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Is My Dog Normal? 15 Dog Behaviors Explained - Slideshow

15 dog behaviors un-coded.

Is My Dog Normal? 15 Dog Behaviors Explained

Let's face it. Humans and dogs are two different species, and we don't always understand one another with 100% clarity. It's likely that there are some things your dog does that leave you scratching your head, wondering if he's got a problem. We've put together some of the more common canine behaviors that people question and let you in on whether or not they're normal.

Tail chasing could be normal or a problem.


If your dog has a tendency to wildly chase his tail, sometimes catching it and not knowing what to do with it, you may be wondering if he's normal. Most of the time, tail-chasing is a playful behavior, especially in puppies and young dogs. Sometimes, however, it can indicate a problem such as anal sac issues or a skin condition. You can usually determine whether your dog is playing or having a problem by watching his general attitude. Is he acting otherwise playful, hopping around and play-bowing, or is he acting distressed and focused on his tail with an intense look on his face? When he catches the tail, does he chew forcefully at it or just let it go again? Does he stop to chase his tail at odd moments, when he's doing something else unrelated to play, such as eating? Check with your veterinarian if you aren't sure. This article goes into further detail: "Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?"

How can you stop crotch sniffing in dogs?

Sniffing Peoples' Crotches

If your dog loves to greet new people by burying his nose in the front of their pants, you may be feeling frustrated and wondering why he does it. When dogs greet other dogs, they usually sniff around each other's rear ends. That's because the anal sacs, just inside the rectum, produce scents that tell dogs a lot about each other. Health status, gender, and mood are just some of the things dogs can learn from these odors. Human groin areas also contain lots of scent glands, so your dog is just trying to learn more about the newcomer when he sniffs there. However, his sense of smell is strong enough to find out what he wants to know without violating the human's need for some space. You can train your dog to observe human rules of politeness regarding crotch-sniffing. Learn more here: "Crotch Sniffing."

Is butt-scooting in dogs normal?

Butt Scooting

When you see your dog plant his behind on the floor, rear legs in front of him, and use his front legs to pull himself across the room, you are probably horrified. You wonder what vile substances he may be leaving on your clean carpet, and then you worry that he might have a medical problem. Most of the time, dogs that engage in this scooting behavior have irritated, overfull, or infected anal sacs. This can range from a mild issue to a serious one, with your dog potentially developing a painful abscess. Scooting dogs may also be affected by certain intestinal parasites or other skin conditions resulting in itchiness or pain in the skin of the rear end. Scooting means a call to the veterinarian is in order.

Dogs may hump things out of boredom.

Humping Things and People

This is another behavior that is perfectly normal among dogs but not socially acceptable to humans. Intact (non-neutered) dogs may hump things as part of their sexual behavior, but neutered animals sometimes do it, too. It can be related to dominance behavior, boredom, or a medical problem. Visit your veterinarian to ensure that your pet is physically healthy, and then you can use some of the tips in this article, "Sexual Behavior in Neutered Dogs," to help dissuade the behavior.

Dogs should be discouraged from drinking from the toilet.

Drinking from the Toilet

Dogs drinking from the toilet is a pretty common behavior and probably stems from the fact that the porcelain bowl keeps the water cooler than the standard pet bowls we use. In the wild, dogs probably learned that it's better to drink cool water from streams or lakes than standing water in puddles because it's less likely to make them sick. The opposite is true in the case of toilets, however, and it's important to curb this behavior so your dog doesn't become ill from bacteria or cleaning chemicals. Take a look at the article "Why Does My Dog Drink from the Toilet?" for tips on how to stop toilet-drinking behavior.

Treated grass is dangerous for dogs to eat.

Eating Grass

Many dogs can be seen munching on blades of grass while playing or lounging outside. People often wonder whether this behavior may indicate some dietary insufficiency. Luckily, this is probably not the case. "Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?" is a great article about the different reasons dogs may eat grass. It's important to know that if the grass your dog is chewing on is treated with chemicals, eating it could be dangerous.

Poop-eating is usually outgrown.

Eating Poop

This is one of the more disgusting habits (to humans) in which our canine companions sometimes engage. Once an owner gets over the "Ew" factor, the next thought is often, "Is something wrong?" There are times when a feces-eating habit may be the result of a nutritional deficiency. Many times, though, it's behavioral and may be the result of boredom, stress, or attention-seeking. In puppies, it could be because they saw their mother clean their own stool up that way. Whatever the cause, it's a good habit to try and break because it could lead to acquiring or maintaining intestinal parasite infestations or other medical problems. You can find out more about the potential causes of and ways to dissuade poop-eating behavior here: "Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?: Coprophagia in Dogs."

