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Weird Dog Behaviors: What's Really Behind It All?

Updated on August 26, 2013

Dogs are one of a kind in more ways than one. They can be cute and cuddly. They can also be sweet and protective. They’re our best friends, brothers, sisters and for some they are even our children. But what is up with their weird behaviors? They do plenty of things we’d shame our human friends for doing but we take it with a grain of salt because, well, they’re animals. Yet we still don’t really know why they do some of the bizarre things they do.

Sniffing in the Air

Have you witnessed your dog with stretched neck and pointed nose scouring the air? This could also be accompanied by a blank stare into the distance. No they're not seeing ghosts (though that could be debatable by some).They're getting a whiff of something we may can’t sense at all. This sniffing behavior is normal. Dog’s have a sense of smell thousands to hundreds of thousands times greater than that of a human. An article in NOVA beta states from Alexandra Horowitz, a dog-cognition researcher, that "while we might notice if our coffee has had a teaspoon of sugar added to it, a dog could detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water." How amazing is that? So don’t mind them if they seem to be onto a scent while you’re sitting at home watching TV. It doesn’t mean something bad is about to happen. It could just be that they have picked up on a scent that has somehow wafted into their path. It could be a mouse in the wall, someone popping popcorn or a dog passing by on the sidewalk. It’s merely an instinct that has them investigating any passing aromas.

Scratching Furniture or Floor

Here’s another instinctive trait of a dog. Dogs can be caught scratching floors, rugs or a spot on the sofa. It doesn’t mean they are trying to dig up the latest bone or aiming to destroy your furniture. It could mean they are trying to smooth out something that feels lumpy to them and by scratching around they are making it more comfortable to lay down on. They also could be finding a cool spot to lay. Normally when a dog is outside their instinct tells them to dig in the ground to uncover cool spots of dirt that will cool them off. Or in a warm situation, if you notice the scratching, it could be that they are trying to compile dirt in order to raise themselves off of a cold ground. Of course when you have a house dog scratching for this purpose it is probably for naught but it is hard-coded in their genes to do so.

Eat Grass

You may find your dog eating grass from time to time. This could have a number of reasons to it. The most common reason you may have heard is because they aren’t feeling well at the stomach. This is a true statement. Though it may not be a reason to rush off to the vet just yet. At times your dog’s tummy may not feel so well and they may resort to self-treatment by eating grass in order to feel better. It’s not the fact that grass has medicinal healing powers but once grass is in their stomach it irritates the stomach and causes the dog to vomit. Thus, getting rid of their initial sick feeling. In some other cases, grasses can help replace nutrients that a dog is not getting in their day to day diet. Grass can provide their body with enzymes and chlorophyll. Or your dog could just be eating grass to be eating grass. If you notice your dog not eating their own dog food or other behavior that may indicate that they really are sick contact your vet to be sure.

Howl at Sirens

Not all pet owners may experience this one but it’s quite fun to watch when it first happens. A siren yells out past your home on the way to handle an emergency and your pooch belts out right along with it as it goes by. Their neck is stretched high and their high-pitched howl lets off into the sky. What is going on there you might wonder. It’s something in dogs that cause them to do this. Long ago, wolves used howling to communicate with one another to find out how close the rest of the pack was. As dogs have evolved from their cousins, this instinct still kicks in. It is believed that dogs howl at high-pitched sounds such as sirens because they think it to be a fellow canine looking to see where the rest of its pack might be. Or they believe they are answering a stress call from another dog.

Sniffing Bottoms

It has often been said that this form of introduction is to say, “hey, what’s up” but it actually is a little more deeper than that. Its main goal is actually on the level of investigation. One dog is trying to get the sense of who another dog is by taking of whiff of their butt. Why you may ask. Well there are anal glands in the dog’s rear that let’s off a distinctive scent. Each scent is individual to the dog. So with a matter of a few inhales a dog can get a wealth of information about their new friend. They may acquire if the dog is sick, male or female, if it’s mean or nice and even what they may have eaten! Without saying one word to each other they can become acquainted with one another before we can order a cup of coffee.

