If you have ever been puzzled on why your dog does certain things, you aren’t alone. Dog behavior can be tricky to understand, but learning why your dog does the things he or she does can have its benefits. Understanding dog behavior is a way to not only get closer with your pup, but also help you live a happier life with your dog.
Common Dog Behaviors
Rolling in Things They Shouldn’t
Once, I was walking my Beagle Sam on the leash and he was straining against it. I looked up and saw that our neighbor and frequent play date buddy was also outside and waving at us. I decided to unhook my dog to let him play with his friend. I was grinning as Sam bounded towards the other dog, but my grin turned into horror as he shot straight past the dog and immediately rolled in fresh dog poop. My friend thought this was hysterical while I was much less amused.
Why do dogs roll in the most disgusting filth they can find? No, it’s not to purposely make you angry (although I was sure that was Sam’s reason at the time). According to Pedigree.com, there are a few theories as to why dogs do this. One theory suggests that dogs do this as a way to tell their pack members where they have been. Another theory suggests that this is what wolves did to help cover up their scent so that they could sneak up on prey more easily.
Either way, it’s an instinctual behavior that is actually quite common in dogs. It can be annoying to dog owners who have to deal with a stinky dog.
There isn’t much you can do about this behavior since it is natural to dogs, other than making sure to always clean up after your dog and keep him on a leash.
Weird Dog Pack Behavior
If you own more than one dog or frequent a dog park, you’ve probably seen some interesting dog pack behavior. How dogs interact with people is very different from how dogs interact with each other. More embarrassing pack behavior could include humping, which can be a common occurrence at a large dog park.
PetWebMD states that humping (or mounting) occurs for numerous reasons. If the dog isn’t neutered, he may be trying to satisfy sexual urges. Some dogs use humping as a way to establish dominance, while others are simply excited and want attention.
If mounting isn’t bothering you or people around you, it isn’t a behavior that strictly needs to be corrected. However, if it does bother you or others, there are a few things you can try such as:
- Getting your dog neutered.
- Distracting him when you see signs of his/her excitement
- Ignore him or turn away if he/she tries humping you.
Barking to Get Attention
Just last week I met a woman who was going to have me watch her dog, Lola, who was quite barky. She said, “If she’s barking at you, just give her a treat to make her stop.” Many dog owners know that this is exactly what you SHOULDN’T do if your dog is barking uncontrollably.
Dogs bark excessively for more reasons than this. Some of the top reasons why dogs bark:
- Separation anxiety
You shouldn’t expect your dog to never bark. It’s their primary tool of communication. But excess barking should be curbed and it is clear to anyone who has been through basic obedience why Lola barks so much. Her owner is simply reinforcing the bad behavior. Through her barking, Lola knows that she is going to be rewarded with a treat and therefore continues to do the bad behavior.
Have you ever left your dog for a short amount of time, only to return and find he or she has destroyed furniture or doors in an attempt to follow you? Separation anxiety is a problem for a lot of dogs and their owners. Why is it so common?
The science isn’t clear, but experts from PetWebMD have found that separation anxiety is more prevalent in shelter pets. This is thought to be from the change of family or loss of a family member in the dog’s life, causing some sort of trauma on the dog. It could simply be that the dog is more prone to anxious tendencies, just like humans as well. And if you think about it, dogs were meant to be in packs. While some dogs are fine alone, it is not in a dog’s instinct to be alone for long periods of time.
Treating separation anxiety is no easy task, but it can be done with counterconditioning. Those at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals define counter-conditioning as a process that changes your dog’s reaction from aggression and fear to one of relaxation and happiness. This is done by associating something your dog loves with the situation or object that causes the dog fear. Some severe cases of separation anxiety may need additional help from a veterinarian or professional.
Causing Trouble While You’re Away
Have you ever had a dog that gives you the “guilty look” when you get home? Many of us have returned to our house or apartment to find Fido with his head hanging low, his eyes averted, and his tail not wagging. When this happens, I immediately go searching for whatever my dog has destroyed and I usually find a destroyed bag of food somewhere.
Be careful when it comes to blame, though. Barnard College Associate Professor Alexandra Horowitz conducted a study and found that dogs will display these guilty looks even if they have done nothing wrong, simply to appease their owners. These studies show that we need to be wary about attributing human behavior to animals, since it is clear that we don’t behave in the same way.
How Understanding This Behavior Benefits Everyone
Gaining a better understanding of normal dog behavior is importance to how you communicate with your dog. This is helpful in so many ways, here are just a few of them.
1. Building a Closer Bond
Perhaps the most important benefit to understanding your dog’s behavior is getting closer with them. Knowing what your dog is trying to communicate to you can be vital to the relationship you have with your pet. Building a relationship based on mutual respect and love can make you closer to your pet than you ever thought you could be.
2. Sharpening Training Skills
Knowledge is power and when you understand the cause of your dog’s behavior, you are able to figure out how to train them properly. Knowing the science behind your dog’s natural instincts to mark a tree will better help you learn how to train him or her to avoid this behavior.
3. Happiness for You and Your Dog
Both you and your pup will be much happier when you understand your dog’s behavior. If you are misinterpreting your dog’s behavior, it could lead to negative associations with you by accident. Acquiring the knowledge necessary to understand your dog’s behavior will lead to a happy partnership.
4. Don’t Stop Learning
There are some things we may never figure out about our dog’s behavior, but learning some common behaviors and why dogs do what they do can help in so many ways. From humping to separation anxiety, learning more about dog behavior can boost the happiness and bond that you and your dog share.
Reading a Dog’s Signals
Cesear helps us understand how to read the cues our dogs give us with their body language. In this video he gives us an example of a black lab being protective of her bone & how he is able to still take it away without a struggle. The real lesson begins at about 1 minute in.
The important concept shown is how to give the dog a dominance signal first, letting them know who is in charge. This way the dog understands who is the pack leader or alpha & the bone must be released without complaint. This dominance signal is giving instead of “stealing” vibes that could cause the dog to react much differently.
- We hear the music change dramatically as Cesear takes the bone…
- The warning signal is given by the dog with a lowering of the head & sideways glances…
- BUT – This is quickly corrected with a little snap of the finger – and of course, all is well.
- After all we know he is the Dog Whisperer!
– Note: I wouldn’t recommend trying this out with a dog you don’t know….looks much easier that it actually could be. It all depends on your relationship with the dog.