Common dog behaviours explained

10 Common Dog Behaviours Explained

A dog’s behavior can sometimes be strange and mysterious to humans. Since they cannot speak our language, figuring out what your dog is trying to communicate can be very hard.

The truth is, your pup's behaviours, odd or not, can tell you a lot about its mood or state of health. It could even let you know that it’s time to take your pet to the vet. To understand your dog’s sometimes bizarre and weird deeds, here’s a helpful guide on common dog behaviors and the reasons behind them.

1. Digging

Dogs dig outside by instinct and they do it for many reasons. Your dog digs because it is trying to hide food or something else valuable and to keep it safe. Sometimes they dig to track small animals such as rodents.

Another possible reason is that your dog is creating a spot on the ground to cool down from the heat. Believe it or not, a dog also digs because it is bored and wants to be busy. When your dog scratches the blankets or the floor and seems to "dig" inside the house, it is most likely just looking for the perfect place to doze off.

If your dog’s digging annoys you, don’t leave your dog outside alone feeling bored and lonely. Interact with your dog regularly and give it plenty of stimulation and enough exercise! However, if your dog starts damaging your furniture by its incessant digging, seek the help of a professional trainer to get rid of this habit.

Why do dogs dig?

2. Tilting Their Heads

Pet owners find it adorable when their dogs tilt their heads to one side as if they are asking for something. Dogs do this whenever they hear a sound that’s new to them, or when they see something strange. Head tilting commonly observed in puppies is also a way for them to catch your attention, affection, approval, or simply to earn a dog treat.

Though the momentary head tilting behavior of your dog is generally normal, it can also be a sign of a health problem. If your dog's head tilting seems uncontrollable and its head remains tilted for an extended amount of time, consult your veterinarian.Your dog might be experiencing an ear infection, or worse, a brain problem.

Learn about dog behaviours

3. Humping

Is your dog a humper? It can be a sexual behaviour, but despite to popular belief, most of the time it's not. Strangely, dogs playfully hump other dogs, objects, and even humans because they are excited or want to gain attention which is natural for dogs. This may be because they are poorly socialised and want to display dominance or aggression. Another reason for humping is to burn off their energy or reduce a feeling of stress.

A simple way of breaking this habit is to walk-off the dog and ignore them until they stop humping. If you sense your dog is humping too frequently, schedule a visit with your vet to lessen this behavior.

Get your dog to stop humping

4. Poop-eating

Coprophagia or poop-eating, though disgusting to humans, is not unusual for dogs. Studies tell that dogs eat feces by instinct and learn it at a young age. Dogs consuming feces is simply out of curiosity.

This habit of dogs can also be a symptom of malnutrition. As an instinctive means to obtain nutrients due to nutritional deficiency, dogs consume their poop to solve malnutrition. Similarly, dogs that consume poop can be caused by an eating disorder called pica. This disorder drives dogs to eat non-nutritional objects persistently.

If your dog exhibits this habit, consider feeding him well-balanced diet to rule this out. If possible, visit your vet as well especially if your dog displays weight loss.

sniffing dogs

5. Butt sniffing

A dog's evolutionary trait of saying hello is by sniffing each other's butt. Though it is a silly thing for humans, this common behavior of dogs allows them to learn important information about each other.

All dogs have a pair of anal glands that produce secretions. By the highly complex 300 million olfactory receptors in a dog’s nose, sniffing the unique concentrated scent of the anal gland provides them information about the sex, health, diet, and reproductive status of the other dog. They also learn about the other dog’s mood, and sense if they are friends or foes which is useful for their safety.

Dog sniffing people normally means trying to gather information from their unique scent. If your dog does it with people in an embarrassing way, you can simply catch their attention with a treat or a toy.

dogs snigging each other

6. Howling

Naturally, dogs howl to communicate with one another over a distance. But there are other reasons why they do this; a dog howls to respond to a sound they hear from their surroundings. Instinctively, every dog barks or howls when they sense danger. Dogs also do it by nature, as a means to express themselves to humans.

Nevertheless, if the howling is excessive this might be an indication of boredom, or worse, distress. If this happens, don’t ignore it for it might lead to a more serious behavioral problem. Train your dog to control the howling or seek assistance from a dog trainer if it persists.

dog howling

7. Tail chasing

Playful tail chasing is a natural activity of dogs, usually prompted by boredom. Dogs do this to burn off energy or simply entertain themselves. Sometimes, they even chew their tail when they catch it. Tail chasing and biting is generally harmless but can also be a symptom of health problems like flea allergy dermatitis. 

If your dog constantly chases its tail, it might be suffering from a behavior problem called obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is however rather uncommon. Consult your veterinarian if you have concerns about your dog chasing its tail persistently.

why your dog bites his tail

8. Scooting their butts

Dogs dragging their butts across the floor is a funny sight for pet owners. Though it seems funny, dogs scoot their bottoms because something is unusual in their anal glands that bothers them. One possibility is that the anal sacs are already full and it needs to be emptied. The second scooting reason is when something is stuck behind your dog's anus that makes it itchy and irritating and your dog tries to get rid of it. This is possible especially if your dog is a grass eater and some strands are trapped in his anus that causes itchiness or even allergies. Though uncommon, another reason for your dog’s scooting behavior is blamed on worms or parasites.

If your dog scoots its butt all the time, you may want your veterinarian to check your pup's anal glands.  

Dog scooting its butt


9. Licking People

Doggie kisses or dog licks are extremely common gestures of dogs. Dogs lick people because they want to seek attention and show their affection at the same time. Aside from thinking that we taste good, dogs feel calm and comforted due to endorphins released into their blood when they lick.

Generally, there’s nothing to be bothered by since the bacteria from their mouth is harmless, unless it enters an open wound. But if you feel uncomfortable being licked by your dog, then proper training must be applied. Ignore your pet when it starts to lick you and give him a nice treat when he stops licking.

licking dogs

10. Panting

Dogs sweat on their paws but it is not enough to cool down their bodies. By panting, water evaporates from their tongue, nasal passages, and lungs, which in turn lower their body temperature. So when you see your dog panting, he probably feels too much heat in his body, so he is regulating it.

However, panting can sometimes be caused by other reasons so it is important not to ignore it. Sometimes dogs pant because of anxiety, stress, fear, and pain due to illness or injury. Read our other article on seperation anxiety in dogs.

If your dog pants because of too much heat, help your dog regulate his body temperature by keeping him properly hydrated. If the panting of your dog is due to other health problems like anxiety, stress, fear, and pain due to illness or injury visit your vet without any hesitations.

is your dog panting?

Pet Boarding at Alida’s Pet Resort

With this knowledge of dogs’ common behaviours, you can understand your dog better and respond according to their needs.

At Alida’s, we make sure we listen to your dog's needs. We are a family-owned pet boarding facility in Alberton between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, and we take pride in providing the best care and comfort of your pet while you're away. Our dog boarding kennel boasts temperature-controlled enclosures that keeps it cool in summer and warm in winter, and we provide all dogs with plenty of daily play time - have a look at our dogs on holiday gallery.

If you are interested to check out our grounds at Alida’s, we welcome kennel inspections of our facilities, appointment free! Call Alida’s Pet Resort today at 07 5546 2275 or book online before going for your summer holiday.