Every dog will have their little idiosyncrasies that make them undoubtedly unique. But what about those weird (or downright gross!) doggy behaviours that seem to be rather common in our otherwise perfectly normal pets? Let’s take a look at some of the more universal behaviours that make doggy parents roll their eyes or gasp with embarrassment!
1. Sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong
It’s general knowledge that when dogs meet, their version of a handshake is to sniff each other’s butts. That’s because each dog possesses two anal sacs that contain chemical-secreting glands – the purpose of which is to give off his own personal scent signature. Dogs’ sense of smell is also thousands of times more sensitive than humans’, so it makes sense that they use their noses to receive these personal messages. When dogs sniff each other’s rear ends, they’re telling each other about who they are and what state of mind they’re in; doggy small-talk, if you like.
But what does it mean when your dog sticks his nose in your – or, dog forbid, your neighbour’s – crotch? In humans, the genital area is the location of the highest concentration of pheromones (or chemical communicators). So your dog is basically just trying to detect the same information from you that he would from his doggy pals. He’s not being rude – he just wants to say hello!
2. Eating poo!
It’s really gross, but dogs have their reasons for the things they do… even if it’s eating faeces. Whether it’s their poo or another dog’s poo, some dogs engage in coprophagy and there may be a few explanations for this. First, when dog ancestors lived in the wild, they would eat their young’s faeces in order to remove any trace of them having been in the area… in case any predators were looking for puppy-flavoured snacks. Second, dietary deficiencies may cause a dog to eat its (or another’s) poo – whether it’s a lack of nutrients or simply not being fed enough. [If your pooch has this problem, make sure he’s getting enough of the right kind of food. Speak to your vet just to make sure.]
Third, if yours is a multiple-dog household, the more submissive members of the pack might eat the poo of the dominant dog. This behaviour may have something to do with removing any signs of territorial marking in a bid to outrank the alpha. Can someone tell Fido that’s the wrong way to try to get some respect?!
3. Killing squeaky toys
The squeakers in squeaky toys trigger a dog’s hunting instinct. Just press that squeaker and watch your dog lick his chops and get a wild look in his eyes! The squeaker reminds the primal part of his brain of the sound small prey makes when he’s chewing it to death. It’s the reason some dogs get so enamoured by their toys that make that sound… and why other dogs completely destroy their toys – whether it’s squeaky toys, tennis balls or any relatively small, chewy object you give them. You can curb your dog’s enthusiasm by supervising his play time, spending more active time with him, and ensuring you buy hard-wearing, highly durable toys.
4. Rolling in it
We’ve already discussed dogs’ ability to communicate through scent, so what on earth could dogs be communicating when they find and roll around in really stinky things like small dead animals, rotting garbage or other dogs’ poo? Again, there are multiple theories: one is that the dog is simply marking – leaving his body scent all over the show and making his marvellous presence known. Two is that the dog is trying to mask his scent – from his days as a fierce predator when he wanted to sneak up on prey without being detected. Third is that it’s his way of applying a delightful doggy perfume. What smells yuck to humans may smell absolutely wonderful to dogs. Just look at how he turns his nose up at your eau de parfum…
If your dog is regularly smelly, then make sure there’s no source of doggy perfume in your yard. Keep your garbage out of reach and regularly pick up the landmines on your grass. If Rover evades your efforts to keep him clean, try these bath time products.
5. Looking you in the eye when he’s squatting
If you’ve ever been engaged in an unwanted staring challenge when your dog does a number two, you’ll be relieved to know there are instinctual reasons for this rather weird behaviour. When your dog does his business, he’s vulnerable and in no position to defend himself from any surprise attacks from hypothetical predators. So he’s watching you to make sure you’ve got his back.
This might also explain why your dog is so adamant on coming into the bathroom to hold eye-contact while you are squatting and vulnerable… he’s just on the lookout!
In all seriousness, if your dog exhibits any behaviour you find troubling or out of character, get him checked out by your vet to rule out any serious underlying issues.