Won’t Drink Up

Some dogs can go a whole day with the same bowl of water until it’s gone. Some dogs need their bowls changed out 2-3 times a day. Just like you and I, dogs crave and require fresh water. If you give your dog its water in a plastic bowl it could be the scent of the bowl that your pet finds fishy. It could have also formed a bacteria that your dog has sniffed out. Try wiping the bowl out every now and then before pouring its next bowl of water or changing its bowl to a stainless steel one and see if that helps. Or if you find its too much work, get your dog a filtered water bowl. This will keep your dog’s water fresh longer.

Flinching in its Sleep

One minute your best bud is sleep and the next she’s practically running a marathon or throwing what looks to be punches in her sleep. What on earth is going on and should you break up the virtual throwdown? You may have assumed it but they are merely having a dream. Whether it’s about catching your neighbor’s cat or chasing its tail you will never know. They have a dream state just like us. There’s nothing wrong with letting them play out their dream but if they seem to get too rowdy you can interrupt their dream sequence, however do so with care. Calling their names aloud should wake them out of it. If you can help it, don’t shake them awake with your own hands. If they are in the middle of a nightmare they could wind up biting you in the process.

Chasing its Tail

Round and round they go. Faster and faster until they catch it. The tail chaser has now caught its victim. Now what? This kind of behavior can be brought on by excitement. It’s a way for them to get all that bundled up energy out. If it’s bothersome you may want to try giving your pet some extra physical activity such as play times or longer walks to see if that helps. Some research has even shown that it could be a form of what us humans call OCD. If you notice that this behavior is more and more frequent or to the point of being unhealthy you may want to contact your veterinarian and get them checked out.

Wiping Their Face on Furniture

After eating or getting a bath you notice that your pooch starts to rub its face on the floor or up against your furniture. You can’t help but wonder what they are up to. There are a few theories on this behavior. They could merely be expressing that the food has made their face smelly and trying to rub out any signs of food. The food or water on their face could feel funny to them so they are trying to wipe off the feeling. Marking its territory is another interesting belief. By showing another that they were there they wipe their scent telling them to back off. Another reason could raise some health concerns. It could be that they are allergic to what they have eaten and it makes them itch. Or they could have parasites crawling on them and they are trying to relieve themselves from the irritation they cause.

Following You Around

You go to the kitchen to get something out of the fridge and they’re there. You go to your room to get a magazine, turn around and they’re there. You take a moment to be one with yourself in the bathroom and oh! there they are staring you in the face when you open the door. What exactly causes this behavior? It is yet again, the fact that they are pack animals. Your little friend may be by itself or have another companion but you are the pack leader and where you go they go. It’s just what dogs do. Back in the day they basically walked around in an entourage and where their leader of the group went, they went. So don’t get too annoyed with them when you catch your pet imitating your shadow. Now if you notice the behavior is more on the aggressive side, be cautious because your dog may see themselves as the alpha dog and is watching you to make sure you don’t leave the “pack”. That type of behavior isn’t cute.

Smells Your Breath

Your dog might not be just be smelling the Twizzlers you ate after dinner. There are a couple of theories to this one. One of which is pretty interesting. First off the smelling of your breath from your pooch is another one of those instincts they have. It is said that dogs often sniffed the breath of their pack to check out their health stats. Checking to see if their pack mate was sick or not. Interesting huh? The second result found in this research is that with humans dogs are also doing the same thing. Just checking out their owners health statistics. However, another interesting finding is that some dogs smell their owners breath when they actually do detect cancerous affliction. It is said that dogs can sense the altering of the body and the scent that's emitted during the forming of the diseased cells. There is story after story of how pet owner's have noticed their dogs sniffing their breath, having behavioral changes during those times and even nudging the areas that actually contain the problem. It is still being looked into as to how dogs are able to detect such things. If that's in fact what they are doing.

What Do You Think? Can Dogs Sniff Out Ailments in Humans?

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When you catch your dog doing some odd behaviors around the house don’t be too alarmed. Most of what they are doing has to do with instinct. Long ago when their wolf ancestors ran around finding food, searching for shelter and protecting their pack, traces of those patterns carried throughout time and have continued through their instincts today. Unless you catch them behaving in an unhealthy or destructive manner just let them be. They are only doing what those before them have instilled in them. What's interesting is that they even know what they actually don’t really know. Ya know? They’re just doing what nature has embedded in them to do.


