Guest post written by Melissa L. Kauffman
Dogs make amazing best friends. You can do almost everything with them, including eating donuts! Some people even attribute human - like behaviors to their dogs. But dogs are not humans. They have some behaviors we just can’t explain or understand.
And, sometimes we can misunderstand a dog’s behavior. For example, when a dog has done something wrong like chewing your favorite shoe, they may look guilty, but they are not really. The body language that your dog is exhibiting, which reads as guilt to humans, is really meant to appease you.
In order to have the best relationship possible with our dogs, it is important to understand their behavior a little better...
Five Common Dog Behaviors
Let’s first demystify some of a dog’s most baffling behaviors.
Dogs pant for a number of reasons. Most often, if you see your dog panting it is because they are hot. Dogs pant to regulate their body temperature. They will sweat through the pads on their feet. However, they need to pant to keep their body temperature lower. If it is a hot day and your dog is panting, don’t be alarmed. They may just need to cool down.
Dogs also pant when they are in pain. Some dogs even pant when they are worked up or excited. That emotional state raises their body temperature, which causes them to sweat. If your dog is not hot or excited and is sweating, check them for other signs of discomfort or pain. Or take them to your vet.
2) Eating poop
This is a fairly gross behavior that happens to many dog owners. For the most part, however, eating poop is extremely normal behavior for dogs. They may do it because of instinct or because they are obsessed with food.
We have noticed that our puppies tend to eat poop when they are younger because they are so hungry all the time. As they age, they generally grow out of the behavior. Some dogs will eat poop into adulthood as well.
A dog eating another species’ poop is extremely common, and typically hard to correct. Dogs especially seem to like cat and rabbit poop. So, if you have a cat as well as a dog, you may need to restrict the dog’s access to the cat’s litter box.
3) Chasing their tails
Many dogs also seem to chase their tails. While it can be cute behavior in a puppy, if it turns into a compulsive tail chasing can become a major problem. Some breeds, like bull terriers, are more prone to tail chasing, also called circling.
Many dogs chase their tails when they are bored or frustrated. In this case, the behavior will typically stop once the dog is more satisfied. Yet, excessive tail chasing can also be a sign of serious illness like poisoning or a brain tumor. If your dog refuses to stop chasing their tail, make sure you visit your vet.
4) Barking or “talking”
Like tail - chasing, some breeds are just more prone to barking or “talking.” Alaskan malamutes, huskies, and other Northern dog breeds tend to be very talkative. They do not howl, but instead woo and make other vocalizations. Before you purchase these breeds, you need to make sure you are okay with a constant commentary.
Most dog breeds are not as talkative as the northern breeds. However, all dogs bark. Barking is a form of communication between dogs. When your dog barks they are trying to tell you something. They could be saying they are bored, tired, scared, or nervous. Some dogs bark when strangers approach or when they hear an unexplained sound. Pay attention to what causes your dog to bark, and you will begin to communicate better with them.
5) Tilting their heads
Your dog tilting their head as you talk to them is a very cute behavior. But, there is also a reason behind it. Dogs tilt their heads to better understand what is going on in their environment. They may tilt their head to see better or to even hear better.
Keep a lookout for unexplained head tilting. If your dog’s head remains tilted, ask the advice of a veterinarian, as it could indicate an ear infection or other serious illness.
What to do about problem behaviors?
Many dog behaviors are completely normal and not a problem for most owners. But, what about those behaviors we don’t like? Just because a behavior may be natural to your dog doesn’t mean that you have to put up with it forever.
There are a few things to keep in mind before you begin correcting bad behaviors. First, some breeds are more prone to a specific behavior than others. For example, you will be fighting an uphill battle if you try to get your Husky to stop wooing at you. Second, the age of the dog and the situation they are in when exhibiting the bad behavior will determine how easily you can correct the issue. Old dogs can learn new tricks, but it may take a little longer, as it will for puppies.
When correcting bad behavior in your dog, be patient. Always use positive reinforcement training. Negative reinforcement will not curb bad behaviors in your dog. In fact, it could make them worse.
Finally, enjoy learning, living with, and loving your dog. Being a dog parent is a joyful experience. By learning your dog’s behaviors, you can better communicate with them, which will lead to a long and beautiful relationship.
Covering the pet world for more than 25 years, Melissa L. Kauffman has been an editor/writer for a wide variety of pet magazines and websites from the small critters to parrots to cats and dogs to rabbits. Her advisory team of rescued pets - dogs Tampa Bay and Justice and parrots Deacon and Pi-Pi - help keep her on top of the latest and greatest pet health research, training and products, anything to keep them in the high life they are accustomed to.