As dog parents, we’ve gotten pretty good at reading our dog’s behavior, but there are some things dogs do that seem to defy explanation (“zoomies,” anyone?). Every dog has little quirks and individual ways of expressing themselves, but there are certain behaviors that are almost universal because they’re biologically ingrained. Here’s five common dog behaviors that we hope will help you answer that nagging question: Why does my dog do that?!
1. Kicking Up Grass After Pooping
I had always figured it was a dominance thing, but I was surprised to learn that dogs have scent glands in their paws’ pads. So when they are done using the bathroom, scratching the ground with their paws is an additional way to mark their territory with their own scent, which sends a message to other dogs that they “own” the space.
2. Chasing Things (aka Prey or Chase Drive)
There is a difference between prey and chase drive. Chase drive is less intense than prey drive. Chase drive is when a dog chases after something but doesn’t fully commit to it as a target. Once the dog reaches the target he will continue to run pass, whereas with prey drive, dog aggression is apparent and your dog will actually make contact with the target. For example, if you’ve ever tried to play fetch with your dog, only to have your dog run after the ball and then leave it or if your dog was chasing you and just runs past you, it wasn’t a case of Attention Deficit Disorder, but rather chase drive.
Dogs, by nature, are predators. It’s a natural instinct for them to chase and hunt things. Also, since dogs experience the world through their noses and their sense of smell is so much more powerful than ours, when they smell an animal that can be prey, they instinctively act on it and chase after it.
3. Butt Scooting
The reason why dogs scoot their butts is because you have company over. Just kidding – it’s because their butt is itchy. This could be due to a couple of issues. People used to believe that a dog dragging tail across the carpet most likely had worms. These days, with all the parasite prevention and flea meds we give to indoor dogs, Fido’s itchy bum is most likely due to something else.
A very common reason is full anal sacs that are not emptying properly. I know, sounds awesome, right? These anal sacs are supposed to empty when your pup poops in order to give it a distinctive scent to help “mark” their territory. When the sacs aren’t emptying properly, the sacs get full and irritated, causing your dog’s bum to itch. To relieve the itchiness, your dog will drag its butt along the floor to try and relieve the pressure. To check this theory, take your dog to the vet and ask a vet tech to do an anal expression. The vet tech will tell you whether or not the sacs were full. If they were full and the tech was able to empty them, your dog’s butt-dragging should stop. If they weren’t full, you will need to continue to look for the culprit and an appointment with your vet is in order.
4. Turning Around Before Lying Down aka Trampling Behavior
The prevailing theory about why dogs spin around and around before lying down is that they do it to beat down the surface and ensure there aren’t any snakes or bugs where they are going to lay. This behavior is ingrained in their genetics from when they were in the wild and sleeping outside. They may also do it to uncover a cooler surface.
5. Tail Chasing
Tail chasing is typically seen more in puppies. It could be that they’re still mastering their motor skills and are curious and easily entertained. If your older dog occasionally chases their tail, it’s probably just for entertainment purposes too. Your dog probably likes getting attention from you and if you give them a positive reaction such as laughing and smiling every time they chase their tail, they may do it to get that same reaction from you.
However, if your dog is frequently chasing its tail there may be an underlying problem. Your dog’s tail might have fleas or be bothering him in some way. Your dog may be bored and suffering from separation anxiety. If your dog doesn’t seem to outgrow the tail-chasing phase, examine their tail for any fleas or other parasites. If your dog is frequently chasing his tail for no apparent reason and is causing harm to himself in the process, consult with your veterinarian right away.
The Michelson Found Animals Foundation’s mission of saving pets and enriching lives is made possible by the generous contributions of Dr. Gary Michelson and Alya Michelson.