5 Common Dog Behaviors Decoded

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As dog owners, we become tuned in to our dog’s behavior. Every dog has their own little quirk and way of expressing themselves. Even though every dog has their own unique personality, there are certain dog behaviors that are ingrained in them biologically.

Here are five common dog behaviors we’ve seen dogs act out and their causes:

Kicking up grass after pooping:

I had always figured it was a dominance thing, but I was surprised to learn that dogs have scent glands in their paws’ pads. So when they are done using the bathroom, scratching the ground with their paws is an additional way to mark their territory with their own scent, which sends a message to other dogs that they “own” the space.

black dog kicking up grass

This grass patch is MINE!

Chasing Things (aka Prey or Chase Drive)

There is a difference between prey and chase drive. Chase drive is less intense than prey drive. Chase drive is when a dog chases after something but doesn’t fully commit to it as a target. Once the dog reaches the target he will continue to run pass, whereas with prey drive, dog aggression is apparent and your dog will actually make contact with the target. For example, if you’ve ever tried to play fetch with your dog, only to have your dog run after the ball and then leave it or if your dog was chasing you and just runs past you, it wasn’t a case of Attention Deficit Disorder, but rather chase drive.

Dogs, by nature, are predators. It’s a natural instinct for them to chase and hunt things. Also, since dogs experience the world through their noses and their sense of smell is so much more powerful than ours, when they smell an animal that can be prey, they instinctively act on it and chase after it.

dog chasing emu

Imma get you Emu!

Butt Scooting

Some people think this is cute, some people think it’s funny, I think it’s creepy and I don’t like it. The reason why dogs scoot their butts is because it’s itchy, which I guess seems pretty obvious, but the reason why their butts are itchy might not always be so obvious. I’ve heard that it’s because they have worms, or maybe it’s because they have so much hair around their butts. But here is another reason why your dog’s butt might be itchy, especially if it’s a small dog: over-filled anal sacs that aren’t properly emptying. I know, sounds awesome right? These anal sacs are supposed to empty when your pup poops in order to give it a distinctive scent to help “mark” their territory. When the sacs aren’t emptying properly though, the sacs get full and irritated, causing your dog’s bum to itch. To relieve the itchiness, your dog will drag its butt along the floor to try and relieve the pressure.

Turning Around Before Laying Down aka Trampling Behavior

I couldn’t find a definitive answer for this, but people speculate they do it to trample down the grass and also to make sure there aren’t any snakes or bugs where they are going to lay. This is ingrained in their genetics from when they were in the wild and sleeping outside. They may also do it to uncover a cooler surface.

Have you heard of any other causes for this?


Chasing Tails

Chasing tails is typically more frequent in puppies. I think this is because they’re still mastering their motor skills and are curious and easily entertained. If your older dog occasionally chases their tail, it’s probably just for entertainment purposes too. Your dog probably likes getting attention from you and if you give them a positive reaction such as laughing and smiling every time they chase their tail, they may do it to get that same reaction from you.

However, if your dog is frequently chasing its tail there may be an underlying problem. Your dog’s tail might have fleas or be bothering them. Your dog may be bored and suffering from separation anxiety. If your dog doesn’t seem to outgrow the tail-chasing phase, examine their tail for any fleas or other parasites. If your dog is frequently chasing its tail for no apparent reason and is causing harm to himself in the process, consult with your veterinarian right away.

golden retriever chasing his tail

So those were five strange dog behaviors that I commonly see most dogs exhibit, but never knew the underlying causes. Is there any other weird dog behavior that you were always curious about? Let us know in the comments below.

8 Responses

  1. Cheyenne says:

    I have a yellow lab named Henry and he always rubs his back on my legs like a cat rubbing aginst you

  2. Irene says:

    Deborah….the skipping could be from a luxated patella. The knee cap becomes disjointed and will make the dog look like he’s skipping. It can become a major problem if the dog is highly active. It can be fixed with surgery. My little boy leaps off the bed like he’s a cat. I fear he’s gonna blow his knee out. Before I fix it, I need to find a way for him to stop jumping off furniture or it will just happen again. He’s still young and vibrant. As he gets older I imagine he’ll have problems walking. Right now it doesn’t bother him. I’m sure it will when he gets older.

  3. margaret says:

    i have a staffie he is 4 yrs old hes getting thin he used to be 23 lbs now hes 19 dont now wat to give him to fatten him up

    • Clara says:

      Try giving your dog a vita cal paste that comes in a tube. You can get it at a pet supply place. Give him or her a dab of it and put it on the roof of the mouth of your pet. By the time it is done licking it off the roof of its mouth, it has swallowed the needed vitamins and minerals it is missing from not eating as well.

  4. michelle says:

    Loved the article. The black dog with the wiping your feet after pooping looks exactly like my 7 month old puppy! Can you tell me more about what breed the dog is? Ours was found with her 3 siblings in the woods and we are curious. Thanks for answering some questions we were curious about.

  5. deborah says:

    i adopted this dog , one year from June, what i have notice from time watching his dif habits, he skips,
    i’ve seen this with one or two other dogs, i checked his paws, nothing is bother him, when he runs, the skipping does not occur , just when we walk slow…
    Any clue on this behavior…???

    • Malorn says:

      This can be from ‘hot’ cement or just plain ‘let’s hurry up boss’. Some dogs like to run or trot. Also boredom. No leaves or grass feelings, just that flat plain walking path. Enjoy your dog, each is different.