Why Do Dogs Lick You? Strange Dog Behaviors and What They Really Mean
Dogs are man's best friend. Sure, we could live life without them, but who would want to? The luckiest among us have a dog by our side that we spend considerable time with, but dogs, like people, have very strange habits.
If you've ever asked yourself, "Why does my dog eat poop?" or other questions like it, now's your chance to get answers and find out. Here's what those strange dog behavior really mean.
Running in Bed
When a dog barks, or yelps, and looks like they're running in their sleep, this behavior is similar to the human traits of sleepwalking or talking in your sleep.
They're acting out their dreams, just like we do.
What Is It About Mailmen (and Women)?
You would think after so many trips to your home, your dog would get used to your mailperson. Some do, but most still bark their heads off.
Most days, the person delivering the mail comes by at the same time, makes noise and places foreign objects with strange smells on the dog's territory — and that's just enough to make a pup defensive.
"Any self-respecting dog will consider this a threat, and will react accordingly, barking to sound the alarm and warn off the intruder," Dr. Mark Freeman, Assistant Professor at VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine says. "Dogs have an inherent need to defend their territory from intruders."
The Happy Growl
So you're petting your dog, and he seems to be enjoying it, but he starts growling. Should you continue or back off?
There are different types of growling, and not all are aggressive.
Some dogs will "pleasure growl" to get your attention. It's usually a low growl that sounds like your dog is attempting to talk. You can keep those pets coming.
A Disgusting Delicacy
Some dogs have a strange fascination with eating poop. This is known as coprophagia, and dogs do it for various reasons.
If they recently started to do it, it could be attention-seeking behavior (in other words, you tell them to stop, and they get your attention), or they may be sick snd lacking in some nutrients.
If you get the all-clear from your vet, chances are good they just like the taste.
Let's Have a Staring Contest
There could be different reasons for your dog's gaze, depending on what they're staring at.
If it's you, this is just one way they express affection. Your mutual staring contest releases oxytocin (the love hormone), which increases feelings of love and trust between you and your dog.
If they're staring at something like a wall, it's best to get them checked out by a vet. They could be suffering from seizures or cognitive dysfunction.
Crying After Eating
If your dog is crying a few minutes after eating, it's a sign that you should make a trip to the vet. This behavior typically shows some kind of pain or discomfort with the dog's teeth, neck or gut.
When a dog whines as he's eating, this may be a form of excitement. He's showing you he's happy to be fed.
Those Doggie Kisses Mean Many Things
So why do dogs lick you? This behavior is instinctive — dogs use licking to bond with you and otherwise express themselves.
They may give you doggy kisses to show that they love you or to get your attention. Doing this also helps them soothe themselves if they're under duress or show empathy. In other words, they can sense when you're feeling down, and every little kiss helps!
A Favorite TV Show
Dogs can "watch" television and many like the motion and sound TV offers, especially if it comes from other animals. Because their vision is different than ours, they won't have the full scope of color that we do, and the images will look like they're flickering.
Different breeds and dogs are also differently sighted. Some won't see as good as others. Those that have more keen eyesight may be more reactive.
The Post Dinner Face Rub
Everyone has seen their dog rub its face on the carpet or couch, post meal. This is another one of those behaviors that could be good or bad depending upon the circumstances.
If you've changed your dog's diet, and this is a recent behavior, he or she may be itchy due to allergies. Again, getting them checked out by a vet would not hurt.
If it's something they've always done, think of it as expressing contentment toward you and that delicious bowl of kibble they just ate.
If your dog buries treats or bones, the answer to why comes down to instinct.
Their ancestors lived in the wild and never knew where their next meal was coming from. Anything they could save for themselves to feast on later, they buried.
Today, despite your dog getting two guaranteed meals a day, that instinct is still there.
The Butt Drag
Dogs always pick an inopportune time to scoot, don't they? This is less of a behavioral quirk than it is a medical one.
Dogs that do this frequently may have issues with their anal sacs or may suffer from skin irritation, allergies or parasites.
The Goose Honk
When it seems like your dog can't catch their breath, and they make a honking noise, it can be scary if you don't know what it is — a reverse sneeze.
Many breeds of dogs suffer from this malady, particularly brachycephalic breeds, like pugs and bulldogs, but any dog can have an episode.
While it looks and sounds terrifying, it's mostly harmless. You can stop it by rubbing your dogs neck, pinching his nose, or gently blowing on his face. If you have questions, don't hesitate to contact your vet.
The Post Poop Sprint
If your dog runs the yard after pooping there are a few instinctual and behavioral reasons for this.
For dogs, going potty is a way of marking their territory. They kick up their heels after pooping to scent the location that is their home.
It also just feels good. Think of it as a triumphant jog around the yard.
Making the 'Rounds' Before Sleep
Have you ever noticed before your dog finally settles down for the night they circle around in their (or your) bed?
This behavior is instinctual. Wild wolves (and later, dogs) would position themselves in a way that made them less vulnerable to attack. Making circles before falling asleep allowed the dog one more look for predators before drifting off to dreamland.
Their ancestors also did not have the comfy beds they do now. By circling, they patted down whatever they were sleeping on.
Kicking Up Turf
As you have already seen, dogs kick up turf after pooping to mark their territory, but what does it mean when going to the bathroom isn't part of the equation?
