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home : columns : columns May 24, 2016

3/18/2014 12:59:00 PM
What's up with weird dog behaviors?
Kaydee on her back. Thatís a demonstration of submission and trust. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee
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Kaydee on her back. Thatís a demonstration of submission and trust. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

The sight of your dog whirling around in a circle trying to catch his tail in his mouth might be one of the funniest things you've ever seen. Could it be that your pooch just noticed he has a tail?

Though dogs are our best friends, they can sometimes be, well, a bit weird. You'd think after a lasting partnership of 20,000 years or so, that we'd have them figured out by now. Quirky dog behaviors may seem unusual to us, but for the most part are actually completely normal for them.

Instinct is a powerful force in the animal world. It brings about the behaviors necessary for survival. These instinctive or innate behaviors pass from generation to generation through the genes.

Tail-chasing is a behavior that often starts early on; a puppy becoming aware of his own individuality sees the tail and begins to whirl around after it. It serves his deep-seated instinctive need to chase something. Of course when his pet parents see this, they laugh and often encourage their pooch for more. And so the behavior slowly becomes ingrained.

Howling may not be music to your ears, but researchers believe that dog howling is a throwback to wolf heritage and that howls also have a variety of meanings. Have you ever noticed when a fire truck goes screeching by with its sirens blaring, that suddenly all the dogs in the neighborhood start howling?

In our civilized world many things sound a lot like howling. Fire sirens are one of them. So it could be that when some dogs hear this sound, they mimic the siren and start howling. Dogs can howl out of boredom, loneliness or seeking communication with other dogs. In the wild, wolves howl in an attempt to reassemble the pack after individuals travel in different directions.

Does your pooch greet you by rolling on his back? By rolling over onto his back and exposing one of his vulnerable areas, your pooch is showing you that he trusts you and that he understands you are the boss. Even though dogs are domesticated, they still recognize the same kind of pecking order as a wolf pack might; rolling onto the back is a show of submission to the alpha of the pack. Rolling over also helps wolves get out of potential danger by peacefully persuading an aggressor to back off.

Some of our furry friends just like to sleep on their backs, which mean he's comfortable around you and he feels safe.

Have you ever watched your four-legged friend twirl around two or three times before settling into a sleeping spot? While this may seem like a wacky, meaningless act, it actually has some meaning behind it. The circling around is most probably an innate behavior for dogs because in the wild, they would circle around repeatedly, to trample down grass or weeds to dislodge any bits of uncomfortable debris before settling down for the night.

Your pooch hasn't seen you all day, and when you return home do you find a happy dog that can't seem to stop licking you? Right from birth that is how the mother communicates with her newborn pups, it's how she stimulates them to start breathing and how she cleans them when they are born, so it's very important to the survival of puppies.

In the wild and in domestic dogs, you'll find they will lick around the mother's mouth as pups and still retain that instinct. It is most probably a submissive gesture; the more subordinate members of a pack will lick the more dominant members, and that's important in maintaining pack harmony.

Did you know that licking also releases pleasurable endorphins which give dogs a feeling of comfort and pleasure? It can be a sign of affection and relieves stress.

Most folks have a dog that will sometimes exhibit a weird behavior, but remember before you attribute it as just another silly practice, there also may be medical reasons why Fido is acting a certain way.

One example of a weird behavior that needs medical attention may look funny and cause laughter, but scooting across the floor on his bottom may be done to relieve a painful anal sac.

It's just another day in the life of a dog; chasing his tail, licking his human's face and turning around a few times before taking a nap.

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