With the context of the pandemic and rising costs of living, it’s no wonder that more people prefer to adopt pets than have babies. And in the US, dogs remain the most popular choice for pet ownership with an estimated 69 million homes having at least one canine companion.
Speaking as a dog owner myself, it can be a life-changing experience. They’ve kept me—and millions of other people—entertained during endless lockdowns. Plus, studies show that owning a dog is associated with improved health and wellbeing. Think about it! Devoted pet owners shift their lifestyles to accommodate their furry housemates’ needs, such as by adding walks to their routine. Dogs are also therapeutic to have around. Just by petting one, you can reduce your stress hormones and feel instantly relaxed.
As lovable as they are, dogs can get pretty weird too. They behave in ways that don’t make sense to their humans, like running around in circles or eating disgusting things. But dog behaviors, especially weird ones, don’t exist simply because they’re goofy animals. They almost always mean something and sometimes, these quirky dog behaviors require professional attention.
What Your Dog Might Be Trying to Tell You
1. Chasing their own tail
Chasing their own tail is a dog behavior usually ascribed to puppies or not-so-intelligent breeds. But whether you have a goofy chihuahua or a hardworking border collie, you may observe this habit once or many times.
There’s usually nothing to worry about when a dog chases its own tail. Puppies do this often because they’re still discovering the world around them, including their own anatomies. Adult dogs that do this could be bored and in need of your attention as well as physical stimulation. The quick and easy fix to this dog behavior is to take out your pooch for a walk or play fetch.
If a dog adds biting to this common dog behavior, it could be a sign of ticks and fleas. Their tail is one of the most common places you can find these pests, so it’s always a good idea to comb through it.
Sometimes tail chasing could be a sign of an underlying medical condition. This dog behavior could be a result of neurological pain, an injury, or even a compulsion. Canines can get conditions like anxiety and OCD too, which can manifest through compulsive behaviors such as chasing their own tail. If you’ve ruled out boredom and parasites as the root cause of this quirky dog behavior, seek the help of a veterinarian.
2. Spinning in circles
Spinning in circles can occur in dogs for many reasons. Thankfully, none of them are associated with underlying conditions. They’re mostly acting out of instinct or emotion.
Anyone who’s taken a dog out to potty knows they can take their time. Once they’ve found a spot they like, they might even do several spins before proceeding with their business. According to the American Kennel Club, this primitive dog behavior is seen in wild canines and has been passed on to domesticated breeds. It means they’re surveying their surroundings for predators before getting into a vulnerable position.
This dog behavior can be observed during bedtime, too. Your furry friend may do a couple of spins on the bed with some digging to make their sleeping spot more comfortable. Wild animals do this not just for comfort but also for protection. They dig themselves into a hole where they won’t be easily visible to their hunters.
However, the most adorable reason for this quirky dog behavior is happiness. Some call it frenetic random activity periods but it is more affectionately termed by the internet as the zoomies. Dogs turning into fidget spinners or dashing from one side of the room to the other is generally harmless and amusing. It just means their excitement is too much to contain that they end up spinning uncontrollably!
3. Eating poop
While gross, poop-eating or coprophagia is a common dog behavior. It’s typically observed in curious puppies who haven’t learned that stool is not food. If an older dog does it, it can be due to boredom or a sign of anxiety. Either way, it’s important to keep your dogs entertained and secure to curb this unwanted dog behavior.
Coprophagia may also be a result of a nutritional deficiency. Your fur baby might not be getting all the vitamins and minerals it needs, which is why it seeks the closest available source. In that case, you should consult with a veterinarian on how to feed them properly so they don’t end up eating poop that can get them sick.
4. Digging holes
If it’s not to cover up their poop or create a comfortable spot, a dog might dig for various reasons. Your four-legged companion might simply be giving in to instinct. Many breeds were trained to hunt, like dachshunds and terriers. They are called earthdogs for a reason!
Some dogs dig not to hunt prey but to hide their valued possessions. They may bury their snacks or toys for later. This dog behavior is also known as caching.
Pregnancy is another reason for this quirky dog behavior, which is commonly observed in huskies or malamutes. Also called nesting, a dog might burrow to create a safe space for her unborn litter. It’s just maternal instinct kicking in before the arrival of her puppies.
Regardless, it can get pretty annoying for garden owners. Ensure that your momma dog has a safe space for her and her puppies inside the house to discourage the habit. It can work for dogs with stuff to hide too.
5. Rolling on smelly, gross, or dead things
Rolling is a neat trick among trained dogs or an adorable way of saying, “Give me belly rubs, please?” It becomes a peculiar habit when they do it on top of gross things, like mud or a dead animal.
I’ve seen this firsthand in my dachshund. At first, it looked like she was scratching an itch, but I noticed she was rolling on a dead insect. Even scientists aren’t certain as to why dogs display this quirky habit but their primeval instinct is the closest they can get to an explanation. Some experts think animals do this to mask their own scent with the odor of another animal. If other wild animals think they are something else, they could evade their predators or stalk their prey better.
However, there’s another interesting theory to this dog behavior. Pat Goodmann, who studies wolves, thinks it’s a way to collect and disseminate information. A wolf might roll on a carcass to carry that scent back to its den as if to alert other wolves of a discovery. The pack could use the scent to trace the source so they can share food, which is honestly a very satisfying explanation to a really strange dog behavior.
When You Should Be Worried
Generally, these dog behaviors aren’t a cause for concern especially when observed only occasionally. However, when a strange or unwanted behavior becomes compulsive, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek the help of a veterinarian. Your beloved pet might need more than your attention or a walk—in some cases, a veterinarian-approved diet, medication, or a serious behavioral intervention might be necessary.
Owning a dog can be amusing but it can be challenging too when we can’t communicate through words. As a dog owner, observing their behavior, especially the strange ones, is how you can best determine their needs.