Dogs can be downright weird sometimes. Their baffling antics may make for some funny memes and Instagram posts, but have you ever stopped to wonder what was causing them to do crazy stuff like drag their butts across the living room carpet?
Most of these behaviors are totally normal. Sometimes, however, that funny thing your dog is doing may indicate a more serious medical condition, and it could be a sign you should call the vet. Ahead, we break down some of the wackiest canine behaviors and what they actually mean.
1. Chases his tail
One of the most well-known weird dog behaviors is tail chasing. Sometimes, this endless loop of hilarious hijinks is just a way for a lively pup to burn off extra energy.
But if you notice your dog chasing his tail all the time, it may indicate an anal gland problem or something known as flea allergy dermatitis. Constant tail chasing could also be a sign of canine compulsive disorder — similar to OCD — which can be treated with proper medication.
If you notice that your dog is chasing his tail constantly or if you can’t distract him from doing it with his favorite toy, it may be a good idea to follow up with your vet.
2. Licks your face
If you equate constant puppy licks to kisses — you’re absolutely right.
Dogs lick you to show their affection and to keep your attention. Researchers have found that licking is a sensory tool for dogs, kind of like how humans gain knowledge from holding an item in their hands. Mother dogs lick their puppies to groom them and socialize with them, and in turn the puppies lick each other and their mama back. It’s really just a nice way to stay connected with one another.
3. Cocks his head to one side
There’s nothing cuter than that moment when you’re speaking to your dog and he cocks his head to one side as if to say, “What was that?”
It turns out that your dog may be tilting his head to hear you better. Researchers found that head tilting in dogs occurs when humans make high pitched sounds such as whistling or speaking in high pitched voice. They may be trying to pull out specific commands from what you’re saying, such as ‘roll over’ or ‘fetch.’
However, if you notice your dog tilting his head all the time for no reason, it may be an indication of a medical issue, so you should call your vet to make sure everything’s all right.
4. Follows you everywhere
Every dog owner has tripped over their beloved pet (and apologized) at least once. That’s because dogs usually follow their owners from room to room and inevitably find themselves underfoot. But why do they do that?
There are a couple of reasons. First, your dog may just like being around you, or he’s just hoping you drop some of that hamburger you’re eating. One study found that dogs in packs are more likely to follow the friendliest dog, not the pack leader. So when your dog follows you, it’s because he feels safe in your presence. Consider it a compliment.
5. Eats his poop
There’s no need to be ashamed — plenty of dogs eat their poop. And it’s just plain gross. The technical term for this behavior is coprophagy, and it’s caused by a few different factors. For one, your pup may be hungry or may just like the smell of the poop.
Eating his own feces may also indicate a lack of nutrients in his diet, which should prompt you to reevaluate the quality of what you’re feeding him. But, if the behavior persists even with a diet change, your best course of action is to call the vet for a consult.
6. Humps your leg
We’ve all been there. Sitting around enjoying a quiet evening at home when suddenly, Fido starts relentlessly pumping against your calf. This behavior can be totally embarrassing, especially when guests are around. So why do they do it?
Surprisingly, dogs humping your leg or each other is not sexual in nature. Rather, it’s done because your dog wants to assert dominance or because he is excited in a social situation. Spayed and neutered dogs often hump to get your attention, too. When you notice your dog doing this, simply distract him with a toy or treat.
7. Watches your every move
When your dog stares at you, it’s usually because you’re carrying food and he hopes you’ll be kind enough to share. Dogs pay attention on purpose, and they’re usually doing it because they hope you’ll give them something — either food, praise, or attention. Just be sure to avoid making direct eye contact with your dog, as he may see it as a challenge.
8. Walks in a circle before lying down
Isn’t it so funny when your puppy circles around his bed before plopping down? As it turns out, this behavior dates back to his ancestors, the wolves.
Researchers believe that canines did this in the wild to tamp down leaves and grass in the spot they intended to spend the night. Even though it won’t necessarily make much of a difference on a cushy memory foam dog bed, it’s still a cute thing to watch.
9. Sniffs other dogs’ butts
When a dog sniffs another dog’s butt, it’s not because he’s being rude. This behavior is just his way of saying hello!
Equivalent to a human handshake, butt sniffing is a completely natural behavior for your dog. Dogs do this because of the information communicated through anal glands. Since dogs have such an elevated sense of smell, they’re able to pick up a lot of important information just from taking a good whiff or two.
10. Shakes his toys around
Wildly shaking a squeak toy back and forth may look adorable — but the reason behind this behavior is a little sinister.
Dogs shake their toys because of their primal predatory instincts. This behavior comes from the wild, where canines would thrash their prey to ensure a kill. When they mimic this action with a toy, it’s just because it’s an instinct — but it’s totally harmless.
11. Does a handstand to pee
It’s amazing to behold: Some dogs actually do handstands while they’re doing their business! But are these pups aspiring acrobats, or is there a more logical explanation for their balancing act?
You may already know that dogs mark their territory by peeing. In relation to that, Dr. Rachel Barrack, a vet in New York City, explains the handstand phenomenon this way: “Urination is typically a way of marking their turf, and different dogs have different postures they assume to do so. Sometimes smaller dogs do handstands, which may be to cover the urine left by larger dogs at higher positions.” Lifting his butt high in the air is the best way for a small dog to leave his mark.
12. Drag their butts on the ground
A little funny, a little gross, this common puppy behavior indicates that something is wrong.
Dogs scoot their butts across the floor because they have irritations in their anus area, and the ground is their way of scratching the itch. This can be caused by anal sac problems, fecal contamination, worms, rectal prolapse, or swelling. You can resolve many of these issues at home, but if there’s persistent scooting or if you aren’t sure of the cause, it’s best to call the vet.
13. Twitches when you scratch that special spot
When you scratch your pup in just the right spot, you might notice his leg start twitching like crazy. That’s because he has an innate scratch reflex that’s triggered by certain pressure points. His twitching leg is an involuntary reaction caused by nerves which connect to your dog’s spinal cord.
14. Eats grass
It may seem like a strange snack for a dog, but it’s common to find pups chowing down on your lawn. So are they channeling their inner cow, or is something else going on?
Turns out, dogs eat grass for a number of different reasons. This behavior may help ease digestion or aid with the treatment of intestinal worms. It could also be proof of a nutritional deficiency, such as lack of fiber.
15. Sits on your lap
Dogs of all sizes like to sit on their owners for many reasons, such as showing affection and staying warm. But the main cause of this uncomfortable behavior has to do with asserting dominance. The next time you notice your small or large pup taking up all the lap room, just remember, he’s letting you know who’s boss.
16. Giving you the guilty face
You may think your dog knows when he’s done something wrong — but in reality, he has no idea. Research proves that if you don’t catch your dog committing a naughty deed, then he’ll have no concept of why he’s being punished for the crime later. The guilty (and admittedly adorable) face he’s giving you? That’s just a reaction to your anger and loud voice.
17. Rolls around on dead carcasses
If there’s a dead squirrel in your yard, chances are your dog might run right over to roll on it. So, what gives?
This behavior probably traces back to dog ancestors who used this trick to mask their own scents while stalking prey. It could also have to do with spreading their own scent to the kill, alerting other pack members that it’s there. Or, because their scent glands are 10,000 times better than ours, it could be that the smell excites them, and rolling around is their way of showing it.
This canine habit is more instinctive than useful — but it sure is cute, especially for a puppy. Wolves in the wild howl to communicate important information to their pack. Domesticated pets don’t need to pass on information in this way, but researchers have found that howling is naturally rewarding for a dog. In other words, he does it because it feels good.