When dogs meet, you may have noticed that they both engage in this behavior while sniffing each other. This is their way of communicating and claiming their territory. It's a "nice to meet you, but this area is mine" greeting.
The Adorable Head Cock
It's always so adorable when a dog reacts to someone speaking by titling their heads. If you think it's because they're captivated by your words and how you say them, you would be right.
While a dog's range of hearing is greater than ours, it is not as accurate. Tilting their heads allows them to pinpoint and interpret the noise we're making, it's tone, and the words they know.
They also tilt to see us better, particularly if they have a longer muzzle.
The Post Bath Zoomies
Bath time is sometimes stressful for dogs, so when it's over, there's only one way to celebrate — by running all over your house and getting everything wet.
They are also trying to dry off, get back to their own scent, and shake out the water in their ears.
The Toothy Grin
Not every show of teeth by your dog is a sign of aggression. When they bare a toothy grin, this known as a submissive grin.
This is a way for a dog to show their humility and respect to another person or animal. They want attention, and they're showing it in a nonthreatening way.
Sharing a Treat
Does your dog chew a treat on you or bring it to you? This may be his way of getting praise, which equals attention or getting you to play.
Some dogs also share their treats out of love for their family. Doing this is a form of respect and trust.
Grazing in the Grass
There's an old wives tale that states dogs that eat grass are sick. But that's only a small percentage of them.
A dog needs roughage in their diet, and grass is a great source of fiber that helps their digestive system stay healthy.
This is also another instinctive behavior, as they are omnivores. So they benefitted from the balanced diets of their prey, which often included grass and plants.
Waking Up on the Wrong Side of the Bed
If a dog is woken up unexpectedly or suddenly, it may show what is known as its startle reflex, an instinctual behavior that helps protect the animal from danger.
If you have a dog that exhibits this behavior, consult your vet or an animal behaviorist. In the meantime, give your pup their own quiet and secure sleeping area so they'll feel and have a space they can call their own to get some shut-eye.
It's also safer not to touch the dog to wake them up, but you can call them to arouse them from slumber.
Singing Along With a Favorite Song
Dogs, like their wolf ancestors, communicate through howling. The tones of their howl convey a message.
When they hear music, some tones may sound like that communication, so they howl back in return.
Catching That Tail
When dogs chase their tails, they're usually just having fun. If they're bored, this offers mental and physical stimulation.
If they do it obsessively, that's another issue. They can actually cause damage to their tails, and it may be time for a vet visit.
Why Are Squeaky Toys So Intriguing?
Yet another ancestral behavior from wolves carried down through the ages. Dogs love toys that squeak and can be torn apart because it comes from their instinct to hunt.
That's right. That toy sounds and sometimes feels like scared or injured prey.
An Embarrassing 'Hello' for Humans
An all too embarrassing public moment is when a new dog sniffs a person's crotch.
Because of their acute sense of smell, which is far superior to ours, this how a dog gathers information, and it's where we hold apocrine glands that produce sweat.
Yes, we also hold them in our armpits, but we usually mask them with deodorant and since dogs are lower to the ground — well, you get the picture.
Too Tasty Paws
Occasional paw licking is a self-grooming trait in dogs. If it gets to be an obsessive habit, it may be time to consult your vet.
The dog could be injured via a splinter or sting, or have allergies, dermatitis or pain.
If all those have been ruled out, it may be anxious behavior, which can be modified with the help of an animal behaviorist.
Scratching the Sweet Spot
When you scratch your dog's belly, does he or she kick? That's actually an involuntary reflect, like a knee jerk.
According to Animal Planet, "Dogs shake or kick their legs when you scratch them because of something known as the scratch reflex. When you scratch or tickle your dog’s belly, it irritates him, much the same way that the wind or a bug might.
"It activates nerves under his skin that are connected to his spinal cord and relays a message to his leg muscles to kick in an attempt to get rid of the irritant. Of course, you’re the one both providing the 'itch' and 'scratching' it, so it’s a completely pointless act."
The North-South Axis
Have you noticed that your dog always poops in a certain direction? Researchers have recently found that they use the Earth's magnetic fields to align to when taking care of their bathroom habits.
Dogs prefer placing themselves on a north-south axis. In fact, they will go out of their way to avoid doing their business in an east-west direction.
Scientists are still not sure why this is the case, but believe it has to with their homing ability and marking their territory.
Feet Make a Great Seat
Dogs sit on our feet for a number of reasons.
You're part of their pack, and as such, they stick close to you and keep you from harm as they would any member. Doing this also protects them from predators. It is a way of claiming you as their territory as well.
Sometimes, it's just for comfort. Your touch and warmth gives them a sense of security.
The Humpty Dance
So, your dog has been fixed, but seems to still be a bit randy. What gives?
In the past, this behavior was said to be dominance-related, but that doesn't really appear to be the case. It's a natural behavior related to play and related to a surge of emotions, such as anxiety or arousal (not the sexual kind.)
The Guilty Party
We've all seen videos on social media where a dog does something bad, hears "what did you do?" and immediately goes into what seems like a guilty admission.
But what owners are actually seeing is more fear and stress in your reaction to what they've done.
They do not otherwise have the capacity to understand they’ve broken your rules and feel bad about it. They are simply reacting to you reacting to them.