed some pretty weird dog behavior. Weirder than cats, even. (Kidding!)
If you’ve ever wondered why your pooch does any of these five freaky things, hopefully we’ve solved the mystery for you.
1. Walk in Circles Before Lying Down
Thousands of years before the invention of plush pet beds, wild dogs would create a comfy place to sleep by walking in a circle several times to flatten tall grass and other vegetation – as well as chase out large insects and snakes.
“This behavior was hard-wired into the dog’s ancestors as a way to build a safe ‘nest,’” Leslie Irvine, author of “If You Tame Me: Understanding Our Connection With Animals,” told LiveScience.com.
“I have also heard that circling the area and thus flattening it leaves a visible sign to other dogs that this territory has been claimed,” she added.
2. Chase Its Tail
Dogs don’t necessarily chase their tails simply out of boredom. According to a recent study, frequent tail chasers may have been taken from their mothers too soon, or have deficiencies of vitamins B6 and C. The study found that these dogs also tend to be more frightened of noises and shyer around people than dogs that don’t chase their tails.
3. Kick the Ground After Pooping
“Although thought by many to be a way of covering up their doings, it is actually a way of further marking their territory after they pee or poop,” according to the American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) HealthyPet.com.
“Dogs have scent glands in their paw pads and the act of kicking out their back legs helps to mark their territory. This action is predominantly a trait of intact males, but neutered males, and occasionally females, will be seen doing this too.”
Dr. David Dilmore, DVM, adds on Banfield Pet Hospital’s Sit and Stay for Pet Lovers, “Scratching at the ground is like drawing an arrow to the feces. This allows dogs to show that they are big and powerful.”
4. Take a Mouthful of Food to Another Room
After a kill, the lesser-ranking wild dogs in a pack will sometimes drag some of the meat away so they don’t have to fight the alpha dog over it, Dr. Julie Albright, MA, DVM, DACVB, who teaches veterinary behavior at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, told VetStreet.com.
“Fighting is obviously very risky, so most animals, especially subordinate ones, will go to great lengths to avoid an altercation,” she said.
A much more modern explanation is that if your dog’s food bowl is metal, the noise of his tags clanging against it may annoy him, so that’s why he relocates his food to a quieter place.
5. Kick a Leg When Getting a Tummy Rub
Does your dog have a special spot on his belly that, when you scratch it, sets his leg into frantic motion? If you think he’s kicking up his heel in joy, you’re mistaken – and you might want to try scratching a different spot.
“Dogs shake or kick their legs when you scratch them because of something known as the scratch reflex,” reports Animal Planet. “It’s a completely involuntary reaction, which explains why your dog may look as puzzled as you do when it starts to happen. When you scratch or tickle your dog’s belly, it irritates him, much the same way that the wind or a bug might. It activates nerves under his skin that are connected to his spinal cord and relays a message to his leg muscles to kick in an attempt to get rid of the irritant.”
Veterinarians often use this scratch reflex to test for spinal problems, just as your doctor might tap your knee with a hammer to check for a knee-jerk response.