Dogs may think yucky stuff smells like perfume.

Rolling in Yucky Stuff

Most people with dogs have experienced this one before. You let your dog out in the backyard, and you suddenly see him stop, drop, and roll. You scream frantically at him, but the damage is done. It's bath time now; there's no other choice. Your dog has rolled in something dead, decaying, or poopy. This is normal dog behavior and doesn't indicate a problem with your canine companion. It's disgusting to humans, but your dog is following some inborn prompt. Exactly what that prompt is isn't known with certainty, but there are many plausible ideas, including the desire to disguise their dog-scent from prey. You can find more possibilities here: "Why Dogs Like to Roll in Yucky Stuff."

A small amount of scratching in dogs is normal.

Scratching and Licking

Many people think that dogs just scratch themselves and that it's normal and part of being a dog. The truth is that, while some scratching is normal, too much of it can indicate a problem. Dogs may scratch and lick excessively because of fleas, allergies, skin infections, or other conditions. And a dog that spends a considerable amount of time licking his or her genital area may have a bladder infection, anal sac impaction or infection, or a related problem. A small amount of scratching and licking is normal, but if you notice a sudden increase in the amount of either that your dog is doing or if he is focusing on one particular spot, causing redness or hair loss, call your veterinarian.

Dogs probably dream like humans.

Twitching While Sleeping

Many people see their dogs having episodes of rhythmical jerking of the legs and feet or twitching of the lips and ears while the dog is asleep and wonder if it could be seizure activity. The good news is that this is generally not related to a neurological problem but instead is probably the result of dreaming. Research shows that brain waves in sleeping dogs are similar to those in humans, and our canine companions probably have dreams, too. Read more in this interesting article: "Do Dogs Dream?"

Dogs need to be kept from harming themselves if they have separation anxiety.

Separation Anxiety

Some dogs cry, howl, pace, pant, urinate, vomit, defecate, and destroy things to varying degrees when their favorite human isn't with them. This is separation anxiety. It's understandable that dogs might be anxious when left alone; they're pack animals after all, and being left without their pack is a foreign idea to them. However, in order to keep your dog from injuring himself or destroying your home, it's important to deal with separation anxiety appropriately. Discuss the situation with your veterinarian first, and take a look at this article to learn more: "Separation Anxiety in Dogs."

We may teach dogs to tilt their heads at us because we react positively.

Tilting Head When Spoken To

Most humans think it's adorable: you're talking to your dog, and he cocks his head to the side, almost as though he's trying to decipher exactly what you mean. Unless your dog his holding his head to one side consistently, or shaking his head or scratching at his ear, this is a normal canine behavior. Dogs may tilt their heads to hear us better, see us better, or precisely because we've reinforced the behavior by reacting positively to it. This article discusses these possibilities in greater detail: "Why Do Dogs Tilt Their Heads When You Talk?"

Your dog may never dig up toys and treats he buries.

Burying Things

Do you have canine-created mounds of dirt all over your backyard? Are you constantly buying toys because your dog buries his and you don't know where they are? When you clean out the couch cushions, do you find dog treats and toys stuffed under them? Why do dogs bury things, anyway? It's because our dogs' ancestors buried bits and pieces of food that they found so they could retrieve it and eat it later when food was scarce. Wild dogs still do it. Today's well-fed housedog doesn't need to hoard food, though, so treats and toys often get buried and forgotten rather than buried and retrieved. Learn more: "Why Do Dogs Bury Bones?"

Dogs that scratch excessively should see the vet.

Kicking Leg When Belly Is Scratched

This is another endearing property that many dogs have. You hit just the right spot on his belly, and his leg will start kicking up a storm. Is he ticklish? It's not clear whether dogs are ticklish or if there's just a spot or two on their skin that, when touched, can stimulate a nerve in a such a way that the brain interprets it as an itch and sends a signal to the dog's leg to scratch it. There's probably nothing to worry about if your dog exhibits this behavior, but if it's new or you notice your dog scratching more in general along with it, talk to your veterinarian. Find out more here: "Are Dogs Ticklish? Why Do Dogs Kick Their Leg When You Rub or Scratch Them?"

Dogs howl at sirens because they can’t resist.

Howling at Certain Noises

We've all seen nature shows of wolves howling with a big full moon in the background. Domestic dogs sometimes do it, too. Howling is used in wild dogs as a means of long-distance communication between pack members. Our dogs may howl when they hear certain noises such as sirens because they trigger an innate drive to respond when a pack-mate howls in the distance. Read more about howling here: "Why Do Dogs Howl?"

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