Most habits range somewhere between "aww that's cute!" and "you're weird, dog". But it's safe to say that the quirks your dog has aren't something you do (anymore at least), so they seem very irrational to humans.
Some of these strange habits may be destructive, though, like chewing furniture and digging holes in the yard. Others are not so bad like chasing their own tail. So, why do dogs do some of these weird things?
A lot of dogs spend a lot of time chasing their tails. If this becomes constant, there may be mental or behavioral problems to address. It seems, not just my neighbor can have an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Puppies and young dogs chase their tails for entertainment. They tend to chase moving objects and don’t always realize what that object may be. On the other hand, maybe he's just bored and it’s time to buy a chew toy.
A less common reason a dog chases his tail is because of skin problems or fleas. If/when your dog catches his tail and he gnaws at it for a while, then he might have some skin problem you need to address. If it becomes a constant problem, than ask your vet to check for skin problems or you may need an animal behaviorist.
Want a bit more explanation on why dogs chase their tails and some solutions? Check out our article, Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?
Eating poop even has its own name: coprophagia. Though it may gross you out, at least we know poop has protein. How do we know that? Well, some enterprising young scientist broke it down one day and now every dog that eats poop is not crazy, he’s just eating healthy; sort of. Cat poop seems to be especially appetizing to dogs, which helps me out a bit by not having to clean so much out of the cat box every time the dog beats me downstairs. Though it may cut down on my litter-box cleaning, it’s not a good idea to let this habit continue. Some theories state it may be a sign of illness or malnutrition, but I’ve seen way too many perfectly healthy dogs chowing down on cat poop to go all in on that one.
Want a bit more explanation on why dogs eat poop and some solutions? Check out our article, Why Does Your Dog Eat Poop? (and how to stop it)
We want our dog to bark when danger approaches, but why do some bark more often than others? And seemingly at nothing but ghosts? Some dogs are bred to bark, while one breed (the Basenji) doesn’t bark at all.
Dogs bark for many different reasons: as warnings, a sign of anxiety, attention seeking, playfulness, responding to other dogs or out of boredom. I once had a neighbor with two hound-dogs that went with all of the above. Basically, it's your dog’s way of communicating with you and it is a behavior you can learn to control and understand in most cases. Constant barking can usually be attributed to separation anxiety or boredom. There are many ways to train your dog to mellow out on the barking and, trust me on this: your neighbors will appreciate your efforts.
Want a bit more explanation on why dogs bark too much and some solutions? Check out our article, 9 Suggestions for Quieting a Barking Dog.
Dogs love to chew, and it’s quite a natural habit for them. The reasons your dog chews things up range from puppy teething to boredom and from anxiety to just plain curiosity. If you buy enough chew toys, and finding the right ones are not that difficult, they will direct their gnawing onto the toys. You may need to throw in some training if they chew the wrong things, mainly by correcting them with a loud noise and replace the chewed article with a real chew toy. Giving the old boy or girl enough exercise will surely help. Allowing them to chew your old slippers is not really a good idea as it’s sometimes hard to tell the old slippers from the nice, new ones.
Want a bit more explanation on why dogs destructively chew and some solutions? Check out our article, Hints and Tips for Dealing with a Destructive Chewer.
Some dogs dig more than others, some not at all. Some dig to bury bones, while others seem to do it just annoy me (and thus garnering my undivided attention). Actually, the main reasons for digging are: hiding things like bones or toys, boredom (or too much energy), anxiety or fear, a hunting instinct, seeking comfort (like cooling off), wanting to escape or get in somewhere, and to gain attention.
Determining the reason puts you on the way to solving the problem. Eliminating the source is easier said than done. You can’t just take away all bones and toys, and sometimes natural instinct is a tough habit to break. Giving them their own area to dig works well, along with keeping them busy, exercising regularly and getting over the thought pattern that they are just trying to tick me off.
Want a bit more explanation on why dogs dig and some solutions? Check out our article, Why Do Dogs Dig?
Why do they go nuts when we leave? I have come home to a destroyed couch, trash all over the place, and even had a pile of pet poop inside when my adult dog had never done that before. True separation anxiety includes your pet becoming anxious when you are preparing to leave. My cat lays in my suitcase anytime I break it out, but then again, she lies in or on anything put in front of her. It is said the most destruction occurs in the first 15-45 minutes after you leave. This gives them lots of time to think it over which would explain the sad look in my dog’s eyes when I returned to the destroyed couch.
Want a bit more explanation of how dogs experience separation anxiety and some solutions? Check out our article, Easing Separation Anxiety, as well as an interview with expert trainer, Tonya Wilhelm.
Michael Ryan is a full-time musician along with a humor, travel and outdoor recreation columnist. He's also an avid skier and golfer and has traveled extensively around the U.S, the Caribbean and Europe. His musical career takes him all over the U.S. and his wife drags him everywhere else. His weekly columns “The Life of Ryan” ran in the Transcript and Sentinel newspaper chain for several years and have been featured in the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Mile High Magazine. He is the co-founder, editor and humor columnist for ColoradoLocalLegends.com and currently resides in Morrison, Colorado.