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    • NiaG profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Louisville, KY

      Oh joanne...I'm sorry to hear about your little one. I don't know what could be the cause of this new reaction. Has she had a recent surgery? Where maybe someone touched her there and she relates to that? Have you taken a look at the area to see if there is a wound or injury there?

      My dog has begun to exhibit an odd behavior recently. When I feed her her medicine by hand she will often times shoot off running as if a noise startled her. I know she is beginning to have hearing problems so I don't know if that's what the issue is. Unfortunately some behaviors have to be monitored until we can figure out the problem.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      we have a 3 yr old mix lab/retriever with a little pit. since adopting her from shelter at age 8 weeks, she has been a great companion inside and outside our home. she is our best friend and we have had an easy time with all training stages.

      recently, she had an episode of unexplained behavior where I reached to stroke and pet her while relaxing on our bed. she yipped with a shrill cry, jumped down and ran and hid like I was going to hurt her. if I did accidentally hurt her with the stroke, my husband and I did not see how.

      Since that day things still did not seem "back to normal with our relationship"

      Today, sitting on the day bed with our granddaughter, we were petting her again, and she did they same thing to me again. There again, it was a light stroke and softly petting the side of her abdomen. My granddaughter could not understand her behavior either. she repeated the same stroking, and did not elicit any response of that nature.

      It makes me feel so sad for her as I have never ever done anything to hurt her in any way. I have been her #1 care giver, feeder, treat giver, etc. She and I have always had the fondest relationship with love and affection. with unquestioned trust.

      can you help please. what caused this behavior and what can I do to help it.

      she has been on prednisone for her scratching on and off for some time. I do not know if this is the culprit, why would it come out just now and why just me. she acts like she does not trust me and is scared of me

    • NiaG profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Louisville, KY

      Thanks LKMore01! I'm gonna have to catch that documentary on YouTube. Dogs are truly awesome. So much personality. And since they can't talk we'll never know how it all works. :-) Thanks for your comment. Have a great day!

    • LKMore01 profile image


      5 years ago

      Excellent HUB, Nia. Dogs are endlessly fascinating. The other day my friend and I watched the documentary " The Secret Life of Dogs" on YouTube. (even though we've watched it many times before) Most dog lovers and researchers cannot get enough information or observation because more than any other animal in the history of civalization they are the most emotionally connected to us. Great stuff. Thank you for sharing.

    • NiaG profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Louisville, KY

      I find it fascinating what instincts they and other animals have that has been carried on down the line. Do we as humans have instincts anymore? I try to imagine if I didn't a store to go to or an air conditioned apartment would I instinctively have known how to get what I needed? I guess, but it's hard to imagine since we have all the conveniences that we have. Thanks for stopping by pstraubie48. Have a wonderful day!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      5 years ago from sunny Florida

      Great hub. At present I do not have a pup, my life has been taken over by two felines that I adore. But I have had them and this caused me to reflect on when I did have my pups.

      It is interesting to have insight into the whys our pets do things. Getting to know and understand them is so helpful. I never thought about the fact that the pup scratching at the floor was in an effort to make a more comfortable spot. How smart that is.

      Thanks for sharing this with us. Angels are on the way this morning ps

    • NiaG profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Louisville, KY

      My little Pepper does some of these crazy things and finally I thought I'm going to see if I can find out what these mean. I do wonder if they see "things" when they just stare in mid air. We'll never know. Will we? :) Thanks for stopping by PurvisBobbi44!

    • PurvisBobbi44 profile image


      5 years ago from Florida


      Since I am an animal lover and had pets all my life---I can relate to your hub. My Sweetie Angel is a Pomeranian, and he has all kinds of cute acts he does.

      But sometime I do believe he sees things I cannot, which makes me wonder about spirits since we live in an older home we inherited.

      Sometimes, I just say---Hello who ever you are---and, then Sweetie jumps up and down like it is big joke.

      Bobbi Purvis


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